The next game is against the Midland High Bulldogs. This still a regular season high school game yet Permian fans camp outside the Ratliff Stadium on Sunday night in order to get first crack at the tickets. After the Marshall game many fans are nervous that Permian might not be as invincible as their pep rallies had indicated. In the locker room, Coach Gaines’s pep talk is laced with motivational doubt: he leads the boys into a chorus of chants.
The two teams trade punts but Permian scores quickly. Individual players have private battles with opposing team members. Jerrod McDougal continually sacks Jeff Rashell while Brian Chavez punishes another Midland defensive player. Tony Chavez watches proudly from the stands. He wonders at how this quiet rather introverted boy, turned out the way he did. Not only was Brian an exceptional football player, he also had a keen intellect. He had been number one in his class for years and now he was considering of applying to Harvard. Tony Chavez was a product of poor Mexican immigrants. He had worked hard to get himself out of relative poverty. He had worked his way up to becoming a policeman and finally, after great struggles, to a lawyer in 1978. He developed a successful practice in Odessa and is wealthy, even by the standards of the upper echelons of the local oil community. Although he supports the Mojo brand, he still sticks out in the crowed of Permian fans. He is Hispanic, a liberal, and a self-made success story. He developed a successful practice in Odessa. Tony can see his drive for success in his son Brian.
Permian wins this game 42-0 but what is most impressive is the surreal scene after the game; it is a scene that creates the illusion of America that West Texas football fans conjure up in their dreams. The bands on both teams belt out patriotic tunes; the smell of hot dogs; popcorn and beer lingers in the air. The teams line up on both sides of the field, their helmets off, looking like young gladiators after a battle. Children, parents and grandparents stand in awe of this truly American spectacle before them.
Politics comes to Odessa in the form of George Bush and the Republican Party. Really Bush might have skipped visiting Odessa without having to worry about missing out on the white vote. White Odessa was firmly Republican and Conservative. The Bush name was synonymous with the values most middle class West Texans cling to amidst their rapidly changing world. George Bush does come to bask in the adulation of thousands of white supporters. Hispanics and Blacks apparently missed the memo about the rally.
Boobie Miles has not fully healed. His knee is weak and he still needs surgery. Boobie, however, feels he has no choice but to return to football before the season ends. He knows that if the college scouts don’t see the same unstoppable Booby Miles sprinting to the end zone, his scholarship chances are all but done. Boobie returns to the field but there are no bellowing voices chanting out his name. Instead of running behind the team captain, he is relegated to near the back of the line up wearing the dreaded white second-string jersey. Chris Comer has usurped Booby’s place and impressed everybody with his one hundred rushes in five games.
The coaches are well aware that Boobie needs surgery and that trying to play is his last act of desperation. Still Boobie is given the green light to play in the next game. He suits up on Friday night against the Abilene High Eagles with his familiar Nike cleats and Terminator X towel. Booby finally gets to play in the second quarter. He bounds onto the field outwardly showing his old confidence. Inside, however, Boobie is scared. He knows that he is one strained knee injury from football oblivion. He gains four yards and then carries the ball eight more times. He displays brief flashes of his old brilliance but the sad truth is that Boobie is not the same. He is tentative, unable to cut up the field without hesitating a split second longer. He knows his knee is exposed, it is his Achilles heel and everybody knows it.
L.V. wonders if he has done the right thing letting Boobie play. Perhaps Boobie would have been better off having surgery first and then recovering. Boobie, however, emotionally cannot wait that long. The soul-crushing wait to get better was destroying him. Boobie does not do badly against the schools Dallas-Jesuit and the Cooper Cougars: he scores his first touchdown of the year against the latter. Tragically, his playing ‘not badly’ isn’t good enough for a player like Boobie. He no longer leaps past his opponents and dazzles the crowd with his invincibility: Booby is just another player.
Mike Winchell still can’t believe he is playing as well as he has been. He wonders if his playing is merely a streak of luck. Still, Mike is willing to let things happen, as Boobie too must let things happen but in a much less positive way.
Tony Chavez watches his son, Brian -- the team’s only Hispanic player -- clobber opponents. Brian is so relentless sacking defensive players that it is a wonder they can still breath. Despite Permian crowd’s adoration of his son, Tony still doesn’t fit in. Tony Chavez was a product of poor Mexican immigrants. He had worked hard to get himself out of relative poverty. He had worked his way up to becoming a policeman and finally, after great struggles, to a lawyer in 1978. He developed a successful practice in Odessa and is wealthy, even by the standards of the upper echelons of the local oil community. Although he supports the Mojo brand, he still sticks out in the crowed of Permian fans. He is Hispanic, a liberal, and a self-made success story.
Despite the fact there are blacks and a Hispanic on the team, many Permian fans consider their team a product of white values from a white institution. There is of course much irony in this. Tony Chavez is an extremely wealthy successful lawyer while most male Permian fans are blue collared oil workers dreaming that an oil boom might get back. In addition to this, Brian Chavez is a gifted intellectual despite the mediocre education that Permian offers. When the season ends, most of the boys on the team will sink into blue-collar oblivion, while Brian plans on attending Harvard.
Politics comes to Odessa. George Bush makes a stopover, which excites a certain demographic of the population. Really Bush might have skipped visiting Odessa without having to worry about missing out on the white vote. White Odessa was firmly Republican and Conservative. The Bush name was synonymous with the values most middle class West Texans cling to amidst their rapidly changing world. George Bush does come to bask in the adulation of thousands of white supporters. Hispanics and Blacks apparently missed the memo about the rally.
When Booby Miles returns to the field there is no longer the adulation he once commanded. Boobie is a kid who feels his time is running out. Boobie knows colleges would not be interested in an injury prone has-been. The season is ending and he had to prove he still has what it takes. Unfortunately his injury makes him tentative on the field. He shows signs of his past brilliance on the field but that isn’t good enough. The college scouts want to see the old Boobie, fearless and unstoppable. Boobie understands that he was never a special “player” rather than a special “commodity”. He also knows he is a commodity to be used by white educational institutions to make money and foster pride. The parallels with slavery cannot be ignored. Sure Boobie would be amply rewarded, but only as long as he was able to razzle and dazzle on the field. The moment Boobie ceases in that role, he becomes just another “big ol’ dumb nigger” (67).