"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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great book. Very insightful. Gives you a rare behind the scenes look at how things work in the nfl. I was lucky enough to find this book by chance at a dollar store for $1! Good read for any nfl fan. I also recommend John Feinstein's book about the behind the scenes of the nfl.
A Few Seconds of Panic
You’ll never watch an NFL game the same way after reading Stefan Fatsis’s A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays In The NFL.
Fatsis,who covers the business of sports for Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio, was allowed to practice with the 2006 Denver Broncos from mini-camp to the first pre-season game as a field goal kicker. With the consent of the NFL suits and then Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, Fatsis was given almost complete access to the Broncos organization, and with it, the author explores the lives of players as they endure brutal physical tests, mind-numbing practices and unforgiving scrutiny and borderline psychological torture from their coaches.
A 21st century take on George Plimpton’s Paper Lion, Fatsis admits he is no Plimpton in the first chapter; but though it may not be a new idea, and this may not be the introduction of a new form of reporting, this book gives readers a thoughtful and balanced insight into the modern NFL. Like many men in their forties with kids and full time jobs, Fatsis athleticism is quickly fading in the rear view mirror, but the author draws on his high school soccer days and enlists the help of a former field goal kicker and successful coach so he can maintain some credibility as a kicker on the practice field.
Although an outsider, that status is not very different from the standing of a field-goal kicker in the league who Fatsis aptly describes as “the hero or the goat” depending on whether or not he made his last field-goal. Nevertheless, in many ways, he is welcomed as part of the team. Fatsis doesn’t wear out that welcome, but instead, uses it to gain real insight into the lives of players and into the complicated and high stakes world of the NFL.
As a Redskins fan, A Few Seconds of Panic has helped me better understand the decisions that Mike Shanahan has made since taking over the struggling Washington franchise. The benching of Donovan McNabb and the public shaming and eventual suspension of defensive end Albert Haynesworth are more easily understood after reading Fatsis book. For Shanahan, conditioning , on-time participation and understanding the system are things in every player’s control and Haynesworth violated all of those rules. Voluntary mini-camp is not voluntary in Shanahan’s world and struggling off the field winded after one or two plays is unacceptable.
In the last chapter, Fatsis says that “every subculture has an us and a them: those who understand the world because they are part of it and those who don’t because they aren’t and therefore can’t.” Fatsis’ chameleon-like role of as a Denver Bronco goes a long way toward putting us into that subculture and helping us understand it. With the playoffs in full-swing, I’ll still enjoy the game, but I’ll know more about what players endure to make my Sundays so enjoyable thanks to this book.