"An insightful and . . . amusing look at the inner workings of pro football" (The New York Times) from the bestselling author of Word Freak
In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis invaded the insular world of competitive Scrabble players, ultimately achieving an expert-level ranking. Now, in his new book, he infiltrates a strikingly different subculture-pro football. After more than a year of preparation, Fatsis molded his fortyish body into one that could stand up-barely-to the rigors of NFL training. And for three months he became a placekicker for the Denver Broncos. Making the most of unprecedented access to an NFL team and its players, and drawing on his own personal experience, Fatsis with wry candor and hard-won empathy unveils the mind of the modern pro athlete and the workings of a storied sports franchise as no writer has before.
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.