NOTE: This post added May 3, 2008, and ante-dated to when I posted the original review on The Other Blog, of which this is an expanded version.
Ah, Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger. A fellow football fan and FO commenter called this classic on high school football in Texas the scariest book he’d ever read. Depending on your view of the proper role of sports in society, you might agree with him. I don’t, but it’s not the book so much as the mindset represented therein, which is universal. The typical problem with “portrait” books like this one is they’re not necessarily right on what might be referred to as “scope” (“scope” books have their own problems). The reaction to this book generally proves its scope, and even if it didn’t, it’s really a marvelous portrait book. Two problems. First, Bissinger’s world consists of smart and/or good liberals and dumb and/or bad conservatives. It’s not a major factor in the book, but it is out there and grates. Second, and this plays into the first problem, portrait books depend on input from members of the community, and the members of the community most likely to talk to an outsider are those whose ties to the community are weakest. This means you may get a seriously misguided view of the community. For a famous example of this, see Margaret Mead’s work. Quibbles aside, recommended for any football fan.