Friend of the blog Paul recommended this book, and within a week of his doing so my on hold copy had arrived at the library. The last sports book I delved into was Satchel so I was leery of taking on another one. But, I'm certainly glad I did. You can find the review below the break.
Stefan Fatsis, writer for the Wall Street Journal, decided to become an NFL player at the age of 43. Unlike George Plimpton (who wrote Paper Lion about playing as a QB for the Detroit Lions), Fatsis decided to take a position that he thought someone of good, but not otherworldly, athletic ability could learn: kicker. He spends a year training, and finally gets to join the Denver Broncos. There, he is no longer a journalist, but an honest-to-God member of the team. After some initial doubt, the players accept him, and he does everything they do. Everything except kick in a real game.
That's what I'd like to talk about here. There isn't too much I can sum up otherwise, other than: wow, the NFL life is really not all that great. But why didn't Fatsis get the chance to kick in a game? Was it because he was no good? Absolutely not. Mike Shanahan, the notoriously meticulous coach, was fully willing to let Fatsis kick for his team in a game-time situation. Was it because he didn't have an official contract? Kind of. But the games he could have kicked in were preseason, which everyone knows are just exhibition games after the first quarter. They're where the players that nobody knows compete for third-string jobs. But the NFL league offices don't buy this explanation. Instead, they say the games are real, and that allowing Fatsis to kick would have cheapened them.
Does anybody who watches preseason football actually think it isn't cheapened already? It's atrociously dull. And Fatsis had done everything that could be expected of a kicker. For 99.9% of the fans, if he had gone onto the field, they wouldn't have know who he was and would have just thought he was a random guy in camp with the team. If he misses, no one cares. If he makes it... no one cares. So why not let the guy kick? The reputation the NFL has as the No Fun League really gets solidified in this book, and for no apparent reason. They could have gotten fantastic press from Fatsis, and they chose to say no. What a load.
Aside from that though, it's a really fantastic read. You feel like you get to know some of the players, and I got really involved in their stories. If you're a football fan at all, go pick up a copy of the book, you won't regret it. I plan on getting Fatsis' Word Freak about becoming a professional Scrabble player sometime soon. I hope it's half as good as this was.