Friday Night Lights

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The book Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger is about a high school football team from a small town in Odessa, Texas. The citizens of Odessa are football-crazed fanatics which thrive off the highschool football team, the Permian Panthers. For them, football is the most important aspect in their lives that they even value the teams winning record over grades. There is very little regard given to education among the highschool. Much of the town’s businesses are in dismal condition because oil, its main asset, is going through a boom and bust cycle. Bissinger follows around the Permian Panthers for a year with the intent of learning the effects and values football has on the small town of Odessa and why they put so much emphasis on football rather than other priorities and core American values. Living in Odessa was very difficult due to that fact that it was sitting on a large amount of oil, which brought in people who believed they could make a lot of money. Odessa was suffering from overcrowding, and once the boom was over, everyone left during the bust. Life was very tough for its citizens. There was lack of grazing land due to droughts and a flu epidemic that wiped out many people. Even after all the hardships that the people of Odessa went through, they didn’t leave the town because it was home to them. The only thing that kept the town from crumbling and resulting in a revolt was football. Football kept social control in Odessa during the tough economic times and kept its citizens pride in their community. The book illustrates the structural functionalist theory of how strong political influence is in sport. For example, the people of Odessa loved George Bush because he was native to the area. Bush came to visit for a campaign stop, but no one cared about his speech. They valued that he was from Texas, and would protect their interests. Bush states that he believes he is, “on the side of the American people and the state of Texas in terms of values.” They worship the fact that he understands them, and how important it is for not just Odessa, but all of Texas to continue striving and to prevail during tough times. Football keeps people in a happy mindset and helps them to forget about the real social and economic problems that are going on. Winning the State Championship gave people the sense that Odessa is a great town despite all that’s going on. Beating other teams like their rivals Odessa High School showed that Permian High was not only the dominate team, but had the most power in the state of Texas. This was important to the citizens because they felt that it made their community look very appealing. However, in reality, Odessa was once considered the “murder capital” of America. It was also deemed the fifth worst town to live. The people used football as a political tool to make everyone focus on sports rather than important issues such as education, the declining of businesses and other social issues. In the past we have seen countries use sports as a tool to unite people and not have them focus on the instability of its economy and society. Odessa uses the same method by keeping social control and preventing its citizens from revolting against the government. It reduces frustration and the pain of a meaningless workday for the spectators. It is a major diversion and break from reality. For them, football temporarily fixes the harsh realities of everyday life. The fans of Permian High seem to be under this illusion that wining a football game will help them achieve greater success than having a good education. Most of the money is spent on the football program over education. Education doesn’t not recevie the same attention as football, which results in affecting all the other students who did not play sports. For example, the English department at Permian finally received its first computer, while the football team received a second. Even the football coach makes more money than the teachers; not to say he...
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