When the games ended, real life began. An unlikely love story.
by Buzz Bissinger
Byliner Apr 2012
Boobie and I didn’t know it when we first met twenty-four years ago, but one day we would form the ultimate odd couple. A brash Jew from Central Park West in Manhattan who comes up to the chest of a black man from the bad side of the tracks in Odessa, together in the American forgotten. Boobie and me. Me and Boobie. I grew up in privilege and he grew up in poverty. ...
But we shared a year in our lives that forever changed us and created a bond that, no matter how elasticized, will never break. It is the most lasting legacy of Friday Night Lights, or at least the legacy I care about the most. Which is why I’m driving on Farm Road 1788 to Kermit, on my way to draw from him as he draws from me. I speak to him on the phone all the time, but I haven’t seen him in four years, and the time has come to see him again.
Boobie became iconic to many Americans because of Friday Night Lights—he was the book’s most talked-about character and a symbol of everything that was wrong with high school football because of the tragedy that befell him as a rising senior and the virulent racism directed against him afterwards. ...
Every teammate said he was a helluva football player who could pretty much do it all. But his coaches felt differently—they saw a powder keg with a fuse. And I think they wanted that keg to go off, just as long as they had another running back to replace him.
I remember the first time I talked to Boobie. I didn’t know how he would react to me, so obviously an alien, with glasses and a thin reporter’s notebook dangling from my right hand. He was all chisel and sinew, beautiful in the distinct way high school athletes are beautiful, their bodies ripped with the grace of the last days of their youth. ... He was in the trainer’s room. It was August of 1988, a few weeks before the first game. He knew that all eyes in the bleachers would be on him. ...
Outside of mandatory meetings, one of the most popular group activities in the clubhouse is the Sunday morning prayer session, and I have a feeling that gay rights is not something that comes up a lot. It’s a guess, but I think it’s a pretty damn good one that most straight athletes’ image of gays is based on the religious right's handbook—predatory creatures who, even if they are professionals, are only in sports for the drop of the towel to the floor after the shower and the root revealed. Not only is the attitude insulting and offensive; way too many straight athletes, particularly pitchers over 30, with their sagging stomachs and scraggly beards picking up bits of food like lint, are kidding themselves. Were it not for the fact that most of them make millions of dollars for doing little or doing it badly, nobody would want them, whether straight, gay, or crustacean. As for their carrot, not the stuff of legend, with or without shrinkage.
... A two-week suspension is a tiny slap, particularly since most pitching coaches do nothing but go to the mound and give the pitcher a pat on the rear and then take the ball from him (am I the only one who smells something homoerotic in the air?).