In this chapter we are explained Odessa’s rivalry with Midland. Both towns had grown out of the West Texas oil fields. Both towns ride the boom and bust waves that hit the oil economy. Perhaps their similarities are the reason for their rivalry. They are sister cities to be sure but people in Odessa would make up differences drawn from historical reputation and innuendo. Midland thus became the town of the “fair-haired, goody-goody” people and Odessa became the rebellious “naughty” ones (195).
Odessa had its stories of “wild” eccentric people back in the 1970’s. There was Jerry Thorpe, the church pastor, who reportedly was given $10000 dollars in appreciation of one of his sermons. Apparently he took the money and flew to Las Vegas to watch the Holmes-Cooney fight. There were stories of guys who started in the oil business with minimum investments and turned them into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Certainly the oil business, when riding on a high, produced wealthy people. Everyone from your blue-collar welder to your corporate lawyer could get in on a piece of the action. While Odessa may have been considered rough around the edges, Midland was considered a symbol of greed. Guys like Aaron Giebel made and lost somewhere in the order of 55 million dollars. Many men who made a lot of money were under the illusion that they had something to do with it. In actuality, they were merely at the whims of OPEC who set the world price of oil. Sometimes OPEC would make decisions that might help the stars align for the West Texas oil market, at least foe awhile. Any boom period would inevitably bottom out when the oil overlords in the Mid-East decided to change the game.
Bissinger takes us forward in time to the beginning of the book and Permian’s loss to Midland Lee. Sharon Gaines brings medication to her husband in the field house. She can hear the muffled sobs of players inside. The grief of losing a game is almost palpable.
The boys however have things better than Coach Gaines. They will clean themselves up to go out and party that night. The alcohol will still come cheap, as will the girls. Coach Gaines and his wife, however, will begin to hear the whispers of condemnation. The whispers will turn to conversations until finally Permian fans will be on radio-call in shows demanding his resignation. The fact that these are merely boys playing high-school games seems lost on most people.
Permian is now in a three-way tie for the district title. Only two teams can move on and the stakes are high. Sharon Gaines can prophesize the results for her family should Permian not move forward. There would be numerous for sale signs stuck in her yard by angry fans; her car will sustain daily damage; most of her “friends” would disappear over night. The local newspaper prints an article with the heading, “he downfall of mighty Mojo is going to be called Gary Gaines.” There are no subtleties when it comes to football in Odessa Texas. More than simply not making the playoffs, coach Gains will have the hopes dashed of many boys who believed, perhaps naively, that a playoff spot would clinch their chances to play college football. Coach Gains has one chance left to salvage the season and it will all come down to something that is totally out of his control, a simple coin toss.
Midland and Odessa are sister cities. In 1988 they are very similar; however, football demands there be a rivalry between them. Fans of Odessa manufacture such a rivalry, largely based on historical legend. Oddly, the legends of both towns have similarities, but fans prefer to embellish their own stories to make better drama. Both towns rode the boom-and-bust waves that hit the oil economy. Perhaps their similarities are the reason for their rivalry. Midland became the town of the “fair-haired, goody-goody” people and Odessa became the rebellious “naughty” ones (195).
The fates and fortunes of men in these oil towns were hugely determined by the industry. Everybody from the blue-collar welder to the corporate lawyer was able to get a piece of oil riches. Many of these same men believed that they somehow forged their own path to riches. In reality any oil boom in West Texas was completely subjected to the whims and geopolitics of O.P.E.C. Whatever fallout from decisions across the world eventually trickled down to towns like Odessa and Midland. With every brief boom in West Texas Oil came a long and predictable bust. Thus men like Aaron Giebel inevitably lost their fortunes to their own extravagances.
Sharon Gaines winces at every Permian loss. She knows the boys will pick themselves up and hit the party scene that night. Unfortunately for her husband and family, a loss can be emotionally and financially costly. The whispers will turn to conversations until finally Permian fans will be on radio-call in shows demanding his resignation. The fact that these are merely boys playing high-school games seems lost in the condemnations on her husband. Such is the surreal world of high-school football in West Texas. It is difficult to formulate an exact thesis on how grown adults could act like crazed children over a game that mere boys play. Some parents believed that playing in a state final somehow clinched their child’s chance at a college football scholarship. For the majority of people, there just wasn’t that much in their own lives to cheer for. Driving to a game just might temporarily erase the fact they were also driving by rusted oilrigs and broken dreams.