By Brian Roe, Sports Writer
Front Roe Seat
Every year a reporter keys in on a certain story he wants to cover. In my last semester at ACU, that specific story I wanted to cover was the Friday Night Lights phenomenon and how it relates to ACU.
The book turned movie is about a 1988 West Texas football team in Odessa: the Permian Panthers. ACU head football coach Gary Gaines was the coach at Permian in 1988.
No doubt that football fever is still alive in Odessa.
Last Friday night, my fiancZe, Amanda Vick, and I traveled to Odessa to watch the Abilene Cooper-Permian High School football game. I was fortunate enough to sit in the press box and get an overhead view of the massive creation that is Ratliff Stadium. With new turf installed in 2003 and 19,000-plus seats available for football fans in Odessa, the 1982 structure is still a sight to see.
We drove roughly 175 miles down Interstate 20 from Abilene to Odessa. Once we reached the stadium, we made our way toward the ticket window. Directly beside the ticket window was a booth with Permian football merchandise. Friday Night Lights T-shirts, posters and other accessories were for sale. Permian helmets, shirts, jerseys, footballs, pens and other memorabilia were also being sold.
We received our passes and made our way into the stadium. Once inside, I noticed the thousands of fans draped in black and white sitting in the cold waiting for their beloved MOJO football squad. Mind you, this was 6:30 p.m., one hour before the game would begin.
The stadium truly looked surreal. It was like a community in and of itself separate from the rest of Odessa. Outside of the stadium was a dusty road and an old oil derrick-typical features of a West Texas town.
Inside the stadium was a completely different sight. The stone structure towered above the town, sitting on the edge of Odessa. At the end of each end zone was a grassy hill and a handful of large trees that seemed to grow out of the stadium.
MOJO signs littered the scoreboard, the cheerleaders lined up and the crowd cheered as the Panthers ran onto the field. The game was played, and Permian decisively lost to the Cooper Cougars by the score of 34-3.
For the first time in its history, Permian did not win a district game this year, and the popularity and obsession of Permian football is widely considered dwindled.
But the town of Odessa still has the fever, and once the team returns to its winning ways, no doubt that Permian football will reign again.