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A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  1,898 Ratings  ·  170 Reviews
Drawing on rare access to an NFL team’s 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 challenges—physical, psychological, and intellectual—that pro athletes must master

In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis infiltrate
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published July 3rd 2008 by Penguin Press HC, The
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Daniel Threlfall
Oct 14, 2014 Daniel Threlfall rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I can't remember the last time I watched a football game. I think it was when I was in elementary school.

Even though I can't claim a team or quote stats, I was fascinated by this book.

The biggest takeaway was this: Professional football players are just people.. They're great athletes, but have insecure jobs and tons of stress. Fatsis's title, "A Few Seconds of Panic," can be applied to the entire cadre of pro ballers, as long as it's changed to "A Lifetime of Panic."

Fatsis is a great writer,
Ryann Murphy
Mar 02, 2009 Ryann Murphy rated it really liked it
Since I rarely read nonfiction books, when I do I expect them to be real winners just like this true story of a 43-year-old sportswriter who decides to experience the life of an NFL football player by going through Broncos training camp as a field goal kicker. Not only was it the story of one man's attempt to be a professional athlete, it was also an inside look at the players and management of professional football.

Just like when I read a book that was a year in the life of the Professional Bul
Jan 16, 2010 Tung rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fatsis is a professional writer and journalist whose first book Word Freak (a documentary about the subculture of competitive Scrabble, professional Scrabble players, and Fatsis’ attempt at succeeding at competitive Scrabble) I enjoyed. A Few Seconds of Panic follows the Word Freak mold: put yourself in the shoes of the people you are covering in order to better understand their mindset and their world. Fatsis joins the Denver Broncos in 2006 as a kicker and spends preseason camp and training ca ...more
Like almost all books about journalists inserting themselves into situations, the author isn't nearly as interesting as the people who surround them. Did I care about Stefan Fatsis's personal journey to be a kicker? Not really (aside from his battle with the NFL to let him kick in a game). I'm not a forty year old dad with two knee surgeries, though.

However, I found his portraits of the players to be very illuminating. It became clear that when we watch games as fans, we basically have no idea
Aug 15, 2009 Dkmoorhead rated it really liked it
Stefan Fatsis is a good writer, a better journalist, and possesses an uncanny self-awareness. That's what makes this something better than a facile, glib piece of participatory journalism. He's aware of his own place in the narrative, and comments on it freely, which nicely puts into perspective his biases and point of view.

Of course, he's also incredibly lucky. To get access to a team...any team, like he gets, and to have the cast of characters he does, and to have them (for the most part) be c
Aug 01, 2008 Turi rated it really liked it
A wonderful, insightful book covering the author's stint as an aspiring kicker with the pre-season Denver Broncos. Fatsis writes about his struggle to develop his kicking skills, the business of football, the players, coaches and their personalities, and generally the NFL life. I (who, admittedly don't know much about football) learned a lot.
May 13, 2016 Trish rated it it was amazing
This was a great book to listen to. It gave great insight into the lives of the average NFL players, not the multi-millionaires, and the daily pain involved in the life of a professional athlete. Plus, the author is extremely entertaining.
Ann Marie
Aug 16, 2009 Ann Marie rated it liked it
The guys have been passing this one around... it was very interesting. It definitely shed some new light on the sports industry in general, especially the NFL. It made me feel differently about the "average" NFL player (that is, those whose names you will probably never hear of).
Sep 09, 2008 A. rated it really liked it
Shelves: football, 2008
Fantastic story about a sportswriter who spent three months with the Denver Broncos organization, as a kicker. Hilarious, true, and often heartbreakingly sad about the realities of professional football as a career.
Scott Foshee
May 08, 2013 Scott Foshee rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, nonfiction
I have been fascinated with football kickers ever since I stumbled upon a copy of the book "Kicking the Football Soccer Style" by Pete Gogolak that somehow found its way into the library of my junior high school in the coal fields of southern West Virginia. I spent countless hours studying its pages. Lacking a tee, I used one of my mother's plastic measuring cups to set up game winning kicks in the back yard with my battered green Nerf football. Good times. Fortysomething sportswriter and author ...more
Nov 16, 2011 John rated it really liked it
I'd had this in my reading list for a while, and honestly dove into it only because it seemed to be of modest length, and it's currently football season. I remember hearing the book review on NPR a long time ago when the book was released and thinking, "Oh, he's just cribbing from Plimpton!" I was pleasantly surprised and engaged at Fatsis' narrative of his quixotic attempt to mold himself into something approaching an NFL kicker. Fatsis sucks you in with his candid, eye-opening picture of an NF ...more
Sep 27, 2016 Zeke rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I read this a few years ago but enjoyed it even more the second time around - probably more like a 4.5. Fatsis is both fair and fun, he humanizes what locker room life is like without romanticizing anything, and feels like he's honest about his own experience. I probably liked it even more because it's my team, but many of my favorite parts of the book were extended conversations and relationships with lesser-known Broncos. Feel like I could recommend this to both hardcore and nominal NFL fans a ...more
Paul Schulzetenberg
Sep 16, 2009 Paul Schulzetenberg rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: football fans, sports academics
Fantastic. Fatsis has managed to do what few writers accomplish. He has combined significant analysis of the culture of football with an account of an interesting sports story. Even the most mouth-breathing of football fans will find something to bring them closer to their athlete heroes in this book, and will really be rooting for Fatsis with every kick he takes in practice. If you are interested in something more than a feel-good story, it gets even better. Fatsis explores the norms, culture, ...more
Malin Friess
May 01, 2012 Malin Friess rated it really liked it
(This review was originally posted to the wrong book)

