Books | Sports

August 3, 2008

Breaking the Writer-Player Divide

Stefan Fatsis infiltrates Broncos training camp and experiences life on the inside, which is neither so different nor so great.

Michael Gluckstadt

For decades, sportswriters have been feeding the public myths about the athlete. His body is the apex of the human form, his locker room a sacred temple. The distance between the fan and the player may only be a few feet at the stadium, but it's miles in our minds.

Stefan Fatsis is bridging that gap. The former Wall Street Journal writer trained with the Denver Broncos, and chronicled the experience of becoming an NFL athlete in his new book A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL. In the book, we see players as both profound and immature, mensches and jerks, but above all, as people.

The last time he spoke with Gelf, Fatsis told us about immersing himself in a different competitive game, and he drew on that experience of joining the ranks of professional Scrabble players in preparing for this endeavor. Seriously. NFL players, Fatsis says, accepted him when he showed them that he was serious about their craft. In the following interview, conducted by email and edited for clarity, Fatsis tells Gelf why the Broncos agreed to have him around, the reason Jake Plummer remains retired, and how sportswriters have mythologized the locker room. You can hear Fatsis and other sportswriters read from and talk about their work at Gelf's free Varsity Letters event on Thursday, August 7, in New York's Lower East Side.

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Article by Michael Gluckstadt

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