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Publisher's Summary

The 25th anniversary edition of the number-one New York Times best seller and Sports Illustrated's best football book of all time, with a new afterword by the author

Return once again to the timeless account of the Permian Panthers of Odessa - the winningest high school football team in Texas history.

Socially and racially divided, Odessa isn't known to be a place big on dreams, but every Friday night from September to December, when the Panthers play football, dreams can come true. With frankness and compassion, H. G. Bissinger unforgettably captures a season in the life of Odessa and shows how single-minded devotion to the team shapes the community and inspires - and sometimes shatters - the teenagers who wear the Panthers' uniforms.

©1990 H. G. Bissinger (P)2015 Recorded Books

Featured Article: 10 Best Football Audiobooks to Get You Through the Off-Season


The players and coaches who dominate the football field regularly capture the attention and hearts of fans, but their insight into the sport and life in general doesn’t end when the game does. From stories of gridiron leaders to accounts of unbelievable bravery to stinging indictments of the industry’s dark side, our list of the best football audiobooks includes selections for veteran fans and casual viewers of one of our nation’s most beloved games.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

More than just a football story

Talk about commitment. The author quit his job in the north east and moved to Odessa, Texas for a full year to do his research. He would have been hard pressed to pick a better year, with a robust set of players with talent and personality which helped bring the book to life. I grew up and played football within a decade of the 1988 season he picked. His descriptions of what high school football is to Texas is very eloquently done. He really dives into the lives of his 6 main characters. The book also does a great job of describing the history of the area, of oil, business and the politics of West Texas. His update of the 6 key players he covered 25 years later really brings a nice end to the story. The series is good, the movie is great, but the book bests them both. I loved the voice on the audio version. Found myself listening to the ends of chapters in my garage all the time.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • K.
  • 09-21-18

Keep This In Mind When You Listen

I grew up in Odessa and graduated from Permian High School. I was a freshman in 1988 and knew several of the guys who played on the ’88 team and other people portrayed in the book. I read the book, as a high school kid when it came out and, like so many from Odessa, was furious at the way my town was portrayed. I just listened to the book, 30 years later, to see if my perspective on it and that time had evolved with the passage of time. I’ve discussed my second reading with people close to me who grew up in Odessa at the same time, to ask them how they remember those days.

It seems to me that Buzz Bissinger deliberately points out and emphasizes particular facts that fit his narrative, while leaving out other facts that would diminish his thesis. A very easy example would be his opening description of down town Odessa being devoid of pedestrians and the old down town Scott movie theater being shut down with the words “The End” on the marque. That was a true and accurate description of downtown and Buzz uses it to generate a particular vision of Odessa as an empty, dusty, dying, place. However, he fails to mention entirely that there were 2 malls in north east Odessa that both had movie theaters or the Grandview Theater. West Texas is not a culture of walkers, as you might see in large cities with limited parking and public transportation. There is ample parking everywhere and so everyone drives, thus no pedestrians. I mention the above as a very tiny example of how stating certain facts in a particular way moves his narrative forward but doesn’t give, from my perspective, an accurate portrayal of Odessa, Texas or its people.

Buzz portrays the maniacal fandom that surrounds high school football in West Texas, without fully contextualizing it. Odessa and Midland are 4 hours from El Paso, 4.5 hours from Dallas, and 2.5 hours from Lubbock. This distance means that there are no other, more “acceptable”, sporting events to attend. There are no college or pro teams, of any kind, near enough to visit. This leaves high school football on those glorious fall evenings in West Texas as the primary, live, family entertainment in the area. I don’t feel Buzz understood this or else he chose not to communicated its importance.

There were certainly Odessans who, emotionally, lived and died by how the Panthers performed, however it hardly felt like it was anywhere close to a majority of Odessans. By quoting the most die-hard fans, Buzz, again is crafting a particular narrative that makes for a best-selling book, but doesn’t accurately reflect the reality I grew up with.

Finally, I don’t remember Odessa being systemically racist in the way that Buzz Bissinger portrays it to be. Granted, since graduating high school I’ve only been back to visit friends and family, so perhaps I never fully understood how the town really worked from an adult perspective.

All this being said, there are elements of the town, its people, and those kids that he captures beautifully. I just finished listening to it, and I’m left conflicted and melancholy. My hometown was not perfect, but the people I grew up with were tough, kind, and generous. I’ll always think of Odessa and those people fondly.

Keep that in mind as you listen.

223 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Nostalgia for a Simpler Time and Place

This book brought back a lot of memories for me. High school football can be the moment of glory for many out there, then reflected upon as a chapter in life that one will spend the majority of his life with his best days behind him.