I had a good friend who was a sports fanatic. His biggest dream was to rub shoulders with professionals players in the locker room and see what they were like. Incidentally this friend became a sports writer for a small newspaper (Deseret News) and was given all access pass to courtside and the locker room of the Utah Jazz. At first this friend told me he was entranced by these superstar athletes; their size, athleticism, persona. But then aft
May 13, 2014 Yune rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, sports
I think the subtitle says most of it; the author, who previously entered the world of competitive Scrabble to see what drove other people to it and made it to expert-level, talks his way onto an actual NFL team (the Denver Broncos) as a kicker with an actual number and locker, despite his age and lack of brawn.

The book's more nuanced than I expected. Fatsis begins with the odyssey of how he finagled the position in the first place, and takes thoughtful portraits of men who are known better for t
Sep 07, 2010 Erin rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I picked this up because I'm a big college and pro football fan and also a big lover of memoirs. I thought I couldn't go wrong, and I couldn't pass up the chance to get an inside glimpse of what it's really like to be an NFL player--not just the top-name players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but a nameless lineman who works hard and gets beat up week in and week out.

I have to say this book didn't live up to my (perhaps too high) expectations. The author, Stefan Fatsis, gets in shape to be
Oct 26, 2012 Seth rated it really liked it
I guess the word to describe this type of book is "participatory journalism" - not my term, but I think it fits. Stefan Fatsis decides he wants to go behind the scenes in the NFL and document his experience. The first thing he has to do is find a team willing to indulge him, and he's surprised when Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos agree to let him come to camp as a kicker. The book describes the training the author put himself through on his own time to make himself a credible placekicker, a ...more
Doug Cornelius
Dec 15, 2014 Doug Cornelius rated it it was amazing
Shelves: football
A few years ago, Stefan Fatsis set out to become a Scrabble champion. Now he is trying to be a player in the National Football League. In A Few Seconds of Panic, Fatsis sets out to be an active participant in a National Football League training camp. Given his physical size, athletic prowess and reconstructed knee, he sees the role of kicker as one that may work for him. Fatsis quotes Jason Elam, the Denver Broncos incumbent kicker during that training camp, describing the role of kicker as "hou ...more
Jul 29, 2016 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this. Likeable sports journo Stefan Fatsis spent a summer as a kicker at the Denver Broncos training camp and got suprisingly close to the players and management, and this is his account. A couple of things in particular struck me.

Firstly, just how short and insecure the typical NFL playing career is - about 3.5 seasons on average- with most players never making the truly big money and many facing severe orthopaedic problems and therefore big medical bills in later life as a result of t
Oct 01, 2012 David rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this chronicle of the writer's training camp with the Denver Broncos as a place kicker. It's explicitly a follow-up to George Plimpton's Paper Lion experiment of an earlier generation.

