Football’s Bloodiest Secret
Brain damage, paralysis, testicles amputated. The NFL is investigating concussions, but Buzz Bissinger says the real horror stories are on the high-school field.
Many miles have passed in my life since I did the research for Friday Night Lights 21 years ago. At a certain point, an author should simply forget and move on. But the book continues to sell and the television show of the same name premiered its fourth season this week on DirecTV. The power of what I saw and what I heard still gets to me, and of all the interviews I did, the one that lingers the most took place in the living room of my rented ranch house in the dusty isolation of Odessa, Texas.
The man I interviewed was named Brad Allen. He was the former head of the high school booster club I was writing about, and I wanted to get some observations on why high school football had become so dominant in the culture of Odessa. I thought he would refer to the usual pop-psychology suspects—the town’s hermetic location in West Texas, the lack of anything substantive to do except work and drink, the paucity of good strip clubs, the boom-and-bust cycle of the oil field economy where nothing was ever certain.
Today at the age of 21, one player lives with his parents, spends most of his time in a wheelchair, and struggles with short-term memory.