How did you enjoy the first six chapters of the book this week? Were you immediately drawn into the action? I was hooked on the story as soon as I read the preface.
The thing that stood out to me most was how much pressure these boys were under, and how they survived the intense scrutiny and expectations placed on them by the entire town. It's hard enough to meet the expectations of family members—I can't imagine having to please a whole town with my athletic ability. Their bodies were under incredible pressure as well. They put themselves through so much strain to play through injury. In the beginning, we see how Boobie Miles lost his position after suffering a torn knee ligament, so I can understand why the boys would want to play through pain, but it still made me sad. At one point, the author recounts how townspeople would call the trainer's office to get updates on injured players. I don't think that would fly today.
I was also struck by all the details about the Pepettes, a group of senior girls who each supported one of the players, in this first section. I was shocked that the girls went to so much personal expense to create yard signs for the players. Can you picture a yard sign that would cost over $100? They must have been incredibly elaborate! I don't think I have the expertise to create that kind of masterpiece. The girls also had to supply the players with weekly treats, scrapbooks, and extras like travel pillows and towels. They were sure a dedicated bunch to do all of those things for the players. Did your high school have similar traditions? Do you think it was fair that the Pepettes had to do so many things for the players?
Throughout Bissinger's analysis of Odessa, he recounts the deep-seated racism that covered the town. Bissinger described the bitter fight over desegregation of schools, and he described the wide-spread use of racial slurs. He also indicated in chapter 5 that African-American athletes at Permian were respected for their athletic ability, but they weren't respected as people or intellectual beings. I think what was most unsettling to me was the fact that while I was reading, I kept wanting to say, "the things Bissinger wrote about are a 1988 problem, not a 2019 problem." However, I know that isn't the case. This article from ESPN documents some of the racist incidents that occurred in sports in 2017.
Chapter 6 ends with the team losing against Marshall. How do you think this loss with affect their season and their playoff hopes? Do you think they will be able to come back from the loss?
If you're curious about what Odessa is like now, explore the Downtown Odessa website to see what the city is up to lately. It's interesting to see how it has changed since Bissinger wrote about it.
I hope you enjoyed this first section and that you are excited to keep reading. Make sure to read chapters 7–12 before joining us again next week. I can't wait to hear from you in the comments section.