Chapter 13 - Heads or Tails
I. Summary

The Permian Panthers finish the regular season by pummeling the San Angelo Bobcats on the first Friday in November. This means the season ends with Permian, Midland Lee, and Cooper High School having identical records. However, only two teams can go to the playoffs, so the tiebreaker rule goes into effect: they will flip a coin. It seems silly that it comes to this after all the hard work and the endless hours, but that’s what it’s been reduced to. The three coaches will drive to a truck stop and, like three little boys, throw coins into the air until the odd man out is eliminated from the playoffs. The spot of the meeting – a truck stop – is kept secret to keep all the crazy fans away.

Gary Gaines, as he is driving to the meeting, feels foolish that everything has come down to something over which he has absolutely no control. The season had been a successful one when he looked at the numbers, but now it has become meaningless with the playoffs. Then, on the radio comes the song, Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good, and he wonders if it just might be an omen. Now he suddenly beings to relax and feel surprisingly good as the cars spins its way to whatever fate holds in store. He is reminded of his father whom he had only disappointed once in his life – when he wasn’t tough enough to tackle him, and his father kept working him until finally he had gotten the lesson – he had to work hard to be the best he could be and that’s what it all came down to.

When he arrives, he is a little surprised and nervous to see so many cars, including the KMID –TV van. However, the TV people have been given permission to broadcast the coin toss live. They are inside a restaurant called the Convoy and each has a coin that has some meaning – Doug McCutcheon from Midland Lee has a 1922 silver dollar he received from a friend and it is supposed to have been successful in 11 prior coin tosses, Miller from Cooper uses a coin that he had been given from one of his players, and Gaines uses a 1969 nickel but claims nothing about it. He calls the first toss, but it comes up a dead heat as they all three have heads. They toss again. Gaines and McCutcheon have heads, but Miller ends up with a tails. Permian and Midland Lee are in the playoffs. Gaines comments, after McCutcheon congratulates him, that is a cruel way for it all to happen. Then he jumps into his car and heads for home, giggling and grinning, and yelling out loud, “Hot diggety dog!”

When he arrives at the school, his team bus is just getting in from the game, and there is much whooping and hollering and happiness. In Midland, Coach McCutcheon tells his players that he wishes he could change the way things happened while at Cooper High, Miller tells his players he is proud of each and every `one of them. As he tries to console them, there comes the sound as familiar as the band and the cheers and the crash of pads on the football field – the sound of teenage boys weeping uncontrollably over a segment of their lives that they know has just ended forever.

II. Summary

As all the excitement unfolds at Permian, Boobie Miles lays at home having officially quit the team the week before. Trapper thinks it might take Boobie as long as two years to rehabilitate. Boobie goes ahead with the surgery and by the time he is out of the hospital, the town is alive again with plans to travel to Amarillo to face the Tascosa Rebels in the first round of the playoffs. Everyone but Boobie is involved with the game, but football doesn’t entice him or thrill him anymore. He can’t even stand the word anymore. He questions God, because he is from a religious home and God is believed to be behind everything. He had it all, but now it is all gone and he doesn’t know why. However, others have no sympathy for him. Trapper thinks he “shit in his bed,” and had always been a quitter. To Coach Gaines, he is just like thousands of others, who have the chance to fight back and have it all, but he “threw up his skirt.” And the old men, who have been fanatic Permian followers their whole lives, just figure that you don’t waste a bullet on a horse that pulls up lame. Only Nate Hearne has a different perspective. He understands the psychological pain that Boobie is experiencing, and he feels that he just needs special attention to help him recover physically and emotionally. However, he knows that Boobie will never receive that attention. He is expendable, because Permian has another great running back. It is as simple as that. The result for Boobie and L.V. is a terrible argument resulting from the terrible frustration and sadness they both feel. In the end, their words cause a terrible rift and Boobie moves out. L.V. knows there’s not much use waiting for Boobie to come back in the door with his infectious grin on his face begging for forgiveness. This time, the dream is really over and L.V. says, “It’s a bad situation, but I’ll let it go.”


This chapter is significant for its expression of pain and joy when the fates that sometimes seem to control life bring either what we need or what we don’t need. Boobie and the players of Cooper High may be from entirely different towns, but they all feel the frustration of having life throw them a curveball they can’t control. While Permian and Midland Lee, the two schools that seem to have it all already, receive even more. This is where the saying, “Life isn’t fair,” seems to have been born.

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