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 that of West Texas, what OPEC says becomes the rule. Early in the 1980s, oil is expensive per barrel (the boom), but by the later part of that decade, oil is just over $5 a barrel (the bust). White-collar industries related to oil tend to have a gambler’s ethos—one spends a lot and bets more when one’s up, and when one’s down, one continues spending money to find another winning streak. Other industries in the region—notably banking—are dependent on financing the oil booms, and they, too, get caught up in the busts, meaning that the economy of the region goes from high highs to low lows very quickly, often without much warning.
Because of the cruelty of the boom-bust cycle, divisions between wealthy and poor citizens in Odessa tend to be stark—even though the wealthy can become poor very quickly. Typically, when white-collar families try to make money in the boom, they then spend that money quickly, such that, when the bust comes (and it always does), those families tend to have very little of what they’ve gained. These financial gains tend also to be divided unevenly between parts of town. Thus the Permian part of Odessa—the east side—is far wealthier than the downtown, which in turn is wealthier than the Southside.
Bissinger tracks the relationship between the economic background of players and their lives after football. Some players, like Billingsley, become successful despite disadvantaged backgrounds—they tend to succeed through a combination of hard work, luck, and a system that is skewed toward the success of affable white men in Texas. Some other players, like Boobie, seem more trapped in the economic and ethnic circumstances of the region. Boobie fails out of junior college and does not end up living his dream of a D-1 football scholarship. He has a difficult time “getting ahead,” because the economy of the region overall is so poor, and because Boobie’s time at Permian was so thoroughly dominated by athletic, rather than academic and professional, preparation.
Wealth, Poverty, and the Boom-Bust Cycle ThemeTracker
Wealth, Poverty, and the Boom-Bust Cycle Quotes in Friday Night Lights
There were a few who found its conservatism maddening and dangerous and many more who found it the essence of what America should be, an America built on strength and the spirit of individualism, not an America built on handouts and food stamps.
The fans clutched in their hands the 1988 Permian football yearbook, published annually by the booster club . . . It ran 224 pages, had 513 individual advertisements, and raised $20,000.
The standing ovation that he received at the Watermelon Feed wasn’t particularly surprising. Just as he was used to football injuries, he was also used to lavish attention, as was every former Permian player who had once been ordained a star. So many people had come up to him when he was a senior that he couldn’t keep track of their names . . . .
It wasn’t necessary to live in Odessa for long to realize that the Permian football team wasn’t just a high school team but a sacrosanct white institution. “Mojo seemed to have a mystical charm to it,” Hurd said.
The Mojo mystique was purely an east-side creation, and Permian supporters would almost certainly put up a hellacious fight if they were suddenly told they had to share it with people who didn’t act like them or think like them.
When Tony was Brian’s age, the thought of college, any college, was as funny as it was ridiculous. Just getting through high school was miracle enough, and the way Tony and most other kids from South El Paso looked at it, everything after that in life was gravy, a gift.
For LV, watching Boobie play against Abilene had been harrowing. On every play he couldn’t help but worry that his nephew would do further damage to his knee, even though the brace did provide good protection. He saw the emotional effect the injury was having on Boobie—the prolonged periods of depression as one Friday night after another just came and went.