Published in 1990, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream recounts the story of a small town and the high school football team that defines it. The book follows one season of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers from Odessa, Texas, as they set their sights on the coveted Texas state championship. Penned by Pulitzer Prize–winning author H. G. Bissinger, the book offers a rare glimpse into small-town America. Bissinger's portrayal of Odessa was perceived negatively by some and, as a result, his life was even threatened. Other locals, however, took the book at face value, understanding that it was simply an effort to depict a small town and its beloved football team.
Situated in a town with a population of about 90,000 when the novel was written, Permian hinged all its hopes on the high school football team. Every boy at Permian dreamed of suiting up for the Panthers, a team whose record was unmatched. Young girls hoped to become Pepettes who, when they were not cheering, were baking cookies for the team.
Friday Night Lights is an in-depth study of the town, but it also serves as a character study of some of the players and coaches. Brian Chavez, the team's tight end, is a Mexican-American student who becomes valedictorian of his class and ultimately goes to Harvard after graduating from Permian. Gary Gaines is the team's coach who faces endless pressures from the town and the team's financial backers. Ivory Christian, a linebacker, is a religious African-American student who receives a Division I scholarship. Each of the players not only has to face the usual pressures of adolescence and academics, but also must deal with the insurmountable weight of the town's desire for a state football championship. In addition, there is some degree of racist overtones in the town, which troubles both the players and the coach.
Released as a major motion picture in 2004, Friday Night Lights starred Billy Bob Thornton as coach Gary Gaines and Connie Britton as his wife, Sharon. Due to the film's success, NBC created a dramatic series in 2006 which also starred Britton and Kyle Chandler. Both the film and the television series have received tremendous critical acclaim.