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longer play football was seen by some people in Odessa as “just another big dumb nigger.” Although he is now 1,800 miles away, H.G. Bissinger still gets Friday night fever. He told the Texas Sports Chronicle that Permian games were “the most exciting sports events I have ever witnessed.” Every week he looks for scores of Permian games in the sports section of USA Today. He stays in touch with Ivory Christian, Jerrod McDougal and some of the Permian players that he wrote about in Friday Night Lights. Now back in Philadelphia, working on a book about the problems of American cities, Bissinger says he has fond memories of Odessa, of the Permian players, coaches and fans. He hopes his book has not been forgotten. “If that’s the case, I think it’s a shame. It means that more kids are going to fall through the cracks. More kids are going to wake up and realize that there should have been more to life than a state championship.” When told that many Permian boosters believe his book has had a positive effect, Bissinger says that his book was not meant to offend Permian fans. The purpose of the book says Bissinger, was to show that “football is overemphasized. And it’s not just Odessa, this is happening in many places across the country…The purpose of the book was compassionate and it was clear where I came down. If I felt I had taken cheap shots or didn’t believe what I wrote, I wouldn’t even go back to Odessa.” He continued, “There are lessons to be drawn [from what happened at Permian]. This is just a game, it should not teach kids that life ends at the age of 18. I just pray to God that no more kids like Boobie Miles fall through the cracks.” The author has visited Odessa several times over the past two years. He will return within a few months to award a scholarship through the Friday Night Lights Foundation, a nonprofit foundation Bissinger set up with proceeds from the book to help student-athletes pay for their education. On a recent visit, though, Bissinger said many of the people in Odessa “acted as if the book never happened.” Forty years ago, George Bush lived in Odessa. Bissinger’s book includes a few lines that President Bush wrote about West Texas football: “It would take us several seasons, living in both Odessa and Midland, before we understood the game, not as we knew it back east, but West-Texas-style as a quasi-religious experience.” Four decades ago, Bush observed football as religion. In Friday Night Lights, the liturgical significance of Permian football is referred to several times. When asked about it, the author responded, “religion outlasts anyone’s attempt to change it, no matter how well meaning the attempt.” On this particular night Temple prevailed 20 to 14. Temple quarterback Adrian Woodson’s passing and running ability kept the Permian defense off balance the whole game. The smaller Permian players were simply outmanned by Temple’s larger offensive line. Permian coach Tam Hollingshead offered no excuses to reporters after the game. “We competed hard, but give Temple credit, they played well.” Unaccustomed to losing, some of the Permian players openly wept. The Temple band played the school fight song while jubilant students swarmed the field. The interview over, Hollingshead called his players together in the center of the field. He reminded his players that this was only the second game of the season. More games remained to be played. Then, as a team, they knelt and prayed. There, in the middle of a humid Central Texas night with thunderheads looming on the horizon, Texas football once again held hands with Texas religion. Maybe that’s why people believe Friday Night Lights had been good for Permian football. A writer from Philadelphia had come to town and questioned their faith. Today the writer is gone and the devout remain. And their faith burns brighter than before. Editor’s Note: At press time, Odessa Permian finished the season 9-1 and had won its first playoff game, as did Temple. MEDIA OBSERVER The Big “Whoosh!” BY CHRISTOPHER COOK 0 NE OF THE more memorable moments of the last televised presidential debate came with the mighty sucking whoosh! with which soon-not-to-be-President Bush demonstrated the reaction of the stock market to a possible Clinton election. Despite the president’s sibilating eloquence the stock market survived and he didn’t. Still, Bush, with a sweep of his arm and fricative articulation, demonstrated a sound many of us heard again during the last week of the presidential campaign. If the sucking noise that last week wasn’tthat of the stock market in free fall, then what was it? It was the sound of the mainstream news media, in one massive and hasty retreat, abandoning their reportorial stations for fear they would be blamed for the inevitable Bush defeat. Yes, you did see it. We all did. First, there was the news media, doing its job, asking inane Christopher Cook of Austin is a former newspaper journalist. questions and blabbering about Bush’s lowly position in the polls. Then, without warning, Bush and his GOP cronies announced that the real reason for the president’s poor showing was the collective anti-Bush bias by the news media. And poof! Like a cartoon character that suddenly disappears, leaving nothing behind but a few brush strokes, mainstream journalists abandoned their self-assigned. posts as defenders of democracy. They reappeared, having discovered that Gov. Clinton was “sitting on his lead,” and proceeded to describe with persistent enthusiasm the shrinking lead of the Arkansas governor whom they portrayed as negligent and anxious in the polls. As if to demonstrate meritorious and balanced intent, the news media also beat up on Ross Perot for being, well, Ross Perot. Some things just can’t be helped. By easing off President Bush who continued to wail about unfair treatment and thus distracting the electorate from the President’s record, the mainstream news media positioned itself to avoid becoming the scapegoat for the defeat of George Bush. All in all, it was a craven performance by the advocates of the First Amendment so cowardly, so transparent, so shameful and brazenly irresponsible that many of us chose to avert our eyes, as if we had inadvertently walked into an occupied restroom stall. But see it, we did. Practically overnight, just a week before the election, George Bush once more became the Napoleonic victor of the Gulf War, the environmental president who rammed a Clean Air Act through a recalcitrant Congress, the free market genius who cleverly negotiated a North American Free Trade Agreement guaranteed to stave off the economic defeat of the western hemisphere by socialist Europeans and Asian hordes. On ABC’s “20/20” on Thursday before election day, Sam Donaldson put on a performance that might serve as the paradigm for journalists who would still seek redemption before it was too late. Donaldson \(God’s malicious joke and Clinton, one-to-one. In his inimitable way, Donaldson put on a frenzied display of thrust THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 1 k