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A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 3, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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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)
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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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (July 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201781
  • ASIN: B002XULWS4
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,395,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
Just read this book after it sat on my library shelf for almost 2 years. This was mostly due to my fear that it would be exactly what it is. A great and insightful look behind the curtain of the NFL, made difficult to read at many points by a sports writer's predictably self serving attitude. This book is compelling, enlightening and emotion evoking throughout as Fastis locks into player stories and astute observations on the often heartless, all-business inner workings of a pro franchise. But in between its many great insights Fastis injects interludes surrounding his own belief that he is a 'real kicker', that immediately remind you that he actually doesn't get anything at all. These self serving portions tragically render the good parts totally impotent.

Here's the problem. Fastis is not a real kicker. He is not any type of football player with any semblance of understanding of what motivates footall players. But he is a good writer. And in so being latches onto certain storylines and presents them well. Nonetheless it is clear that he is ultimately taking shots in the dark. I credit him for hitting the mark more times than I expected him to, but he predictably misses it completely many times as well. Many of these times center around his absurd and denialist belief that he is actually a football player deserving of the opportunity to kick in a game. And at perhaps the books worst moment, he tirades the NFL for having the nerve to put it into clear terms just exactly how much of an outsider he is, comparing his kicking in a game to a rich prick bidding for the same chance. But this of course is exactly what Fastis is.
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