First, let me say how disappointed I am. Friday Night Lights did not contain a single Coach Taylor reference, not a single Matt Saracen, Tim Riggins, or Layla Garrity sighting, nor was the phrase "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" anywhere to be found! The author obviously never bothered to binge watch Friday Night Lights on Netflix before writing this book. Of course I am not serious as the H.G. Bissinger book was the genesis of not only the hit NBC show but also the award winning movie. 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the publishing of Friday Night Lights and I thought this the perfect oppertunity to read of for the first time the book that many have called "the greatest sports book in history".
This is the type of book that I usually can't put down. I love a book that has a main story with subsiqunet chapters that cover "side stories" (social, economical, religious aspects etc) that help support the main story. Friday Night Lights does just that. In short, the story is about a High School football team. This book however, teaches you so much more. You learn about a town and its people. You learn about what they set as priorities, what they value, what they ultimately care about. You learn about the culture of West Texas which is unlike most you have encountered.
Friday Night Lights follows the Permian High Panthers during the 1988 season. We follow a core group of senior players from the beginning of summer training through the conclusion of their season. We are taken through the daily grind of a typical sports year, not only for the players, but also for the coaches and we find ourselves being swept away on the highs and lows of a season. But to say this book is about football would be sorely mistaken. When the Friday night lights are turned on it not only illuminates the Permian High School field but also sheds light on the city of Odessa itself.
Odessa is a quintessential oil boom towns in West Texas. Long stretches of hard ecconmic times in which the citizens grind out daily life. These times were peppered with extreme economic prosperity. These "booms" create a euphoric type frenzy that makes men lose all sense of logical or rational thought. And when the bubble pops, like it alway does, it leaves the people dry and unproductive like many of the oil wells in the area. Like a gambler who thinks that he is only one pull away from hitting it big again, many hope the next boom is right around the corner, and this time it will be different. This is the foundation of Odessa. Hardworking, grinding, always trying to make it back to "what once was". This is the environment the kids grow up in and it is reflected in the High School Football team. The Panthers may not be the biggest, may not be the strongest, may not be the wealthiest community, but they have the BEST football program in Texas. And that is were their hat is hung. This becomes the identity of Odessa. Like anything, there are positives and negatives when your sole focus is 1 object. The players learn about dedication, pride, hard work, and sacrifice. However, negatives are also created in this type of environment. One that particularly stood out to me was the fact that a lot of these boys hit the pinnacle of their life at the age of 18. Many struggle with significance and meaning after High School. Many can't get past that time in their life, constantly looking back, never moving forward. These boys, who thought they were men, drift into adult hood with no direction and worst, feeling the best is now behind them.
There was a few times I thoguht the author allowed his personal feelings about a situation to percolate through his writing. While I think I would/do agree with his feelings, I think it would have served the book more to let the situations stand alone by presenting the issue as is. This would be my only critic of the authors writing. Overall he did an excellent job. The author could have easily gotten lost in some of the side stories, but he provided the right amount of "sub-stories" to perfectly enhance the central story line. To make "history" read like a novel is a skill the author crafted with apprent ease.
I don't think you have to be a sports fan to enjoy this novel. If you are interested in viewing a different way of life you will enjoy Friday Night Lights. My biggest take away from the novel was how you can accomplish something extrodinaraly great while copmletely failing at the same time. How can that be you ask? Well read the book!
I love everything about books. The feel of the page between your fingers, the sound of a book spine cracking, even the smell of an old dust jacket. Looking to share that passion with others.