Friday Night Lights
Its just a game, right? And everyone loves football? Combined with the recent media examples of parents who get a little bit too worked up about their childrens sports, all of these factors might seem to indicate that the setting of H.G. Bissingers modern sports classic Friday Night Lights is totally arbitrary. But the fact is, this story of the tragedies of a Texas high school football team couldnt happen just anywhere, in any town USA. Instead, Bissinger paints an impressive picture of a 1980s town in Texas where everything revolves around high school football. The town is economically and racially torn. The Panthers are largely white (with some exceptions) and the town, which was once prosperous, is now suffering a bust after a period of boom in the oil industry. People have lost everything they own, with no hopes of getting it back, thus the towns residents focus all of their energy and time upon the game of football and the young men who come to symbolize youth and living for the pleasures of today. People wait for days for game tickets to see, not ESPN superstars, but seventeen-year-old hometown heroes in uniforms of black and white.
These young men, Bissinger stresses, however, are not soon-to-be football greats. They are talented, 170-pound guys for the most part, who could, if they worked hard, perhaps play decently at a college level. However, the top college recruiters often show little interest — these are ordinary athletes, for the most part, but their combined spirit and devotion is what makes them great. Everything that these boys work for is for the moment of the high school games, not the future. The 1980s Texas town on the Permian basin of the state has come not to believe in a future anymore. Students waste time in class, and injured athletes robbed of their glory waste time on the bench. Thus the protagonist of the book might be, not a specific character, but the hopes of the town itself for the boys to win the state championship game. The Panthers lose, but what the town has really lost is the ability to give.