Synopses & Reviews
Drawing on rare access to an NFL teams players, coaches and facilities, the author of The New York Times bestseller Word Freak trains to become a professional-caliber placekicker. As he sharpens his skills, he gains surprising insight into the daunting challengesphysical, psychological, and intellectualthat pro athletes must master
In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis infiltrated the insular world of competitive Scrabble® players, ultimately achieving expert status (comparable to a grandmaster ranking in chess). Now he infiltrates a strikingly different subculturepro football. After more than a year spent working out with a strength coach and polishing his craft with a gurulike kicking coach, Fatsis molded his fortyish body into one that could stand upbarelyto the rigors of NFL training. And over three months in 2006, he became a Denver Bronco. He trained with the team and lived with the players. He was given a locker and uniforms emblazoned with #9. He was expected to perform all the drills and regimens required of other kickers. He was unlike his teammates in some waysmost notably, his livelihood was not on the line as theirs was. But he became remarkably like them in many ways: He risked crippling injury just as they did, he endured the hazing that befalls all rookies, he gorged on 4,000 daily calories, he slogged through two-a-day practices in blistering heat. Not since George Plimptons stint as a Detroit Lion more than forty years ago has a writer tunneled so deeply into the NFL.
At first, the players tolerated Fatsis, or treated him like a mascot, but over time they began to think of him as one of them. And he began to think like one of them. Like the other Broncoslike all elite athleteshe learned to perfect a motion through thousands of repetitions, to play through pain, to silence the crowds roar, to banish self-doubt.
While Fatsis honed his mind and drove his body past exhaustion, he communed with every classic athletic typethe affable alpha male, the overpaid brat, the youthful phenom, the savvy veteranand a welter of bracingly atypical players as well: a fullback who invokes Aristotle, a quarterback who embraces yoga, a tight end who takes creative writing classes in the off-season. Fatsis also witnessed the hidden machinery of a top-flight football franchise, from the God-is-in-the-details strategizing of legendary coach Mike Shanahan to the icy calculation with which the front office makes or breaks careers.
With wry candor and hard-won empathy, A Few Seconds of Panic unveils the mind of the modern pro athlete and the workings of a storied sports franchise as no book ever 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. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
" [Fatsis's] sharp eye for detail and genuine empathy for his teammates make A Few Seconds of Panic
" Fatsis deftly explores how business permeates every aspect of the NFL. . . . [He] is able to penetrate the players' psyches in a way that few sportswriters have."
-Los Angeles Times
" What [Fatsis] has pulled off with his modern twist on Plimpton's 1966 classic, Paper Lion, is remarkable . . . an unflinching look behind the curtain at America's most popular professional sport and the men who play it."
-Minneapolis Star- Tribune
The "New York Times"-bestselling author of "Word Freak" chronicles his attempts to become a placekicker in the NFL. As he sharpens his skills, he gains surprising insight into the daunting challenges--physical, psychological, and intellectual--that pro athletes must master.
"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.
About the Author
Stefan Fatsis is the bestselling author of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players and Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America's Heartland. He reported on sports for more than a decade for The Wall Street Journal and talks about sports every week on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. His work also has appeared on the websites Slate and Deadspin. Stefan lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Melissa Block, and their daughter, Chloe.