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Friday Night Lights - Just Read It !
Meat head, dumb jock. These are just two of the many derogatory labels given to football players. Is it possible for me, a meat head, to hear the criticisms dealt to the sport of football? Is it possible for me, a dumb football jock, to understand and be objective about the issues raised in the book, Friday Night Lights? Yes, because I'm not the stereotypical football player like those described of Odessa, Texas.
The football players in Odessa were generally a wild party crowd. It was typical that late in the fourth quarter, when the game was in the bag, the players would begin talking on the sidelines about what parties they were going to after the game, what girls they were going to try to pick up, and laughing about how drunk they were going to get. They cared nothing for academics. The senior star running back, Boobie Miles, was taking a math course that most students took as freshmen. Many of the senior players' schedules consisted of nothing but electives. For the Oddesa footbal players, school was nothing more than a social get-to-gether, served up to them as a chance to flirt with girls and hand out with their friends. They knew that their performance in class didn't matter; the teacher would provide the needed grade to stay on the team. It wasn't uncommon for players to receive answer keys for a test or simply to be exempt from taking the test at all. Some didn't know how they would cope without football after the season was over. They ate, drank, and slept it. On the whole, these 16 and 17-year-old boys' identity was wrapped up in a pigskin.
The Odessa football players couldn't be objective about criticisms of football. Their total self-esteem depended on how they did on Friday night. This was the glorified culmination of their football career: wearing the black MoJo uniform in the stadium under the big lights. Football was more than just a game to them; it was a religion. It "made them seem like boys going off to fight a war for the benefit of someone else, unwitting sacrifices to a strange and powerful god" (Bissinger, p.11). Because football was so meaningful in their lives, to criticize it was to criticize everything they'd worked so hard for and lived for.
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The stranglehold of the sport over the school is best seen in the football budget. For a game that was to take place across the state, rather than drive ten to twelve hours to get there, the school payed for a plane for the team, as well as two others for the band and students who wished to go to the game. The cost of this was well over 20,000 dollars. It might also be argued that the football department was payed better and had much better technology. Teachers of english and math, were forced to buy much needed school supplies for their class rooms, out of their own salary, if they thought that what the school gave them was inadacite. There were very few computers in the school for learning, while the football office had some of the lastest recording and computer equipment to analyse the games and draw up stat sheets. All of this was somehow within the budget.
I don't have much in common with the football players in the book. I'm not a wild party person who gets drunk on the week ends, and I care much more about my academics than the Odessa students. My identity is not so totally wrapped up in football. I haven't been dreaming about being on a field on Friday night since fourth grade the way they did. By the same token, I haven't wanted to be stereotyped as the "meathead" football player. I have other interests, hobbies, and sports that I play. I have a life apart from football. Though I do enjoy playing, I don't think that I would lose a part of myself if I didn't have football.
I've been able to avoid the pitfalls of this wild partying lifestyle because of my upbringing. My parents taught me from the time I was little what was right and wrong, they taught me a sense of morals. I have also seen the consequences of this lifestyle in some of my friends and teammates, and it has shown me the emptiness and hollowness if what they consider to be having fun. While my parents have always encouraged me to excell in sports, they also instilled in me at a young age the importance of my education. I believe that I am a well balenced person. I understand that highschool won't last forever, and that only living in the present, never looking ahead to the rest of my life, is fool hardy.
Football does not define who I am, therefore I can be objective about its criticisms. I can handle H. G. Bissinger's complaints about outrageous football budgets, about a total disregard for academics and educational integrity, about its control of lives and communities, about its worship. Attacking football is not attacking me.