Amusing and poignant journal of the author’s first-ever season in organized football—at age 39.
The adventure began in 2004, when St. Amant, a Division III soccer player back in college, got talked into a season tryout as a kicker with the Boston Panthers in the semi-pro Eastern Football League. The lily-white, five-foot-eight, 160-pound author found himself on a chewed-up high-school football field mingling with a bunch of African-American men, most of them a lot younger and a few of them nearly 200 pounds heavier. St. Amant hailed from Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s posh addresses; his teammates were from tough, predominantly black towns like Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. Hoping to become the team’s first regular kicker (lacking one, the coach preferred two-point tries after every touchdown), the author was initially regarded almost as a mascot. Despite never having kicked a football in his life—and few balls of any kind since college—he gradually caught on, but head coach Pittman maintained a wary skepticism, forgoing field-goal tries for fourth-down Hail Mary plays as the Panthers went 2-2 early in the season. St. Amant’s candid portraits of his teammates, some of whom become his drinking buddies, lend insight into the life of the typical semi-pro player: a guy who might have made it in college and maybe even had a shot at the NFL, but who never got the breaks; battered and aging, he just can’t give up the game. The Panthers often beat themselves with careless play and needless penalties, but as St. Amant developed his leg, things improved and the team gelled. The Panthers made the playoffs, then blew the big one. But “the worst defeat of all,” declares the author, would have been living so close to his African-American peers and never meeting or playing with them.
A wryly spun tale of waning warriors.