Bissinger summarizes what happens to many of the book’s main characters, in a short epilogue appended to the last chapter. He states that Carter won the state championship in ’88, after a strong performance in the title game. Both Derric Evans and Gary Edwards were recruited to play D-1 college football, but in the spring and summer of ’89, before college, they committed armed robberies—perhaps brought on by a sense of power and invincibility, born of football—and were sentenced to long prison sentences.
Similarly terrifying is the fate of Edwards and Evans, who, on the field, were such gifted athletes, but who are, in Bissinger’s assertion, perhaps too intoxicated by all the things money, sports, and fame can provide. Also, there is a sense that these star players, by being allowed to play even when it was against the rules, may have gained the sense that there were no rules they couldn’t break, that their football talent made them untouchable. On the one hand, such a thought is crazy. On the other, these are nineteen year-olds who, it seems likely, were allowed to do whatever they wanted at Carter so long as they shined in football. Once again, Bissinger suggests that the emphasis on football above all other things can warp both young men and communities.
Some of the Permian players have better luck. Chavez is accepted to Harvard, where he does not play varsity football but continues his studies. McDougal works for his father in the West Texas oil business, and Don Billingsley, after formally separating himself from his alcoholic father, plays a little college football and reflects positively on his experiences with the Permian team. Winchell walks on at Baylor, after having been refused a scholarship to play D-1 football, but he still complains of his inability to find consistency as a passer. Ivory Christian is offered a scholarship to play for TCU, and his dreams of being a preacher seem largely to be put on the back burner. Boobie reconciles somewhat with his uncle LV, and plays for a junior college, though his knee injury keeps him from being as explosive as he once was.
Bissinger is rather clear in his assertion that Chavez, so successful on the field, is also a success off it, a young man who knows that there is life beyond the stadium. And, notably, Chavez doesn’t play football in college. Billingsley and Winchell, in contrast, seem to still want to feel the thrill and power of football, but their focus on football seems to shunt aside any other ambitions or future. And Boobie, robbed of his speed and power by the bad luck of an injury, never gets the boost from football that he needed. Of all the players, Chavez makes his own future, and football only seems to give a future that otherwise might not be accessible to one: Ivory Christian.
And Gary Gaines, long thought to be “too soft” for the coaching job, leads the ’89 squad, with a new group of talented players, all the way back to the state tournament, where they win the state championship. Bissinger ends the book noting that, although Odessa has received its fair share of economic setbacks in the 1980s, its football team in 1989, like in 1980, has finished the season at the top of Texas.
What is perhaps most startling is that Gaines, after being considered “soft” during his entire 1988 season, is back again in 1989, and this time, he has a reputation for winning, after the ’88 squad makes it to the final four. In many ways, as Bissinger shows, the achievements of the team are placed on the shoulders of the coach—if the team wins, the coach is considered a genius. The players shuffle through, but the coaches, the institution, and the fans—they get to hold onto the winning memories that often buoy this small, football-mad community.