The Broncos coach at the time was current Redskins' coach Mike Shanahan, but with that exception I had no particular interest in any of the individual players or the team. It's recent enough that I've heard of lots of them and knew they were a good but not terrific team. Since it's preseason, though,
Oct 13, 2008 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: strong readers who are sports fans
Recommended to Kathleen by: NPR
Stefan Fatsis is a great non-fiction writer. Any more, I don't seem to read a lot of books that aren't related to my job; thankfully it's my job to read hundreds of fantastic YA books, but the point is that I don't so often find myself reaching for adult non-fiction like this. I'm glad I broke pattern for this book. As a regular contributor to NPR, Fatsis already has my loyalty in some ways but also gives me high expectations for his writing, and knowing that he's a Scrabble champ raises the bar ...more
Ryan Mishap
Feb 05, 2009 Ryan Mishap rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Another foray in my attempts to understand why spectator sports are such a large part of modern life here in the U.S. Fatsis didn't want to just be a spectator, though, but to follow in the footsteps of George plimpton and actually play for an NFL team, at least through training camp. The Denver Broncos gave him his wish.
I got this book mainly because of what lefty sportswriter David Zirin said about it: about how the players are desperate for healthy human interactions in the face of a dehuma
Mark Schlatter
Jan 20, 2015 Mark Schlatter rated it really liked it
A really cool book. Although I don't watch the NFL anymore, I still like reading about it. This is Fatsis's story of convincing an NFL team to let a sportswriter play with the team during minicamps and training camp (much like George Plimpton's Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback). In this case, Fatsis trains as a kicker with the 2006 Denver Broncos. What works best about the account is that the professional athletes grow to trust Fatsis because he suffers with them --- it's a v ...more
Apr 14, 2009 Michael rated it liked it
This is something like a remake of a movie - Fatsis decided that George Plimpton's idea to participate in a professional football training camp and write up the experience was such a good idea that he would update it. Like Plimpton, he had a fair amount of trouble finding a team that would agree, but eventually he spent all of training camp and most of the pre-season with the Denver Broncos, as a (pretend) aspiring place kicker.

For some reason I find place kickers interesting, so this helped wit
Sep 05, 2008 Angela rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those who bleed Bronco blue, die-hard NFL fans
This was supposed to be the book that got me through the sad, sad months that the NFL isn't playing. And it did, in a way, as it took me nearly the ENTIRE off-season to get through this memoir.

Fatsis is talented writer, and he took his task to heart. He wanted to show life from the inside of the NFL, and he accomplished exactly that. This is quite a feat, considering his newspaper background might have gotten his toe in the door, but was more likely to hurt his relationship with his would-be tea
Peter Smith
Oct 25, 2013 Peter Smith rated it really liked it
I listen to Stefan Fatsis on Slate's Hang Up and Listen sports podcast and I also read his excellent other book Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive SCRABBLE Players. Although I originally thought the idea of the book was gimmicky (who hasn't thought they could be an NFL kicker?), Fatsis really gives an honest description of the inner workings of an NFL locker room. Not everybody is happy to be there. The physical toll is tremendous. And although it' ...more
Mar 02, 2009 Joe rated it liked it
This book describes the author's adventures and time spent with the Denver Broncos. He joins them during spring training, as a kicker -- with no real sports experience.

The book gives a true insider view into the workings of a modern American Football team. The author spoke to players (of different positions), coaches, and management. It's extremely interesting to see how a play, a game, and the sport as a whole is viewed from different perspectives. The most interesting viewpoint is from the non
Nov 25, 2010 Joe rated it really liked it
Fatsis' book Word Freak documented his attempt to break into the highest echelons of professional Scrabble competition (wonderful read!). However, that book really succeeded in revealing the very personal trials and tribulations of the folks who have made Scrabble their entire life -- A Few Seconds of Panic succeeds in the same way. Fasis' modern take on Plimpton's Paper Tiger (Fatsis is trying to become a kicker for an NFL team) is fairly interesting and fun, but the real value in this book is ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Ken rated it liked it
Recommends it for: football fans.
Shelves: nonfiction
In A Few Seconds of Panic, Stefan Fatsis recalls his experiences as he trained for and then participated in the Denver Broncos training camp in 2006. Throughout the book, Fatsis provides readers with a detailed look inside the day-to-day operation of an NFL franchise. Throughout the training camp, he gets to know players, their training regimens, and their stress in trying to make an NFL team.

If this sounds familiar, the book is similar to George Plimpton's Paper Lion, and Fatsis credits Plimpt
Dan Solomon
Jun 05, 2010 Dan Solomon rated it really liked it
I'm being stingy with the stars because I don't want y'all to think that I give every book about football that I read a perfect score. That said, I loved this book a whole lot. Fatsis is a really insightful and smart writer who constantly questions himself, but never navel-gazes, and the memoir/journalism is a perfect format for him. He writes about himself, sure, and the private coaching he received to become a training camp-worthy kicker, but in doing so, he also tells us the story of what it ...more
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Stefan Fatsis is an author, reporter and familiar voice to public-radio listeners nationwide.
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