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Author of High-School Football Book Faces Threats

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A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose new book chronicles high-school-football fever in a West Texas city has canceled a promotional visit there after threats were made against him.

H.G. Bissinger, who describes the city of Odessa's passion for its state-champion Permian High School Panthers in his book Friday Night Lights, canceled a book-signing visit scheduled for last week after the threats were made at a bookstore there late last month.

"I did feel them to be real," Mr. Bissinger said of the threats. "I really wasn't interested in getting a punch thrown at me."

"What should be fun for everyone just would not be that at all," the author said of the decision to forgo the book signing. "I'm sorry about it."

Threats were leveled in person by patrons at a Waldenbooks store, the store's manager said. Those threats precipitated the cancellation. Subsequently, other threats were made over the telephone to a B. Dalton store manager in Odessa.

Store employees would not describe the content of the threats. But George Gibson, director of marketing at Addison-Wesley, the book's publisher, said they were along the lines of "'I guess you'd better have some bodyguards, because he's going to need them."'

In the book, the Chicago Tribune reporter describes the impact that high-school football can have on a town's life, including its influence on school spending priorities. One year, for example, Permian High spent $6,750 on boys' medical supplies and $5,040 for English Department teaching materials, the book says.

Although some community members are upset over the book's portrayal of the city of some 90,000 people, local bookstores reported brisk sales.

Some of the threats were received after Permian was barred from participating in the state football playoffs this year because the school allegedly conducted preseason team practices before the official starting date.

The football coach at Permian's crosstown rival, Odessa High School, turned Permian in, said Peter Contreras, public-information director at the state University Interscholastic League, which issued the sanctions.

Odessa High's involvement in the sanctions against Permian has added new bitterness to the longstanding rivalry between the schools, observers said. And many expected that tension to come to a head at the Sept. 28 football game between the two schools.

Mr. Bissinger's visit had been arranged to coincide with that game, the author said.

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