They should have been united, having risen out of West Texas in the same oil fields, but instead, they had spent their entire history proving just the opposite. Midland was the fair-haired, goody-goody one, always doing the right thing, while Odessa was the naughty one, the sassy one who didn’t come home and hung out with the wrong crowd. Midland was also the wealthier town while Odessa had the title of “Murder Capital USA.” It is easy to see why the two hate each other. People go to Midland to raise a family; they go to Odessa to raise hell.
There were many stories about Odessa during the years 1973 through 1981. There was Jerry Thorpe who went to Vegas to watch the Holmes-Cooney fight and being given a $10,000 watch in appreciation for his sermons at the Temple Baptist Church. There was Ron Wells who started his oil business with $10,000 and suddenly found himself with cash flows of hundreds of thousands of dollars. There were stories of welders who were making $80,000-90,000 a year and regularly carried $8,000 in cash in their wallets. There were stories of big, burly men coming into town in Rolls Royces to sell as many Rolex watches as they could. There were stories of competition in the oil fields turning into Mafia turf wars. There were stories of the usual hair-raising statistics like bank deposits going up 294 percent and retail sales climbing 276 percent. These were all nice stories, but they were nothing compared to the visions of greed and delusions of grandeur perfected in the town of Midland.
One of the men most reminiscent of the greed of Midland is Aaron Giebel. He is unsure which of the deals he made during the 80’s was the worst. He had five planes and three full time pilots. He bought a Brangus bull for 1 million dollars. He went into the home construction business with his former son-in-law and lost 1.2 million. He had a revolving line of credit at the First National Bank of Midland of $24 million. From boom to bust, he lost somewhere around $55 million. He was forced to file for bankruptcy. He was an example of the materialism and the desire for money and wheeling and dealing that became impossible to resist.
From 1973 through 1981, all the people of Midland like Aaron Giebel actually thought they were in control of their own destinies. They had not yet come face to face with OPEC. It ended, just like that, with no warning. By the end of 1982 Giebel’s and other empires were in ruins. Even the First National Bank of Midland went down from giving so many loans that remained unpaid. Judge Lucius Bunton compared it to the Titanic, thought to be unsinkable, engineered to withstand all forces. But like the ship the bank had parts that were weak and damaged and when one went down they all collapsed. It was a wonderful analogy to not only the bank, but to all of Midland. Maybe it wasn’t the Titantic at all, but rather a Ship of Fools.
In the fall of 1988, both Midland and Odessa are still in the doldrums of the bust. The oil business is collapsed, and it has extracted a terrible toll on the people of both towns. There are long lists of people and institutions that have been destroyed. There are lots where oil rigging equipment lie like the bones in an elephant’s graveyard for yards and yards. There are drab empty warehouses everywhere and trucks that never go into the field anymore. There are half-finished sub-divisions and clumps of rusty freight cars sitting along the railroad tracks, unneeded and unused. The men here know their economic livelihood is completely at the mercy of OPEC. And yet with devilish little smiles on their faces, they declare that anything can happen over there, because it isn’t the most stable of regions in the world. They are only one war away from a boom. The only thing that the two towns maintain in this life is the rivalry between Permian and Midland Lee. Odessa had always been the rougher and rawer community, but now, the “sissy britches” of Midland have learned how to play football. The year before, they had beaten Permian 42-21 and embarrassed the school totally. However, this year, Permian is rated a 21 point favorite over the Rebels, and this is the time for redemption, a chance to drive them and everything they stand for straight into the ground.
As a means of motivation beyond their basic dislike of Midland Lee, Coach Gaines tells the story of Steve Genter, a swimmer who had been set to go to the Olympics in Munich in 1972. Then, he had a lung collapse. He was cut open to repair it and the only way he could swim was to take painkillers, which was illegal in the Olympics. But it was his dream, and he decided to swim without them. He swam and he screamed and his stitches came loose and there was blood in the water. But he never stopped and Gaines said this is the kind of athlete he wants in his corner. Genter had come too far to let it all go. The boys of Permian are not much different. They are fighters, and they have proved that already. Brian Chavez stands up and reiterates what Coach has said. He reminds the team of how they all felt the year before when Midland Lee beat them. It’s their turn this year. He feels supremely confident that they’re going to win until right before the game when he glances over at Coach Gaines who has the same ashen-white face like the face of swimmer Steve Genter.
The description of Midland and Odessa from boom to bust and the resulting depression that comes into both towns helps explain how the fierce rivalry between the two schools developed. With nothing else to look forward to in the midst of such losses, high school football became the fantasies of every person in the two towns.