H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the best-sellingFriday Night Lights. He is also a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a columnist for The Daily Beast.
Several months ago, Boobie Miles called me and said: “I’m getting old, Buzz. These old bones. I’m gettin’ old.”
I worried when he said that--the resignation in his voice. How could he not forever be the kid I’d first met when I was reporting Friday Night Lights, back in 1988, running in that stadium in West Texas, an eighteen-year-old with the wind at his back?
Now he was forty-one and facing his mortality, just as I was facing mine.
* * *
What could have been? The question became moot on that tragic August day in 1988 at Jones Stadium, in Lubbock, when he blew out his knee and the promise of his career with it.
So when I heard Boobie’s voice those months ago, I wondered whether he would ever truly make peace with what happened to him. We all have faced that moment of clarity in which you realize you’ll never be what you imagined. We normally face it in middle age.
But Boobie has been facing the question of what-if since he was eighteen. Sometimes he feels used by me, and at those times he hates Friday Night Lights. Just as I sometimes hate it for how it trapped us both in a story that forever defined us too young.
But for all of its tragedy, life can also be wonderfully serendipitous. It was in the ashes of Boobie’s injury that he and I found each other. He needed someone in his life after his beloved uncle died; I became that person.
I never imagined this would happen--my Sundays as a child in New York spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my parents, staring at paintings I did not understand but pretended I did; his Sundays in West Texas tied to a dresser and beaten with a belt until he was dumped into a foster home.
* * *
Boobie helps me to see that lasting love can come from anywhere.
Never when I was first writing Friday Night Lights did I think I would say to him what I said the other day, what we say to each other at the end of nearly every conversation we’ve had over the years: