Friday Night Lights


Buzz Bissinger

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Friday Night Lights Themes

Themes and Colors
Football Theme Icon
Race and Racial Divisions Theme Icon
Wealth, Poverty, and the Boom-Bust Cycle Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Winning, Losing, and a Purpose in Life Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Friday Night Lights, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


H. G. (“Buzz”) Bissinger’s Friday Nights Lights is an examination of football in one especially football-mad part of the country: the small town of Odessa, in West Texas. Football is the most popular sport in the region, and high-school football games dominate the cultures of the region’s communities. Some games draw 15,000-20,000 fans—large percentages of the population. The Permian stadium is a sea of black during games. Bissinger explores the influence of football in Odessa…

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Race and Racial Divisions

Bissinger explores the racial divides that he finds during his investigation of football in the region. Texas, like many states in the South, has a checkered history since Brown vs. Board of Education, in the mid-50’s, the Supreme Court case which mandated the desegregation of public schools. Originally, there were Odessa and Ector high schools in Ector County, where Odessa is located. Odessa High was largely white, and filled mostly with members of the…

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Wealth, Poverty, and the Boom-Bust Cycle

Odessa is an oil town. Its wealth derives from oil-drilling in the region, and from industries related to it: pipe-building, construction, distribution. The oil industry, despite its pro-American rhetoric and close ties to the politics of the Texas Republican party, is, as Bissinger points out, highly dependent on other countries in the late-1980s. OPEC—the cartel of Middle Eastern oil-supplying countries—sets prices, for the most part, and because their supply is so much more significant than…

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The Permian Panthers are, of course, the football team for Permian High School—although, in Bissinger’s account, it’s clear that football is the priority for many Texas schools rather than a comprehensive high-school educational program. Bissinger notes that SAT scores and other indicators of performance are especially low in Odessa and West Texas, although the entire state lags behind many others in the country, as far as the strength of its high schools. Bissinger argues that…

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Winning, Losing, and a Purpose in Life

Bissinger follows the Panthers through a difficult season. At first, it appears that the talented Permian team will underperform, especially after Permian loses to its rival Midland Lee. But Permian rights the ship and ends up in a three-way tie for a berth in the district playoffs. Coach Gaines participates in a coin flip that sends the Panthers and Midland Lee to the playoffs, and leaves the Midland High team out. The Panthers make it…

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