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Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback Paperback – October 1, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Through the course of a long and distinguished career in letters, George Plimpton has crafted an art form from participatory journalism, and Paper Lion is his big touchdown. In the mid-'60s, Plimpton joined the Detroit Lions at their preseason camp as a 36-year-old rookie quarterback wannabe, and stuck with the club through an intra-squad game before the paying public a month later. What resulted is one of the funniest and most insightful books ever written on the game; 30 years later it remains a major model of what was then blossoming into New Journalism. Plimpton's breezy style wonderfully captures the pressures and tensions rookies confront in trying to make it, the hijinks that pervade the atmosphere when 60 high-strung guys are forced to live together in close quarters, and the host of rites and rituals with which football loves to coat itself. Of course, Plimpton didn't make it as a football hero; he barely accounts himself with dignity on the field, which is just as well. You don't have to be a lion when you've got a typewriter that can roar. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A great book that makes football absolutely fascinating to fan and non-fan alike. One of the great books written on sports."
-The New York Times



"A continuous feast . . . you wish it were six times longer. . . . The best book ever about football-or about anything!"
-The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: The Lyons Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592280153
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592280155
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brad Cooper on August 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
George Plimpton was the first, in the sports world, to employ "participatory journalism" in order to produce a story, or in this case a book. Over the years, Plimpton put himself in several different positions for the sake of his readers... hockey goalie... prizefighter... pitcher... he even tagged along on the PGA Tour. However, none of those really hit home on a large scale quite like PAPER LION, the story of Plimpton's trials and errors in training camp with the Detroit Lions prior to the 1963 season. It even led to a movie starring Alan Alda by the same name.

When PAPER LION was published in the mid-1960's, it was a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at professional football. Before the days of constant national television coverage, Monday Night Football, hour after hour of pregame shows, or the NFL Network, this book was truly the first look at what goes on before a season for the players that you'll be cheering for when fall rolls around. Plimpton's premise was that he was coming in as an unheralded rookie just trying to find a position to play, but it wasn't long until his secret was out.

The beauty of this book is that Plimpton was anything but an athlete. He came into this setting having never played a down of organized football in his life. That being said, the strides he made in a four week period were astonishing. Granted he wasn't going to make the team as a 36-year old rookie, but he certainly made progress leading up to his time in the intrasquad scrimmage. More important than the actual time on the practice field is the look he provided into the inner workings of the Detroit Lions program; the life in training camp after the day's practice had ended and everyone was back in their rooms or out on the town.
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Format: Paperback
Back in the 1960s, writer George Plimpton began "covering" a variety of sports through participating on/with pro teams/athletes and reporting on it through books, magazine articles and TV specials.

Perhaps his most famous was in the early 1960s when he was "signed" by the Detroit Lions as a 36-year-old rookie trying to make the club as a third-string quarterback. Plimpton - wearing jersey number 0 - practiced with the team for one month.

His quarterbacking culminates with his appearance in a scrimmage where Plimpton calls a number of plays under game conditions.

The book leads the reader through the highs and lows of Plimpton as a player, along with great anecdotes on the teammates and coaches.

A reprint is slated for publication in September 2006. I hope the TV special on Plimpton's training camp and QB play gets dusted off during the upcoming NFL season. Anyone reading this inside that large campus in Bristol, Conn.?
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Format: Paperback
This classic book is the story of a "regular guy" who was allowed to try playing professional football (sort of) and lived to tell about it. Some stray notes:

(1) He wasn't really a "regular guy." Firstly he was someone who was in a position where he could actually get the opportunity to work out with a pro football team and get into an intra-squad game. And he could REALLY PLAY, a fact that is rarely recognized. It's not that he was exactly on the NFL level -- he wasn't. But, he was good enough that he could sort of play with those guys, which very few of us could, and good enough that the "real" players couldn't tell that he wasn't legit. (They didn't know his real story for a while.) They could tell he wasn't great and they didn't think he was going to stick with the team, but nobody thought he wasn't for real or that his presence was ridiculous. And this despite his being 35 years old, an age at which even most "real" players can't hang in there any more.

(2) However, from the book it is clear that there were times that the players regarded his utterances as ridiculous, without there being any indication that Mr. Plimpton realized it. I wonder if he ever did. A good example is some of the things he was prattling about on the bench during the intra-squad game.

(3) This book is perhaps the first such intimate portrayal of the life and routine of pro football pre-season camp.

A great and classic book. Thank you, Mr. Plimpton, and rest in peace. And by the way you really could play football.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brought back some treasured memories of Pro Football at the very beginning of it "Golden Year" of popularity. Plimpton was truly a voice of sports fans in that time, making many of us feel very much like Walter Mitty's. We couldn't do all of the things George did, but we could dream about scoring a long TD, sinking that game winning NBA Championship game. or sinking that 18th hole putt to win the master. The Plimpton persona fit perfectly with these images, his prose, and his down east, cultivated accent, although perhaps a bit pretentious, will remain with me as I reread one of my favorite books.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hopefully there is a worthy biography of the late George Plimpton coming soon but in the meantime, the Paper Lion is a great place to start. Alan Alda played Plimpton in the movie adaptation of this book and that should give you some sense of its humor and playfulness. It is a very enjoyable read and evokes a different time (the pre-radical 60's), place (NYC, etc.), lifestyle (Ivy League "preppie" before the word preppie entered the larger lexicon) and era in professional sports (pre-tattoo, dreadlocks and the need for drug tests). Plimpton, who was very slight and not overly athletic, eventually had a series of these books where he put himself in the midst of large, skilled professional athletes with predictable results. He was looking for a good story and hoping to come out alive - he achieved both. If you enjoy humor and have even a mild interest in sports, you will like this book very much.
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