Coaches in the book, for example, are much more callous than those on TV. Coach Taylor as played by Kyle Chandler is hard on his players but he cares for them deeply. He will go out on a limb for them; he is there for them when they need him. He is there for them even when they don't want him there. Coach Gaines, Odessa's Permian coach, is hard on his players, but once they can no longer help his team, he has no interest in them. If he has any interest in anything beyond football we never hear anything about it. Coach Taylor has a home life; Coach Gaines exists only on the field and in the locker room. Gaines never really emerges as a human being.
It is by humanizing characters that the TV series takes a truly interesting sociological study and turns it into a work of dramatic art. It is by giving the coach a wife who has more to worry about than fans complaining that she stands in their way during the game; it is by giving him a teenage daughter with a mind of her own, and then adding a newborn to deal with; moreover, it is by making their problems just as important as his. And what is true for the coach is just as true for most of the other characters on the show.
While traces of the characters in the book seem to find their way into some of those in the series—the introverted undersized quarterback, the rowdy hard-drinking running back with his string of girls, the black star looking for a scholarship to a major college—these are only traces. Over the weeks of the series, they develop; they become rounded individuals. Quality drama depends on character. It is in the careful development of character that the TV series excels. Bissinger is less interested in drama; not that he excludes it—he pumps the football games for all they're worth—but his concern is sociological reportage. What he wants is just enough drama to make his point. Obviously the book and the series are doing two different things, and they are both doing them well.