Bissinger’s narrative nonfiction book “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream” inspired an acclaimed show that ran for five seasons on NBC
People say, “Why’d you begin to write books?” The reason I really began to write books is that, after my Nieman year, I felt I owed it to myself to go and do something out of the box. So that’s what I did. The last day of the Nieman program I got into a car with a fellow Nieman who lived in Seattle and drove across country with her.We took the Southern route, so we went through a lot of small towns, small places. Main Street was obliterated then. J.C. Penney [had been] there, and that was gone; Sears was gone. We went through Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and then Texas. You would come upon high school football stadiums, and they were gorgeous. A lot of them had been built in the 1930s and, literally, even if there was a drought they would water the fields and they’d be glistening green. They were painted. They were shrines. They were shrines in these small towns, these isolated places, and I just had the sense that this was where people came. I had read about high school football in Texas, and it just stayed with me. I like sports, but I really thought of this in much more sociological terms: Why do [sports] have the impact that they have and what would it be like, then, to live in that town for a year and simply use the team and the season as the glue to write about all sorts of different things? So the genesis of the idea came literally two weeks after I was done with the Nieman.
From a talk by Bissinger at Lippmann House on May 17, 2012