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Paper Lion

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  5,004 ratings  ·  81 reviews
In the mid-'60s, Plimpton joined the Detroit Lions at their preseason camp as a 36-year-old rookie quarterback wannabe, and stuck with the club through an intra-squad game before the paying public a month later. The result is a literary masterpiece about professional football that not only elevated the art of participatory journalism to an art form, but also remains one of
Paperback, 362 pages
Published June 1966 by Harper & Row (first published 1966)
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3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,004 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am an asshole. No really. I'm a total jerk-and-a-half. Look, trust me. I know what I'm talking about here. I checked this book out from the Berkeley Public Library about a year ago, and then left it on the BART train during my commute home. Berkeley Public has gone ahead and billed me for it too, but of course, I haven't paid them yet. Sure, I've meant to; and I did take a trip to the BART lost-and-found to see if it turned up there, but as far as actually mailing in a check. Naw. Didn't do th ...more
Laine The Librarian
Everyone has heard of George Plimpton.....that is if you read the articles in the sports sections...knows that George Plimpton enjoys getting hit, thrown, punched or kicked around if it's dealing in sports he is in the middle of it. (Maybe you know George Plimpton by his daughter who played Stef girl with the glasses in the movie The Goonies.)

Now this time we will hear more of George Plimpton.

Especially if you follow the roster teams of Detroit Lions and see that there is a new Backup Quarterbac
Feb 23, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the dream of every guy who thinks they could be a professional athlete, Plimpton gets to live the life of one for one preseason. As you can imagine, it is a lot of work and getting to live your dream isn’t always the way you dreamed. The best parts of the book are Plimpton’s writing ability to give the reader the feel of being part of the team instead of a fan. Obviously the real life characters who stand out stand out b/c of their larger than life personalities which allows Plimpton a c ...more
Scott Foshee
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paper Lion is perhaps the first behind the scenes look at a pro football training camp. The excellent George Plimpton, first Editor in Chief of the Paris Review, wrote a series of pieces using "participatory journalism," a technique where he actually joined in the games he covered. In 1958 he pitched against National League all-stars in an exhibition baseball game at Yankee Stadium and wrote about it in his book "Out of My League." While on assignment with Sports Illustrated he stepped in the ri ...more
Nov 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty solid look at what it was like to play pro football in the early 60s. By today's standards, it's pretty quaint. I couldn't fathom an author today naive enough to think he can jump in and play professional QB without even pee-wee experience at the position. It's entertaining, though, and it kept my interest. Stephen Fatsis wrote a book last year about being a placekicker in training camp with a modern team, and I'm going to read that soon to see how it compares.

If you think back
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a reason this book is a classic. Plimpton's writing holds up well fifty years later. I grew up in Green Bay and my family contains many rabid football fans. His stories had me rolling with laughter. From forgetting his college fight song to wanting to run pass plays from the 1920's, Plimpton kept me turning pages. He covered everything from the varied personalities of the team and the sadness of being cut or career-ending injuries. I highly recommend this book for football fans and thos ...more
quest'uomo è diventato il mio eroe!! da giornalista a (quasi) QB di una squadra dell'NFL..
In più, adesso sono preparatissima sui Lions dei primi anni '60 :)
Julia Ostash (fictionalovers)
Paper Lion was a semi-sweet non-fictional novel about a writer who joins the 1963 Detroit Lions to write about what it's like to be on a football team. The story was heartfelt and very technical.

full review:
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great fun.
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sprots/football fans, Lions fans
Excellent summer reading. Maybe a bit too technical at times for people with only a cursory knowledge of football, but I particularly liked those bits because it's interesting to see what stage the game had developed to in the 60s. When they talk about the Shotgun formation JUST being invented, it's really pretty alarming.

