It's the story of a high school football team in a small(ish) Texas town in the late 1980's (in fact most of the players graduated in 1990 - same as me! This would have been my life if I'd grown up in Odessa, Texas instead of North Delta, BC). The most important thing in the whole town is the high school football team. Literally 15000 - 20000 people show up to watch the games (on Friday nights, hence the title of the book). That's the same number of people who go watch the Canucks! And these kids are 16 - 18 years old!
The author does an incredible job uncovering the unsavoury side of the football program: racism, corrupt education systems, disregard for players' wellbeing, etc. At the same time, he focuses on six senior (grade 12) students and follows them throughout the season. You can't help but find yourself rooting for (most of) them to succeed, despite the fact that you already know they can't all "make it".
And that is the true tragedy in this story: these boys are elevated to god-like status for one year (they are each assigned a female student to cater to them for the year, for goodness sakes!!!) and then (for almost every single one of them) once they graduate, it's all over and they are largely forgotten. Imagine, having the peak experience of your life (and they all "know" it's the peak for them in this little Texas town) before you're 20 and then having 60 more years or so to struggle with the empty feelings you're left with.
Great book! If you ever want to borrow it, I'll have it in my classroom in September.