Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream Critical Essays

Buzz Bissinger

Literary Criticism and Significance

Of the several printings of Friday Night Lights, perhaps the most significant is the Da Capo Press gift edition of 2003. Although the book was first published in 1990, this edition contains a retrospective afterword by H. G. Bissinger written in 2000. This essay includes follow-up interviews with significant players, the immediate negative reaction of Odessa, and some positive changes in the school community brought on, perhaps, by the book. Bissinger writes that the animosity level reached after the publication of the book was so great that a book tour of Odessa was cancelled because of threats against his life. This might be taken as an unofficial but highly significant review of the impact of this work.

Sports Illustrated ranks Friday Night Lights fourth on its top-100 sports books and first among books on football. ESPN calls it "...the best book on sports over the past quarter century." Every major city newspaper praised Friday Night Lights, but the most telling review came from theOdessa American: "A great job of capturing Odessa as it really is....Readers who can read the book without applying their own emotions will find times when they want to cry."

One Ector County school official called the book "...a wake-up call...for the community." Bissinger himself notes that SAT scores for boys have improved and that the number of girls taking the test have nearly doubled. Monies have been spent to upgrade technology at both schools, and athletic programs have been established for both males and females.

Since 1990, the book has sold over two million copies. It became a critically acclaimed film in 2004, and spawned an Emmy Award-winning television series that has aired since October 2006.