A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays In The NFL

A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays In The NFL

by Stefan Fatsis
     
 

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In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis infiltrated the insular world of competitive Scrabble players, ultimately achieving expert status (comparable to a grandmaster ranking in chess). Now he infiltrates a strikingly different subculture—pro football. After more than a year spent working out with a strength coach and polishing his craft with a gurulike kicking

Overview

In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis infiltrated the insular world of competitive Scrabble players, ultimately achieving expert status (comparable to a grandmaster ranking in chess). Now he infiltrates a strikingly different subculture—pro football. After more than a year spent working out with a strength coach and polishing his craft with a gurulike kicking coach, Fatsis molded his fortyish body into one that could stand up—barely—to the rigors of NFL training. And over three months in 2006, he became a Denver Bronco. He trained with the team and lived with the players. He was given a locker and uniforms emblazoned with the number 9. He was expected to perform all the drills and regimens required of other kickers. He ws unlike his teammates in some ways—most notably, his livelihood was not on the line as theirs was. But he became remarkably like them in many ways: he risked crippling injury just as they did, endured the hazing that befalls all rookies, daily gorged on 4,000 calories, and slogged through two-a-day practices in blistering heat. Not since George Plimpton's stint as a Detroit Lion more than forty years ago has a writer tunneled so deeply into the NFL.

At first, the players tolerated Fatsis or treated him like a mascot, but over time they began to think of him as one of them. And he began to think like one of them. Like the other Broncos—like all elite athletes—he learned to perfect a motion through thousands of repetitions, to play through pain, to silence the crowd's roar, and to banish self-doubt.

While Fatsis honed his mind and drove his body past exhaustion, he communed with every classic athletic type—the afable alpha male, the overpaid brat, the youthful phenom, the savvy veteran—and a welter of bracingly atypical players as well: a fullback who invokes Aristotle, a quarterback who embraces yoga, and a tight end who takes creative writing classes in the off-season. Fatsis also witnessed the hidden machinery of a top-flight football franchise, from the God-is-in-the-details strategizing of legendary coach Mike Shanahan to the icy calculation with which the front office makes or breaks careers.

With wry candor and hard-won empathy, A Few Seconds of Panic unveils the mind of the modern pro athlete and the workings of a storied sports franchise as no book ever has before.

Editorial Reviews

Steven V. Roberts
…give the guy credit. When George Plimpton attended an NFL camp in 1963 and wrote his famous account of that experience, Paper Lion, he was more observer than participant. Fatsis worked hard to become a passable place kicker, and because he shared their training camp regimen—the pain and pressure, brutality and boredom—he won the confidence of his teammates. That intimacy produces some candid insights, particularly about the marginal players, the walk-ons and spear-carriers in the NFL's "moneymaking machine," as one Bronco calls it…Fatsis might not be a real Bronco, but he's a real sportswriter, and this book tells you what brings real Broncos to tears.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Fatsis (Word Freak) is dwarfed by any of the NFL athletes who put their bodies on the line each Sunday. But that doesn't stop him from asking to attend the Denver Broncos' training camp in hopes of learning "one very specific athletic skill"-that is, placekicking-and not to become an NFL-caliber kicker, but to become a "credible one." Fatsis is treated like any rookie, from having to sing his alma mater's fight song minutes after stepping into the locker room to carrying the team's duffel bags and bunking in the hotel with all the other rookies. But his vibrant enthusiasm for improving his kicking ability helps his Bronco teammates accept him as one of their own. With that, the reader gets a glimpse of the true NFL, in the tradition of George Plimpton's Paper Lion. We see the crippling injuries that are kept secret for fear of losing playing time; the heartbreak of standing on the sidelines in camp, just aching to prove one's worth; the tears that come when the NFL dream could be over. Fatsis, too, has his own personal highs and lows through camp, enduring the long days, the trainer's visits and the sting of failure in front of coaches and players. It's an incredibly fascinating read for football fans, squashing the notion that the life of an NFL player is always glamorous. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Channeling George Plimpton, a sportswriter dons pads and becomes the first journalist in more than 40 years to take the field alongside an NFL team. Attempting a modern take on the classic Paper Lion could very easily have backfired on Wall Street Journal reporter Fatsis (Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, 2001, etc.). He wins readers over, however, with his upfront acknowledgement of Plimpton's feats and his engagingly self-deprecating prose. Despite being an aging weekend warrior with two bad knees and no organized football experience, the author began contacting NFL teams, seeking to join one as a kicker during training camp so that he could live and experience each day as a player. After considerable effort, he finally hooked on with the Denver Broncos, one of the league's model franchises. Fatsis quickly found that his cursory understanding of how to kick was no match for the place-kicking expertise of the Broncos's Jason Elam. Even more engrossing than his quest for proficiency, however, is the author's insight into the modern NFL locker room. It's a world of haves and have-nots: Bonus babies and superstars are the only ones who enjoy even a modicum of job security; fringe players fight through devastating injuries they don't disclose for fear of losing their ever-tentative jobs. While it's no secret that big-time sports are replete with homophobia, relentless hazing and testosterone both natural and artificial, the players' fragile psyches and management's everyone-is-replaceable mentality may surprise and unnerve even hardcore fans. It's those revelations, and the author's humanizing treatment of hislarger-than-life teammates, that keep interest high-not the anticlimactic chronicle of his attempt to kick in a preseason game. Less groundbreaking than Paper Lion, but more perceptive and almost as entertaining. Agent: Robert Shepard/Robert E. Shepard Agency
From the Publisher
"[A] remarkable account." —Chicago Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594201783
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/03/2008
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 8.94(h) x 1.16(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[A] remarkable account." —-Chicago Tribune

Meet the Author

Stefan Fatsis is a sports reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times bestselling author of Word Freak.

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