Book Review: A Few Seconds of Panic

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 “hours and hours of boredom surrounded by a few seconds of panic.”
The book is far from boring. If you enjoyed Wordfreak, Fatsis’ book on Scrabble, you will also enjoy this book. Even if you are not a football fan. When Fatsis is not competing at Scrabble or football, Fatsis is a sports writer for the Wall Street Journal.
Fatsis convinces the National Football League to let him join a team in training camp as long as he can find a team willing to let him in. This is not an easy task in the very controlling NFL. He finally convinces the Denver Broncos to let him participate in training camp. Fatsis participates in training camp and even suits up for a pre-season game against the Detroit Lions. Although the NFL refuses to allow him to participate in the game.
Fatsis tries to make some comparisons between football and Scrabble:
Both great football players and great Scrabble players say that when they’re in the proverbial zone, the game decelerates and the instantly see the answer. I, for one, think that’s easier to accomplish without the continual threat of being steamrolled by a charging goliath, which is not a major concern in Scrabble.

A Few Seconds of Panic is full of insight to the psyche of a football and football players. It is a great exploration of the psychology of competitive athletes.

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