The story takes place in the town of Messina. Messina is a small town in the southern United States, but the state in which it is located is never identified.
Football is very important in this town, especially as the Messina High Spartans have have had 34 years of winning teams. It is eerie for former football hero Neely Crenshaw when he returns to Messina, because nothing seems to have changed, and the town appears to be as football-obsessed as ever over the Friday night games. Neely is still remembered and is greeted as a great football star.
When he walks the halls of Messina, High it also feels as if nothing has changed. Neely thinks he might as well be a high school student again. The novel shows how having a winning football team can become too much of a focus—or obsession—for a small town.