Odessa has a couple of big claims to fame. One is the petroleum industry. The other is high school football. And the two have more in common than you might think.
Both have brought lots of national attention to this humble little community. OK, maybe humble isn’t quite the right word.
Anyway, no matter whether the oil business is booming or languishing in the economic doldrums, newshounds from magazines, big newspapers and network television are likely to make an appearance from time to time. They either want to chronicle the yards full of abandoned equipment or catch the scenes of the oil patch teeming with activity. It’s a good story at either extreme.
Same goes for football fortunes.
Odessa has been known for its rompin’, stompin’ teams going back to the days when the Odessa High Bronchos won it all back in 1946. And the unbelievable 30-year stretch of success by the Permian Panthers that began in the 1960s and extended into the ’90s is the stuff that books, movies and televisions shows are made of — literally.
But just as oil has suffered through busts in these parts, the football business has been at low ebb for several years now. And it’s been chronicled in the continuing “Friday Night Lights” coverage.
Odessa is a tough enough place not to flinch too much when times are bad. But often the place allows itself some arrogance when fortunes are on the upswing.
So comes another similarity. Oil busts aren’t pretty, but at least they lend some perspective. It cements the thought expressed on the old bumper stickers that read, “Lord, just give us one more boom, and we’ll try not to screw it up.”
It follows then that the “bust” experienced by our high school footballers in the past decade or so has somehow made fans a bit more appreciative of this year’s resurgence by Permian.
The drought wiped away the sense of entitlement a lot of Panther fans had developed through the years. They had enjoyed such success that the slightest downturn during a season (like losing to a hated rival) caused massive grumbling.
Perhaps now, since Permian evoked fond memories with its decisive dismantling of Euless Trinity on national television, fans can realize that football success is earned the hard way. It is achieved by lots of commitment and sacrifice by players who want to win more than their opponents.
So it appears that both oil and football are flying high. It’s only a matter of time until a bit of figurative swagger will return to the local scene. Maybe it already has.
But amid all the rejoicing, it wouldn’t be all that bad to hang onto the memories of what it was like when money and football victories were scarce.
In other words, the view from the top is much more satisfying if you can remember how it all looked from the bottom.