Bissinger was a writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer when he was selected as a Harvard Neiman Fellow. It was while he was at Harvard that the idea to write a book focused on the role high school football plays within American society, in particular rural society, took hold. Bissinger returned to The Inquirer briefly, received a Pulitzer Prize, and then took off in search of a community for which high school football was paramount. He settled on Odessa, Texas. Permian High School and its football team, the Permian Panthers, had a long, rich history of winning in Texas' 4A and 5A division, having won championships in 1965, 1972, 1980, and 1984. Bissinger moved his family to Odessa and spent the entire 1988 football season with the Permian Panther players, their families, their coaches, and even many of the townspeople in an effort to understand the town and its football-mad culture.
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