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A Few Seconds of Panic: A Sportswriter Plays in the NFL Paperback – August 4, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143115472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143115472
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Fatsis, who took up competitive Scrabble for Word Freak (2001), shows again that he’s no slouch at participatory journalism. Like George Plimpton (Paper Lion, 1966), Fatsis decides to try out for an NFL team (as a kicker for the Denver Broncos) and then write about the experience, but he soon finds that pro teams today aren’t as ready to let a journalist take the field. The NFL has become much more concerned with public image and security, and athletes are altogether more imposing now than they were back in the day. Still, he has a good (if sometimes painful) time in his stint with the Broncos, and the book, like Word Freak, is more about personalities than the game itself. Fatsis’ journey from a curiosity to a teammate is rocky at first, becoming smoother as he demonstrates he isn’t just some writer guy but someone who is committed to performing, if briefly, as a fellow athlete. Not just a modern-day Paper Lion (though it holds up admirably by comparison), this book stands on its own two feet as an insightful and entertaining glimpse behind the scenes of the NFL. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

It is a great exploration of the psychology of competitive athletes.
Doug Cornelius
Fatsis did a nice job taking me inside several of the players' lives, and what it's really like in an NFL training camp in general.
Jerry Graff
There was simply way too much Fatsis in this book, and way too little, well, anything else.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Paul L. Doering on August 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even the most dedicated fan of the National Football League (NFL) can't possibly know what goes on "behind the curtain." Most of us know only what we see on Sundays or what we read in Monday's newspaper. Sure, we think we know our favorite players and all their foibles. You can lay all that aside after reading this book.

Stefan Fatsis suceeds in infiltrating the most sacred of grounds: the NFL locker room and the strange world that surrounds it. We get a glimpse of what it is like to know that your very job hinges on the next play in training camp. Players come and go like the tides. Coaches rule like tyrrants and the pecking order among them becomes painfully evident. So does the stress created in this bubbling cauldron they call professional football.

Reading about the personalities of the players--from the lowly undrafted rookie free agent to the highest paid super-star--reminds us that these people are only human. In fact, Fastis' colorful writing creates a word picture that surely is the way these players really are. Some are real characters, some are sad reminders of how cruel life can be. I found myself identifying with one partiular play and this gave me great insight into my own place in life.

It must be terribly frustrating to be a professional football player, where the glamor of game day gives way to utter despair when the "turk" comes to visit.

The only downside I see with this book is that it is so captivating that I let my usual workload pile up while I sat glue to the book. Oh, well.

Stefan Fatsis provides a ticket to a game seldom of us see--the game withing the game. Though he stands only 5 feet 8 inches, this work is gigantic. May all of his kicks in life sail thorugh the uprights.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Howard Jacobson, PhD on September 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A Few Seconds of Panic is a fast-paced mix of all-American male fantasy, fear, guilty pleasure and gentle stab of "might have been" - while offering more laughs per page than any sports book in years.

While the plot involves Fatsis improving his kicking to the point of non-embarrassment as part of the Denver Broncos, the deeper stories revolve around issues of belonging and achieving, of men proving themselves to themselves, and of the sacrifices we are willing to make to have done something extraordinary.

While Fatsis endures initiation and a brutal training regimen, humiliating public failures and private doubts, the book isn't really about him. Rather, we see through his sharp and empathetic eyes the arc of young lives enriched and betrayed by a business that masquerades as a game.

I'm reading the book AS Fatsis - imagining myself in his (size 6 1/2) shoes, taking a ribbing from my teammates, being ordered to sing my college fight song in the locker room, facing intense performance anxiety, and worst of all - getting into a jacuzzi filled with 47 degree water for 15 minutes.

That's only fitting, since the central theme of the book is how we men measure ourselves, against other men, against great tasks, against pain, and against fate itself.

What are my Few Seconds of Panic?

My takeaway, several weeks after finishing the book, is a series of questions:

What glorious, outrageous claim to greatness have I not dared to dream?

What self-imposed rules have kept me on the sidelines?

What fears of ridicule by the "in-crowd," in whatever setting, have limned my ambition?

So thank you, Stefan, for bolding going into the breach and paving the way for this reader, at least, to look for my own Few Seconds of Panic.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mickey on August 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This concept is reminiscent of George Plimpton's "Paper Lion," but Fatsis takes the idea to a whole different level. He's not just an observer but a real participant, going through the stress and strain of trying to make an NFL team. He gives you a greater appreciation for how hard these guys work, and how despite all that effort, the difference between success and failure is so slim. It's a great story told by a talented writer.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dallas reader on July 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you like sports or competing, you'll love this book. It's an Every Man story of a regular guy trying to find out how it feels to be a professional athlete. And for those of us who'll never get a chance to find out, it's a ton of fun.
Fatsis takes us inside the practices, the plays, the coaches offices, the locker room and the training room for a first-hand look at the conflicted and pain-filled lives of professional football players. Between the gnarled fingers and torn ligaments, we see how these athletes balance a violent and insecure job and real life and why the pay that looks so good on the outside isn't so great on the inside.
As he did with Word Freak, Fatsis makes a reader feel part of it all, especially as he works to become something that he's clearly not. As he kicks and kicks (and often misses and misses), we feel his determination and ambition, underscoring the challenges that all athletes (and even those of us in cubicles) face every day.
A great read to get ready for training camp, to go along with the season, or make the off-season go faster!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Frank L. Greenagel Jr. on October 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book begins at a Denver Bronco mini-camp in May, 2006. Stefan Fatsis has been practicing with the team as a kicker and is trying to find his place on the team. Al Wilson, the middle linebacker, calls on Fatsis to dance in front of the team because, as he is later told, "you know you are a rookie" (38). This is his second foray into the world of participatory journalism - "Word Freak" is a hilarious and in-depth look at the world of competitive Scrabble (it was used as the basis for the documentary "Word Wars").

Fatsis wanted to experience camp and the accompanying thoughts & emotions like a regular NFL player. Rejected previously by a number of NFL teams, he finally finds a willing partner in the Broncos, who prove to be an accessible and open organization. He has extensive conversations with Pat Bowlen (the owner), Ted Sundquist (the GM) and Mike Shanahan (the long-time, all-powerful head coach).

Fatsis spends a lot of time with the kickers and punters, who describe their camp experience as "eat, play video games, go on the computer" (40). Jason Elam, co-holder of an NFL record 63-yd FG completion, is described as "the kid in high school who gets along equally well with the jocks, the brains, the geeks and the slackers, and influences their behavior." (113) Elam is a right-wing Christian who hunts in Africa, writes Armageddon-based novels and gives friendly advice (and roots for) Fatsis. Micah Knorr is a journeyman punter who is brought in after Todd Sauerbrun is suspended for 4 games because positive test for ephedra. Todd lives in "Toddworld," doesn't like football anymore, and he gives a cynical perspective about life in the NFL.

Fatsis attends a rookie orientation with 14 other players.
Read more ›
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