A Few Seconds of Panic

Hardcover version from 2008

fewsecondspanicEven if you aren’t a football fan, you’ve probably seen a game come down to a field goal. The play starts, the ball is kicked and the ball sails into the air. And you imagine the kicker’s euphoria when the ball sails straight through the uprights. And his misery when the kick falls short.

But have you really thought about what it would be like to be that kicker? Stefan Fatsis (NPR commentator and author of Word Freak) does more than just think about it. He joins Denver Broncos training camp and lives to write the tale in A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL – or, in the paperback edition, the slightly shorter subtitle: A Sportswriter Plays in the NFL. Paperback edition

The book is more than just the story of the Broncos 2006 season. It’s the story of one man’s attempt to become something everyone says he is not. It’s the story of what makes a team and the successes and sacrifices each player experiences to play the sport. It’s also the story of money. Each team wants to win and the decisions made change people’s lives.

It is easy to connect to the drama unfolding since some of the players mentioned are still playing today (Why, hello, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall.). The following quote is one from the scene I always think of with this book. Head coach Mike Shanahan tells Fatsis the team will get out of practice 30 minutes early, if he can make a field goal. Even though he’d been making the kicks all day, does he make it when the pressure is on? Sadly, no.

But, trite as it may sound, now I have learned the lesson because I have lived it. And my teammates love that. A half dozen tell me that I got a taste of their lives, that I should multiply the pressure I felt by twenty-five or fifty or a hundred, that I was lucky to have had just a half hour of meetings riding on my performance instead of my future employment.

I skip the ice pool out of fear one of the offensive linemen will drown me and instead walk directly to the showers. Just outside, next to the urinals, fullback Kyle Johnson is wearing a white towel and his Broncos ID, waiting to take a drug test.

“How was that for pressure?” he asks.

“More than anything I’ve felt in my life.”

“That’s what it’s like every play of every game. It’ll keep you up at night–if you let it.”

At the end, you might not see football the same way. Heck, you might not even see yourself the same. If Fatsis can do what he did, what can you do?

Interested in reading A Few Seconds of Panic? Add it to your GoodReads, find it at your local library or one of the retailers below.

In print:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell’s |

E-book:
Kindle | Nook

Do you have any favorite sports books? Or, if you were to be an embedded journalist like Fatsis, what would you do?

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