Chavez Revisits His Friday Night Lights

Not Chavez though. After graduating in 1993, he moved on to law school at Texas Tech before returning home to Odessa to find that many of his former teammates had never left.

“That was the highlight of their career, of their lives,” Chavez said. “That was their lifelong goal and they’d already achieved it. Things sort of plateaued after that.”

And, eventually, so too did Permian football. Texas semifinalists Chavez’s senior year, the Panthers brought state titles home to Odessa in 1989 and 1991 before hitting a lull that has kept the school from the playoffs in recent years.

But that doesn’t mean the faithful are any less loyal, that the crowds still don’t turn out each Friday night.

“It has decreased some, but the support and everything—it’s still bigger than 99.9 percent of high schools in the county,” Chavez said. “But it was just so intense. It has softened up a little bit, but if some one from the outside came in, they’d still freak out.”


“The game tomorrow against our crosstown rival is going to be televised on Fox Sports pre-empting the [Major League Baseball] championship series,” he added.


Though Odessa residents initially villainized H. G. Bissinger for his harsh depiction of the town’s unquestioned devotion to churning out winning programs, most have now warmed to the story and embraced the film version, including Chavez.

“I liked it,” he said. “I thought it really captured the spirit of the book, the spirit of that year and was really powerful and intense.”

That’s not to say it was perfect, however, particularly when it came to Chavez’s character, portrayed by actor Jay Hernandez.

Though certain attributes of his personality were captured nicely, Chavez said he felt as though some of his other traits had been neglected in the script.

“I thought he was a little too quiet,” Chavez said. “I was more of a leader type, a partier, on top of being studious.”

But that specific criticism aside, Chavez’s only complaint was that the movie fell victim to one particular stereotype often inserted into films—the desire for youths to “make it big” and finally get out of the small towns in which they were raised.

“I think that was a little overplayed in the movie,” Chavez said. “I don’t think we really thought that way. You have to put that in when you’re talking about a small town, but I never felt that way.”

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at