Permian High School in the west Texas oil town of Odessa, Texas in 1988; the cities of Midland, Texas and Dallas, Texas are also settings for parts of the story.
H. G. Bissinger
The author of the this book is also the narrator who unfolds his experiences with the Permian Panthers during the 1988 football season. His viewpoint, being an outsider, is integral to understanding the events and the emotions they spawned during that painful season.
One of the six players the narrator focuses on, he is the ultimate example of "woulda, shoulda, coulda" after a knee injury during a scrimmage ends a promising career.
He is the player who readily admits that even years after he graduates, he can't let go of Permian football. He likens the experience to gladiators or Christians versus the lions with Caesar standing up in the arena asking the crowd to yell "yay or nay."
He is the team's quarterback whose lack of confidence in himself leads to mistakes that he questions the rest of his life. His hopes and dreams are to play college ball, but in the end, he knows that his dream will probably never come true.
He is the black player whose vomiting before each game is almost a comforting sound to the other players that events are moving along like they're supposed to. He has ambivalent feelings about football - he hates it at the same time it has a funny hold on him.
He is the only Hispanic who is a starter and unlike the other players to whom school and grades are incidental to football, his goals involve being accepted by Harvard. He is the valedictorian of his class, but loves the thrill of the hits that come with football.
He is the excellent football player who cannot get his drinking problem under control. He loves the game but looks forward to the girls, alcohol, and parties that follow every game.
He is the head coach of Permian High School football team who agonizes over every game both because he cares about his players, but also because he becomes the scapegoat in the community if the team loses. His job is just coaching, not teaching, so his livelihood depends on the whims of the townspeople and whether or not they believe he can "get it done."
The west-Texas oil town is definitely a major character in the way it is consumed with football and how the season is all that seems to bring pleasure to the lives of its citizens. Its booms and busts in the oil business give it an almost desperate characteristic that can't help but impact on the young men who seem to carry the hopes and dreams of Odessa on their shoulders. Odessa was the naughty one, the sassy one who didn't come home and hung out with the wrong crowd. Odessa had the title of "Murder Capital USA."
She is the Permian football coach's wife and feels the animosity of the town as keenly as, if not more than her husband. She must sit in the stands and hear the insults and read the letters in the newspaper that vilify him. She must even face the criticism from someone who contacts the school board, because she dares to stand up at times during the games and block his view. She lives an agonizing existence until the season is over.
The new black hope, he was Boobie's replacement, he was a junior
A black JV coach, his primary job was to handle the black players on the team
The running back coach for Permian.
The trainer for Permian
He was a former player. Boobie was taking his spot this season.
A legend in the Permian Football Team. One of the meanest people to play for Permian.
Was Boobie's uncle. As a child Boobie was "devoured"(consumed) by the Texas Department of Human Resources". He drifted through foster homes until his uncle legally adopted him. From that moment on He vowed to give Boobie a chance at life, and that chance was football.
He is the father of player Brian, who is very proud of his son. He feels blessed that things are turning out great for his son; he is a great athlete, friend, and most of all, student. His father is also a successful lawyer, running his own practice in Odessa. He accepts his son's commitment to the Mojo madness, although he disagrees with most of what the school stands for.
She is Jerrod's mother. She lives for the wonder of watching her son under the Friday night lights
Previous Permian coach. After the loss at states, people were saying that they wanted him back
Herelives his greatness as a Permian Panther in the State Championship won 8 years before. He re-plays the film of the game over and over and knows every play by heart. He has created a nice life for himself over the last 8 years including his own business, but there is still something missing. He can only find that missing something by returning to the film or speaking before the present players about the glories of a State Championship.
Joe Bob Bizell
He played for Texas A&M. Former Permian Panther. In high school, he was all-state for 3 years. He was a fantastic player
He was a dentist in Odessa, he was an All-State running back at Permian on the 1970 team that went to state finals. He thought the team just wasn't the same nowadays "I blame it on the n****** coming to Permian. He thought blacks were treated differently then whites-true.
He became superintendent of schools in 1986, was determined to make improvements in the educational program; however, he soon discovers that there is little he can do. It is all a matter of priorities and the priority at Permian is football.
A teacher. "They don't seem to care about their grades, they don't seem to care about each other, they seem to care about having a good time, but don't know how to define good"
An English teacher at Permian."It still amazes me when I give a test in grammar and the kinds can do it" then she said "it used to be the other way around. I used to be surprised whenever they didn't know it. Now I'm amazed when they do know it"
Brian Chavez's favorite teacher. A dynamic English teacher who bemoans how much money is reserved for the football program as compared to the educational program. She cites how the medical supplies needed for football cost $6,750 while the entire English department is only allotted $5,040.
College counselor for the senior class(700ppl.), "girls are condition towards liberal arts courses rather than engineering and science"
came from a small town in Montana, find the atmosphere at Permian difficult to adjust to. She is proud of her intellectual abilities, but she is ostracized because of them. She knows that girls are expected to "dumb down," and being a Pepette or a cheerleader is a special mark.
