Many Texans’ love of football runs as deep as the oil that made Lamar Hunt the richest of the state’s many oil millionaires.
Sports Illustrated has an engaging article this week about the ascendance of the passing game in the state over the past 20 years.
Driven in large part by hundreds of seven-on-seven tournaments, the rise has been a steep one.
The article notes that close to 20 percent of NCAA Division I state hail from the Lone Star State.
The slingers’ skill was on full display last Saturday night.
Colt McCoy of the Longhorns made a powerful argument for the Heisman Trophy by throwing four touchdowns and 304 yards and running for 175 yards and another touchdown. The Longhorns barely held off the Texas A & M Aggies, whose junior quarterback Jerrod Johnson was spectacular in defeat against a Texas defense that had been one of the nation’s stingiest.
Pulitzer Prize winner Buzz Bissinger spent the 1989 season with the Panthers of Permian, a West Texas town in which many residents are subject to the oil economy’s boom-bust cycles.
Bissinger initially expected to see and then tell a heartwarming story of a feisty and resilient town bonded by the valiant struggle of its high school warriors.
A far darker picture emerged instead in Friday Night Lights.
Young men so pressured to live out their fathers’ and the town’s dreams that they utterly disregarded the damage they were doing to their bodies. For Sales signs being posted on the coach’s home after defeats. And, far from the racially united vision that one saw in the movie starring Billy Bob Thornton and Derek Luke, the legacy of the state’s slaveholding past still manifesting itself in players’ relationships and coaches’ attitudes.
Friday Night Lights later became the basis of a movie and popular television show. It’s been 20 years since it first was published, and the way the ball travels down the field has changed, but the grip football has on the state’s guts shows no sign of loosening.