Buzz Bissinger, author of the classic novel Friday Night Lights, joined Breitbart News Saturday host Matthew Boyle to discuss his most recent book, The Mosquito Bowl, a true story about a military football game played during World War II.
Boyle noted the impact football has had on American culture over the past century and asked Bissinger to talk about the importance of the story told in his most recent novel and how he discovered it.
“Well, the name of the book, The Mosquito Bowl, actually derived from a real football game that was played on the island Guadalcanal on Christmas Eve in 1944, between two regiments of the marine corps sixth Marine Division,” Bissinger said.
The island took the game very seriously, with goalposts built, marching bands present, and radio broadcasting the game. Bissinger explained that the football game was played shortly before the battle of Okinawa, where several of the Marines ended up dying.
“I don’t know how many, you know, 250,000 Americans, Japanese and civilians died in 82 days. I mean, that’s an incredible number. And five months later, 15 of these 65 great, young, honorable men, you know, had been killed,” he continued.
Bissinger said the story also shows what America can accomplish when everyone is united.
And so when I read about it, I had just happened upon it. I said, that’s a great story. That’s a great narrative. I want to take the reader into the lives of several of the players who played, so you get to know them, you get to love them, but you also understand, you know, the great values of this country – honor, service without complaint, bravery, heroism, duty, the country, and also what can happen and what has happened in our past. When everyone is in unison, everyone is in sync. Everybody served in World War Two, everybody.
“People have different beliefs. People in the United States should have different beliefs, but we proved in World War Two that we can put those beliefs aside, gathered together and be the greatest country on Earth. And that was very, very, very inspirational to me,” he said.
Bissinger said something like the story told in The Mosquito Bowl could not be possible in today’s age because there is “too much money involved” in college football.
“It would never happen today, there’s too much money involved. College football is really about money,” he said. “These kids played college football, they weren’t going into the pros. College football was much bigger than pro football, pro football was considered not very important.”
“These Marines, these college football players, they wanted to be Marines. They were not drafted, they joined officer training programs, which enabled them to play football at college for a period of time,” Bissinger said. “They wanted combat, they wanted to serve their country.”
Boyle touted the spirit of the “greatest generation” and mentioned that even contemporary presidents like Donald Trump and Joe Biden tried to recapture the American spirit of World War II. Boyle also mentioned that World War II cemented the United States as a global superpower.
“There’s no question. I mean, I sort of say, America was the sleeping giant. And then World War Two, we became an economic juggernaut,” Bissinger said. However, he said that required all Americans to be committed to one cause.
But you know, you say something that I really agree with, you can talk the talk, but these guys walked the walk. And they did it. Without question, what does it mean to be an American? It means to serve your country. What does it mean to be an American? It means to believe in duty. Without question, and what does it mean to be an American, it means to put your life on the line for your country to preserve the principles that have made this country great.
Bissinger noted that Americans are divided in today’s age, but he remains hopeful that we can unify for a greater cause once again.
“It’s tough out there. Now, the division. We did it once. And I have to hope that we can do it again. And it’s not a matter of, well, I have to give up my beliefs, maybe we can listen a little bit more, maybe be a little less nasty,” he said.
“Go, you know, read the book, you may love it, you may hate it, but at very least you will be reminded of what can happen when we have a common foe when we rally around into one great nation, and be inspired by it as I was inspired by it, because they were the greatest generation,” he added.
Bissinger also said he was driven to write the story to preserve the veterans’ legacy.
“And the other reason I wrote the book, I want those, the memories of these men, these great men, boys, who were snuffed out at 18 and 19, and 22 and 23,” he said. “If only one person reads The Mosquito Bowl, I want the memories of these men preserved, because we are losing our vets by the 1000s every day. And I think 10 or 15 years, there will be no one left.”
Boyle noted that Bissinger’s novels focus primarily on football and asked him to talk about how football brings Americans together.
“But I like to write about sports as a sociological phenomenon. I tried to do that in Friday Night Lights to describe the incredible power and impact highschool football had and can have on places in the country,” Bissinger said.
Kissinger went on to discuss how the Navy used football to train its members because of the values the sport instills in young men.
“In this instance, football was believed by the Navy to be the greatest single source of training for combat,” Bissinger said. “Why? Because what are the values that you learn in football? You learn teamwork, you will discipline. You learn to play through pain. You learn to sacrifice, you never quit, Miracles can happen.”
“What are the values of a great young officer? They are exactly the same. So the Navy really did save college football, because so many men were gone. So many men were overseas,” Bissinger said.
Breitbart News Saturday airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
Jordan Dixon-Hamilton is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.