There are many people to thank. One of them is Michael Carlisle, whose optimism and guidance became a crucial source of support for me. He is a gifted agent, but far more important than that, he is a wonderful friend. Another is my editor at Addison-Wesley, Jane Isay, whose enthusiasm for the project was infectious, and who aided me immeasurably in the painful process of trying to organize all these swirling thoughts about Odessa and high school football and American life into something coherent. Another is Gene Roberts, the executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who graciously gave me a leave from my job on the paper so I could pursue my journey and move to Odessa.
I could not have written this book without the townsfolk of Odessa. I have never found a group of people more down-to- earth, more honest, more willing to express their opinions without restraint. I am indebted to all of them.
I am also indebted to the Permian Panther football program. I thank Coach Gary Gaines for allowing me to become part of the team for the 1988 season. I also thank the members of his staff, assistant varsity coaches Tam Hollingshead, Mike Belew, Randy Mayes, and Larry Currie, and team trainer Tim "Trapper" O'Connell.
Above all, I thank the players themselves. It is hard for me to express the feelings that I have for them, and as I sit here back in the suburbs, I think about them all the time. I remember the first time I saw them in the field house, with no idea of what they would be like and how they would take to me, or, for that matter, how I would take to them. And I remember how I thought of them at the end, as kids that I adored.