Of course the actual game is secondary to what's going on here. Plimpton's perspective allows for a vivid portrait of the league back then. It's pretty scary, to be honest. It
Paul Schulzetenberg
Paper Lion is a throwback to the days of the NFL before the NFL-AFL merger. Plimpton takes us on a ride through training camp for an NFL player. The gimmick, of course, is that Plimpton has next to no skill at all in the game of football. This becomes evident quite early on when Plimpton writes candidly about the last time he played, which was in some high school pickup games. He disliked it then, and there's nothing about the game that really seems to grab his fancy. What Plimpton, and thus the ...more
Mike Barker
I got this book for my sports-nut son to read, or to have on hand when he needs a book for a school reading project. I read it to make sure it would be appropriate for him (7th grade). I feel like it was. It wasn't really my thing, but it was okay. I was struck by several things that have changed since it was published. George Plimpton as a sports-writer? Probably wouldn't happen today. I don't know about him all that much, but my sense is that this would be an odd juxtaposition in the context o ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Read this book is you want some insider info on what American football was like in the 1960's. Its got great stories, written succinctly in journalist style. George Plimpton is a lot like another author I like, A.J. Jacobs. They both undertake interesting challenges, like Jacobs' A Year of Living Biblically or The Know-It-All. In this book, Plimpton tries his hand at quarterbacking, and tries to cram the one hundred plays, the footwork, plus what his teammates are doing into his head. He writes ...more
Aug 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plimpton traces his own experiences in Lions training camp at the end of the franchise's golden era in the early 1960s. I remember this book on my father's shelf when I was a boy and when I asked him about it recently, he began to recite scenes from memory - clearly it made an impression on him as a young sportscaster. It's well-written and made me wish Plimpton had been more of a contemporary. The stories capture an NFL long since past, where training camps, drafts, and gameplans were more simp ...more
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was pleasantly surprised by the detail about what it would be like to be a player for a professional football team. Plimpton doesn't try to make his skills to be more (or less) than they actually are, and (not surprising for a journalist) writes with an engaging style. Before reading, I thought that the book might seem dated, since football has changed a bit over the last two decades, but I didn't find it to be that way at all. Many of the issues such as rookie vs. veteran salaries, long-term ...more
Evan Rocher
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plimpton's a really novel writer. The book--the story of Plimpton's stay through about half of the Lion's preseason in the early 60's--is well written. Unlike other stories like this, Plimpton is a player (nominally, he's the 3rd string QB), and it's fun to see how he interacts with the other players and the coaching staff. He sometimes takes himself too seriously / believes that his project is more highfalutin' than it actually is, which can be irritating. Similarly, this not an ethnography; Pl ...more
Oct 26, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Ward
Feb 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback by George Plimpton (Harper Review 1966)(796.33). This is the book that invented “participatory journalism.” It is a classic about professional football in which a first-string writer tries out for last-team quarterback. Plimpton talked the Detroit Lions into allowing him unprecedented access to the team during training camp: he would participate with the team during drills and practices leading up to the season, and he would actually be allowe ...more
Chase Mitchell
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. It was very intersting and well written. The experiment that the auther George Plimpton had was a great idea. He wanted to see how the average man would do in the National football league. He wanted to try to be and suceed as the third sting quaterback on a team. The players didnt know about the experiment until they saw that Plimpton couldnt recieve a snap.

No teams would let Plimpton come out to try his experiment. Then in 1963 the Detroit Lions said Plimpton could co
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This wasn an okay book. Okay. George Plimpton is a great writer. He has a sports writers sensibility and vision. However, during reading this book, my mind wandered and I really couldn't focus. Maybe it's because I'm not a Lions fan. Maybe if this was about an author who was at Pittsburgh Steelers training camp instead of Detroit, I could relate more with the players, coaches, etc. Paper Packers. Paper Steelers. Paper Eagles. Anything but Detroit. The book is a bit dated as well. Imagine the lat ...more
Paper Lion by George Plimpton

