Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL Hardcover – July 3, 2008
|New from||Used from|
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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.
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
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
I reviewed Paper Lion, which was enjoyable largely because of its novelty and humor. Plimpton was the first journalist to embed himself with an NFL team, and his self-deprecating humor shone through. Also, Plimpton had the incomparable Alex Karras and his hysterical stories for material. More than 40 years have passed and sportswriter Stefan Fatsis is the first since Plimpton to go behind the scenes and document the NFL of today as a player. Much has changed.
Football is supposed to be fun, but the NFL of today comes across largely as a grim business. As a Denver Bronco, Fatsis encounters firsthand the adversarial relationship between players and management. The 1990's brought free agency to the NFL, which benefited players financially by enabling them to switch teams, selling their talents to the highest bidder. An NFL career is short, and players scramble to make as much money as they can in their few top earning years as a professional athlete. As Fatsis points out, the problem lies in the fact that since "players were less loyal to teams, so teams were less loyal to players." The result has been that players are loyal only to the team who pays them the most, and teams use players like meat, often using them only to secure a win (or to motivate other players to win by threatening the starters' jobs) and ruthlessly discarding them when no longer needed.
Fatsis learning to kick is fun, and it is interesting meeting the players in the locker room and getting to know them. We see firsthand the cold ruthlessness of Mike Shanahan. Chad Mustard is a great Scrabble player (a fact which Fatsis uses to plug his book on competitive Scrabble, Word Freak). We watch as punter Todd Sauerbrun intimidates his competition in training camp and becomes a cancer in the locker room. All-time great kicker Jason Elam talks about his hunting exploits and Christian mission work. We also see how the tragic murder of cornerback Darrent Williams mere hours after the last game of the season effects the team. Far from passionate collegiate athletes, most of the pros presented here are just doing a job, trying to provide for their families, and trying not to get hurt in the process.
The "everyman" angle in this book is fun up to a point, but it seems a bit self-serving after a while. The book also highlights a problem with participatory journalism. As a journalist, Fatsis is hesitant to bite the hand that feeds him. One of the biggest problems faced by the NFL today involves reported rampant drug use. The author broaches the subject only briefly, limiting his observations to Todd Sauerbrun's 4 game suspension for ephedra use.
The book feels light. Fatsis doesn't dig too deeply, and as a result it seems that he is not giving us the full story on the team that allowed him this rare access.
Of the work itself, it's redolent of Fatsis' commitment to participatory journalism. [It's no small note that the author's respect for George Plimpton is evident throughout these pages.] In the context of researching and compiling his signature work, Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers, he turned himself into a competitive player. Here, among the giants and two decades older than some of the players, no such attainment is possible. But, Fatsis impresses nevertheless: a soccer player in his younger athletic years, his commitment to turning himself into a pro-level field goal kicker is exemplary. As coach Mike Shanahan says "you won the respect of the players." Not an easy thing to do in the competitive hothouse of an NFL locker room.
The insights about the game contained in these 12 hours are too numerous to fully list here. Three that stick in my mind:
The unrelenting, suffocating pressure these guys are under -- The book's best passage is an excruciating sequence in which Fatsis is suddenly called upon to make a kick to end practice. Make it, and the team gets a much-needed extra 30 minutes off. Suddenly, the author is not fully in control of his body - hyperventilating, doing things he'd never done in practice (readying to kick, he shouts "Go" at the holder ("Go?" he then thinks to himself)). After two misses and razzing from teammates, they tell him: "Now you know what it feels like....imagine that every minute you're on the field."
The complexity of the game -- Someone's inability to make it at the pro level is defined as much by their inability to understand the complexity of the pro game - most notably the playbook - as the physicality of it. In a great piece, Fatsis turns the transcript of a pre-game game plan walkthrough into a form of beat poetry...nonsensical to all but the chosen few, with a cadence and vocabulary all its own. Coaches recite these snatches in deep reverie. To the point, as Fatsis aptly notes, that the players could up and walk out and the coaches would keep on going, speaking in tongues to an empty room and a whirring overhead projector.
The disposability of the players -- As the only major league without guaranteed contracts, the brutal business side of the sport is on full display to Fatsis. Players are signed, cut, signed, cut, signed and cut in a cold, clinical fashion ('like a piece of meat' is a phrase that comes to mind). The coaches elevate players, demote others with little or no explanation. Even a marquee player like [then quarterback] Jake Plummer is treated with suspicion after attending 'only' 85% of optional (o-p-t-i-o-n-a-l) team activities ('OTAs').
All in all, this is a really great book. I really appreciate the NFL and its professionals a lot more after listening to Stefan Fatsis' experience. The league owes him a big 'thank you.'
I'm a big fan of Stefan Fatsis as a writer. He's got a great eye for detail and an excellent, but subtle, sense of humor. I enjoyed Word Freak tremendously and when I hear him commenting on NPR, I always appreciate his analysis. Also, I'm a sports fan and I live in Denver and I follow (but am not a season ticket type fan) of the Broncos. This was a fun book for me for those reasons.
Stefan shows what it's like for the guys you don't generally read about. The second tier kickers, the 3rd and 4th string QBs. It's a high stress gig with no job security and the threat of serious injury. You get a lot of short bios of the different sports characters he deals with. (Interesting fact, Mike Shanahan lost a kidney in a college game injury.) These bios/sketches make for great reading. You get to see the team in it's ups and downs.
The only quibble I had was that it started a little slow, with the author trying to find a place that would have him and some of the details in what it takes a middle age guy to become competent at kicking. Minor issue though. The book was massively enjoyable and I'm looking forward whatever Fatsis does next.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Plimpton, you might recall, wrote a book in the early 1960's called "Paper Lion" on his experiences when he participated in...Read more