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A New View of Football
am 12. März 2000
H.G. Bissinger, an investigating reporter for the Chicago Tribune, feels the necessity to write an entire book on the traditions and segregation surrounding a single season with the Permian Panthers of Odessa, Texas. Being from a similar size school with a modified version of football madness, I felt a connection with the subject matter, but that is where my connection ended. Bissinger's background as a reporter is highlighted in his writing. The basic who, what, when, where, and why is covered in great detail. Bissinger sets out to prove some monumental point about the insanity of West Texas football but finishes with an extended new article. I left the book feeling let down as well as shocked by the actions of the town. Bissinger has done his research. With interviews with what seems like everyone in town, the reader has a better understanding of the feelings of all people. Everyone from the first Mexican- American school board member to the coaching staff is interviewed.I appreciate his throughness on such sensitive subjects like the obvious racism of the town. However, this style does not lend itself to an engaging plot. Bissinger has also uncovered an interesting side of what may seem to be a passionate oil town. Bissinger chose not to ignore the obvious racial undertones of Odessa. As a former Permian All-State running back commented on the destruction of the "Mojo" school spirit, "I blame it on the niggers' coming to Permian. People say you can't win without the blacks, but we did." This comment was made not in the 1960s but in 1988. The school was not actually integrated until the early 1980s. A divided community can only rally around one thing, "Mojo" football. This idea is beaten into the reader's mind by Bissinger's somewhat repetitive writing. Bissinger also chronicals the football season, game by game. He explains, hit by hit, the triumph and defeat of the players. I was amazed by his ability to cover all aspects of the game. Even when the events happen simultaneously. Bissinger records the Coaches' firery half time pep talk and the band's "hell- bent rendition of 'Gee, Officer Krupke'". I'm not sure if this made Bissinger a track star or if it hurt his credibility in the eyes of a reader. This book was interesting for me because it has been my brother's, a high school and college football player, favorite and revealed an exaggerated version of my own high school experience. This is not a book for everyone. The journalistic style did not grip my interest as other books have. If football isn't a topic of choice for you, or if you enjoyed Bissinger's newspaper style, try a Jon Krakauer book. (My personal favorite is Into the Wild.) Despite his blunt presentation, Bissinger effectively chronicals the life of a town, a team, and their dreams.