Stefan Fatsis spent the summer of 2006 in training camp with the Denver Broncos: there aren't many positions that a reasonably athletic 43 year old could even attempt on a gridiron field, so he wisely decided to try out life as a kicker. This excellent and insightful book is the result.
His travails in the highly regimented and hierarchical world of the Broncos organisation give a real insider's view of the locker room, the culture of the sport, and what drives people to put their bodies on the line for that elusive and transitory moment of glory of playing in the NFL.
I don't think it gives the ending away by revealing that the closest he actually comes to playing is the warmups on a pre-season game, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the warts-and-all portrayal he gives of the process.
My only criticism would be that I occasionally lost track of who was who, in amongst all the nicknames and initials. Other than that I'd thoroughly recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in knowing a bit more about the NFL.
on 16 August 2008
Jason Elam, the most successful place kicker in Broncos' history describes the experience of an NFL place kicker as "hours and hours of boredom surrounded by a few seconds of panic".
A few seconds of panic set in the moment I realized Mr. Fatsis was barred by the NFL from participating in even a pre-season game. A few more seconds of panic followed as I read Mr. Fatsis' bitter and unjustified complaints about why the NFL was steadfast in its refusal to allow him to kick in a pre-season game. According to Mr. Brian McCarthy, an NFL PR personnel, "people are paying seventy, ninety, a hundred and twenty dollars and then having someone from off the street come in - it could have the appearance of an exhibition, which we fight. I wouldn't use the word joke, but..." In response, and a shameful one at that, Mr. Fatsis proceeds to call the NFL a fraud for forcing fans to buy tickets to pre-season games, and a joke because all the run-ins NFL players have had with the law and the criminals who are allowed to play. Yet, he, who has worked "assiduously" for months to prepare for this glorious moment is made to feel like a joke.
Granted, Mr. Fatsis worked assiduously to play in the NFL, but he also assiduously shanked balls in practice, particularly during moments of pressure when players and fans were watching. Mr. Fatsis' length of experience in place kicking didn't extend beyond a few months. Just why he felt like he was deserving of a chance to play in the NFL is baffling.
Whereas in "Word Freak", Mr. Fatsis' participation in Scrabble and ultimately his rise to the rank of "expert" made the book a delightful read, in "A few seconds of panic", everything but his participation in Football took centerstage.
"A Few Seconds of Panic" provides a glimpse of "what players endure to get there, and what they experience once they arrive. And it revealed the deep disconnect between what fans see on gameday and what happens the rest of the week.", but it fails to deliver on its promise of a successful story of an average Joe playing with the pros.