What happens when a writer decides to play professional football in the NFL? That is the entire joy that comes from George Plimpton’s timeless book, Paper Lion. Plimpton decided to write an insider’s eye view of the making the team and playing in a game. The year was 1965, Alex Karras (the dad from Webster) has been suspended for betting on games. Karras is the only name I recognized, but others were quite famous in their time. The book is quite enjoyable, as the pl
Tom Gase
Often called one of the best books of all time in sportswriting, I finally got around to reading this and it was pretty good, but dragged in some places. I wanted to know how he played in the games, thinking it was at the end of a few games, but it turns out he didn't play that much and when he did it wasn't good. He had a lot of good reporting from other players on what it's like to play in the NFL, but I can get that in a lot of books. Why I thought this one might be a little different is that ...more
Sep 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very entertaining book, even if you don't like football, or care if any of the rookies make the team or anyone gets hurt. Plimpton has no illusions about his own ability, but he does have an eagerness to be a part of the team and to discover what one needs (or used to need)to make it as a football player. Most of the players--a faceless mass for us and Plimpton at the start--are drawn distinctly and creatively. And it's funny. Some of my favorite parts have nothing to do with football ...more
Oct 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All Sports Fans
George Plimpton carved out an unusual career for himself; a journalist by trade, starting with "Paper Lion," he produced a series of best-selling books based on his experiences playing for various professional sports teams. "Paper Lion" is by far the best of these. Plimpton recounts his trials as a Detroit Lion quarterback, as he goes through the ordeal of training camp and interacts with players and coaches. It's doubtful that even many sports fans could relate to this book today; it springs fr ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, westend
If I were 13 and grew up near Detroit and the year were, say, 1968, this would be the single greatest thing I ever read. Well, maybe 11 and 1967?

Now I can't help but feel like it's an oversimplification and we're missing a lot of insight. Also this portrayal of the NFL—before it became America's premiere entertainment establishment/business—is very outdated. But it sure is fun. Plympton's self-awareness and humility makes for an entertaining read and the players all seem like swell albeit nervo
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Plimpton joins the Detroit Lions as a rookie to find out what it’s like. They let him play in the practices and the intra-squad game but not in a game against another team. The book is pretty good, even though I’m bored by football in general. Plimpton lets the reader know just what the rookie goes through: the tension, the exuberance, fear of being cut. It’s also interesting just how much rapid assessment the players do: a tightening of the knuckles, a shifting of the eyes can give away a play. ...more
Loyd Mcintosh
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt the standard to which all participatory journalism/new journalism works should be compared. What I love about this book is how Plimpton, an erudite Ivy League man, never lets himself be above his "teammates" on the Detroit Lions. He's clearly an outsider on their turf and brilliantly communicates the feeling of loss and helplessness during the action sequences, but also gives the reader a first-hand account of life in a 1960s era NFL training camp.

Karl Muller
It's a great window to a "simpler time" in sports - the author takes great pains to show the players as regular people, which is the real strength of the book. There's no way this could be written now in 2013 with such empathy for the team around him.

A good read for fans of the game - I grew up in the 70's and 80's, so some of the players are only known to me as legends or coaches, which made it more personal.
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is great for football fans wanting a taste of football history, or for people who don't get football fans and want to understand their passion. Plimpton was a fantastic writer, and this behind the scenes look at a training camp from back when players weren't multimillionaires made me feel like I was right there with them, sharing in their training camp escapades and in Plimpton's struggles to not embarrass himself while pretending to be a pro. I really cannot do it justice.
Matt Moran
Mixed feelings on this book.

I guess this was groundbreaking participatory journalism. It did not blow me away as very humorous or narratively compelling

It was interesting to get a description of a football team in the pre-Super Bowl era. Professional football has radically changed in the last fifty years. The Detroit Lions of the 1960s feel prehistoric.

Plimpton sounds like a total non-athlete, someone who didn't even grasp the most rudimentary aspects of football.
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George Ames Plimpton was an American journalist, writer, editor, actor, and gamesman. He is widely known for his sports writing and for helping to found The Paris Review.

He was the grandson of George A. Plimpton.
“The pleasure of sport was so often the chance to indulge the cessation of time itself--the pitcher dawdling on the mound, the skier poised at the top of a mountain trail, the basketball player with the rough skin of the ball against his palm preparing for a foul shot, the tennis player at set point over his opponent--all of them savoring a moment before committing themselves to action.” 7 likes
“Besides, good swearing is used as a form of punctuation, not necessarily a response to pain or insult, and is utilized by experts to lend a sentence a certain zest, like a sprinkling of paprika.” 0 likes
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