He ranked two in the senior class and because he was an intellectual, stood out like a sore thumb, often wonders what it would be like to sit in those two rows where the players sit during pep rallies.
The most popular cheerleader. She had lived with her grandparents since she was eight. Homecoming queen. She dated Brian Chavez. She wanted to go into the medical field, be Miss Universe
A minister of Church of Christ. He demanded a desegregated school system. He spoke with passion,which made him a wonderful figure in the south side. Later in life he went to jail for 18 years for robbing a bank.
He was a black minister who was the pastor of Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church on the south side. Tow the Line- behave as you are supposed to, don't stand out
Willie Hammond, Jr.
He had become the first black city councilman in the history of Odessa in 1972 and later the first black county commissioner in the history of the county. He went to jail for arson conspiracy and perjury. Involving a burning building. He pleaded innocent, and said it was a political setup.
He owned a restaurant downtown. He was raised in Odessa. He went to Permian High School when it was an all white school, he wanted the same for son. His son (Michael) got in fights a lot and wasn't doing to well. Michael (his son) started as a defensive tackle for Permian when the team went all the way to state semi finals. Dwaine blamed all of his son's problems on desegregation.
She thought Hammond was a brilliant politician who had provided blacks in Odessa with their first real public voice. She was a supporter of immigration, white, democrat, she took the Lord's name in vain.
In 1976 became the first minority candidate ever elected to the school board. The school board and the administration "were determined that whatever happens, MOJO was not going to suffer in any way." She also said "If we prepared our kids academically as we prepare them for wining state championships, there is no telling where we would be now."
comes to Odessa for a campaign appearance. The crowd is demonstrative of life in Odessa: no blacks or Hispanics in the audience, no sign of poverty, no signs of homelessness or abuse, no signs of the social fissures that are tearing apart America's urban centers to the east and the west. It is perfect and unblemished on this day. He says just what the crowd wants to hear: that America is still great, still number one, and that what they believe in, what they care about is the very essence of what it means to be an American. He says, "Texas is on the way back!" and it is an absolutely mystifying statement. Even though they are in bad shape because of his administration
Bush's opponent. is antagonistic to them, because of all he represents. He can't gain a foothold in the minds of West Texans, because of their history. They are descendents of the John Birch Society, and they have their own conservative groups like Odessans for Decency and the Christian Voting Block. Dukakis thinks he can win the state on the basis of the economy, but he never left the lofty heights of the east and attended a high school football game in Texas. There he would have seen just by watching the people and how they reacted with their children and to the game that there is a heartbeat in West Texas that can't even consider the idea of a liberal in the White House.
a Confederate scout during the Civil War. After he is captured by the enemy, he is told he will go free if he reveals the name of the one who had given him his information. Davis refuses, saying, "I would die a thousand deaths before I would betray friend." The reaction of the team is not the usual hue and cry, but instead a strangely vulnerable look on their faces. Coach Gaines emphasizes the ideas of friendship and loyalty to encourage them in such a vulnerable moment against their cross-town rivals, Odessa High School.
a swimmer who had been set to go to the Olympics in Munich in 1972. Then, he had a lung collapse. He was cut open to repair it and the only way he could swim was to take painkillers, which was illegal in the Olympics. But it was his dream, and he decided to swim without them. He swam and he screamed and his stitches came loose and there was blood in the water. But he never stopped and Gaines said this is the kind of athlete he wants in his corner. Genter had come too far to let it all go.
A star player for Carter High School in Dallas. They didn't have to attend classes and were assured lucrative college scholarships. Arrested for armed robberies and couldn't attend college.
A star player for Carter High School. His "failing" grade in math led to a court case when a teacher, Will Bates, refused to lie about the algebra grade of a key player, Gary Edwards. The case was won and Dallas Carter got to continue their season.
A teacher at Carter High doesn't pay homage to the Carter Cowboys. He has a notoriously high failure rate. He is intent in not turning his class into a mill where everyone passes regardless of how much or how little they know. Edwards struggles in his class with test scores of 40, 60, 60, and 35. Then, one day he cuts his class to watch game films. That becomes a real problem about whether he should receive a zero for class participation and how that will affect his average. He must have a 70 to be eligible for football.
Midland was the fair-haired, goody-goody one, always doing the right thing, Midland was also the wealthier town, people go to Midland to raise a family
Ector High School
It was 90% minority, it shut down and was divided between OHS and PHS, the better athletes were maneuvered to go to Permian
Permian High School
It was 99% white.
Odessa High School
It was 93% white. 9. There
is a strong dislike between Odessa High and Permian, because of the school lines.
Marshall High School
Private jet to the game, Permian lost
Midland High School
Weak football team, in the same district as Midland Lee- Permian won 35-0
Midland Lee High School
Permian's arch-rivals. Permian lost to them 21-22
David W. Carter High School
Permian loses in the semifinals 9-14