This book isn't completely focused on the Permian program itself, but also shows how life was in 1980's Odessa Texas. It covers the town history, racial tensions, and oil boom/bust periods. But above it all, it reveals a town's pride for its high school football team that shines through—pride that is fundamental to its nature, to its identity. These people depend on high school football to survive. More than just an escape from the financial ruin that has set in since the Texas oil bust, high school football is the only thing that matters. They live vicariously through these teenagers, these children, as if they are somehow their only connection to anything good or right in the world. Bissinger describes how as the seniors finished their final games, the shock of no longer being relevant sets in, and they turn into just another fan afterwards.

I found myself getting caught up in it: the excitement, the rush, the adrenaline of the game. It’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to glamorize something that should really only represent a small part of someone’s life, but it was easy to understand how one could get wrapped up in it. That's a concept a lot of former players can relate to.

Overall: I liked this book. Although at times I thought the history of the town portions were too much of a page filler rather than useful information. The main problem is that this book is about so many things - the history of the town, the lives of the people in it, and obviously, football. If you've got an interest in Texas and football, this is a good place to start. Heck, you might even get an itch to go see a high school football game yourself afterwards.

The narrator Tom Stechschulte is a personal favorite of mine, and he did a great job on this book.

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48 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Terrific audiobook!

What made the experience of listening to Friday Night Lights the most enjoyable?

More of a sociological treatise than a football book, it still holds up well after almost thirty years. It examines what happens when a Texas town (Odessa) emphasizes football over academics. The results are not surprising but the story follows several players of different races and that makes up the bulk of the story.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Liked all of the student/football players equally well. What happens to each is fascinating.

Which character – as performed by Tom Stechschulte – was your favorite?

Did not have one. The narration was fine but I docked one star because the narrator sometimes sounded like he had a cold.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Silly question but it was a riveting listen.

Any additional comments?

I recommend this audiobook highly!

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Not what I expected, but really engaging.

To be honest, I chose this book because I really liked the TV series. I had expectations that this would be more about the games and the players on the field, but I was very wrong. What I received was a slice of life in an oil town after a bust. There were times I was enraged at the way football ruled the small Texas world, and then times I was heartbroken because the players and people who put football on the pedestal are simply a victims of a system that has been in place so long that no one realizes how crazy it actually is.

In full disclosure, I typically read fantasy and sci-fi, so my opinion on this book will not stand against those who typically read this genre. But, I was engaged and captivated by the stories contained within this book. I think that it has something to say to many of us who have ever loved sports, or who have ever seen sports become king of a local high school. It is worth a listen for sure.

10 people found this helpful

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Still relevant all these years later

Took me forever to get around to finally reading FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. I worried that it might seem dated so many years after its original publication. After all, the events in the book take place pre-Internet. Would the high school seem like a throwback? Would the story still seem relevant?

The answer is "yes" and "yes."

The book really is a classic, and no matter when you've played, coached, or watched high school football, many of the players and emotions will be recognizable. The immediacy and emotion of the story have not faded with time. Bissinger's writing is terrific and evocative.

A 25th anniversary addenda brings the reader up to speed on what some of the key people in the book are up to now that they've reached middle age.

If you love sports, don't wait to read this one. I regret it took me so long to finally enjoy it.

#ComingOfAge #Inspiring #Nostalgic #Texas #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

7 people found this helpful

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False Advertising

I picked this because I though it was going to be about football. There is some football covered, but this is more about a small town in Texas seen through the eyes of an east coast liberal that both despises, and doesn't understand conservative values. It is loaded with statistics about racial and ethnic breakdowns combined with SAT scores of each demographic. The author lectures about how horrible football is for the players because they get injured, and aren't pushed hard enough in their classes because they're football players, but seems to skip over the part that football teaches people how to work hard, and as a team. He tells stories of ex players that say they loved the game, and playing in high school, but then he spends countless pages trying to paint them as failures because that great part of their life is over, and now they live in the real world. It seems like he doesn't understand, or doesn't care, that their experiences as football players could have been a good thing, and gave them treasured memories for the rest of their lives. This book was continually depressing as the author tried to find the negative in every possible situation. The lowest of the lows was when he described how George Bush came to Odessa for a campaign rally, and the people liked and respected him partly because he lived there for a while, and became a successful businessman. He then spent 20 minutes basically bashing Bush, and essentially putting on a campaign commercial for Michael Dukakis. That chapter was astounding in its absurdity.

5 people found this helpful

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  • DJ
  • 10-26-18

So happy I purchased this book.

I've always loved the movie and after reading this book, I believe I cherish it more. If you have a true love of the game and undestand it's about the battles fought off the field, this is for you.

2 people found this helpful

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Better than the movie....

if you want to reminiss but don't want to tear up be careful its hard not too

2 people found this helpful

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compelling

Got completely rapped up in this must have book. It gives you an amazing look into the lives of these people and their communities in which you come to understand their fears and struggles and root for there success.

1 person found this helpful