Sociology of Sports
Friday Night Lights
Sustaining the ambitions of not only themselves but the alumni and town of Odessa, Texas is a lot to ask from a young adult. That’s exactly what Permian football provides to the people of Odessa, where the post economic boom of the oil business has left the town in a racially tense, economic crisis. The lights on Permian High School’s football field are the only sanctuary for the west Texas town. Socially and racially divided, Odessa’s mass dependence on high school football constructs glorified expectations for the football team to temporarily disguise the disappointments that come with living in a town tagged as the “murder capital” of America. In Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger reveals the ugly truth behind a town whose integrity relies on a few young men. Bissingers work examines far beyond sport, but more deeply into Odessa’s sociological constraints that are rooted within the town. The purpose of this paper is to identify how the role of high school football affects the racial/gender relations and educational mission of the residents and institutions of Odessa, Texas. Bissinger does a great fob of revealing Permian High School’s insignificant focus on its educational priorities. In a town where it is clear that the only way to achieve any recognition is through football stardom, the importance of education is often misplaced. Families tied to Permians rich football history only try and repossess their ambitions through their children. Parents would rather develop their son’s athletic skills over their intellectual skills as they see it as their only ticket out of town. L.V. Miles, the uncle of the highly touted running back Boobie Miles, has raised Boobie to become the best football star in Permian history, dedicating no importance to his education. Bissinger explores the strong bond Boobie and L.V. share within football, “from the underpinnings of football, an enormously strong bond shared between the two”(63). From the beginning, L.V. sees Boobie as a consolation to compensate his unsatisfied aspirations. L.V. began grooming Boobie for stardom as he recognized it to be his only path to success. As for Boobies learning abilities, they were put on the backburner as they were not of importance to L.V., Permian High School, and football itself. Classified as learning disabled, like other football players, the classroom was only a place to pass time before the next big game. There were also academic privileges were granted for all football player in Permian as they were for many other “football schools” in Texas. “All I do in class is show up”(130). Here Don Billingsley, the other running back who tries to live up in vain the glory and expectations of his father, describes the classroom as purposeless. Even the faculty accepts the hopelessness of education within the school, “it was unusual to find teachers who demanded form their students their very best… there was no reason to challenge them because they simply didn’t care”(130). Teachers blamed the drop in academic performance on several factors such as how much of the schools budget was being allocated to the football program rather than to its educational resources. Essentially, it was due solely to the fact that education was undervalued to the community surrounding Permian football. Vicki Gomez, a former board member sums it up best, “If we prepared our kids academically as we prepare them for winning state championships, there is no telling to where we would be now”(150). Public schools like Permian reflect a community’s desires, feelings, and dreams, and there was nowhere where those dreams became more apparent than on the football field. Individually in Boobies case, the town perceived him as potentially indispensible without the game of football, “what would Boobie be without football?... A big ol’ dumb nigger”(67). This reinforces the...