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"A Few Seconds of Panic"

This article is more than 11 years old.
Normally when authors research topics for books they are writing, they observe action from the sidelines. Not Stefan Fatsis. When preparing to write his book A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 173 Pound, 43 Year Old Sports Writer Plays in the NFL, Fatsis actually did play with the NFL. Sort of. The book follows his rigorous routines at the Denver Bronco's training camp and the realization that professional football certainly isn't fun and games.

Despite the subtitle of this book (“A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL”), the author, Stefan Fatsis does not play in the NFL. Though he diligently practices kicking and works out with the authentic kickers in the Denver Broncos camp, Fatsis is not allowed by the league to play in even an exhibition game. This should come as no surprise to people who’ve heard that NFL stands for “No Fun League,” and one of the things Fatsis learns during the considerable time he spends with the Broncos is that most of them don’t regard their work as much fun. In fact, some of them maintain that much of the time they hate what they do. That’s no wonder. The practices are monotonous, the criticism from men who treat them like stupid children is constant, the likelihood of serious injury is exceptionally high, and the job security is nil. That Stefan Fatsis learns all that and writes it down is much more important than whether he got to kick in a game. Fatsis says he hoped to learn what it was like to be part of an NFL team. The most important consequence of that effort is that his respect for the work may have encouraged members of the Broncos to be candid in their conversations with him. When he fails in a field goal attempt that would have shortened practice by half an hour, Fatsis hears from his temporary “teammates” that he’s just crumbled under the sort of pressure they face constantly. That’s ridiculous, of course. The authentic football players are competing for jobs; Fatsis is turning up material for a book. But he gets closer to becoming “one of the guys” than George Plimpton did in Paper Lion, and the result is a convincing depiction of a pro football team, rather than the story of a goof who tried to play with the big kids.

This program aired on August 21, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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