Nonfiction NFL account is ‘no fairy tale’

Johnny Anonymous is the latest to reveal football’s dark side in ‘NFL Confidential’

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Three points! That’s all your team needs to win. Can they make it?

You’re doing your part: you’re wearing your lucky shirt and hat. A stuffed mascot is nearby, the team logo hangs on the wall, and you had coffee this morning in the Official Team Mug. You’re doing everything you can for a win but, as in the new book “NFL Confidential” by Johnny Anonymous, other forces are afield.

Johnny Anonymous came to football later than most boys.

Looking to fill a void after his mother died, he joined his high school team as a freshman. Neither he nor his father knew a thing about football but Anonymous learned quickly, just as he learned that he had talent for the game.

“Back in high school, football was fun,” he says, but in college, “it was a full-time job.” College ball was serious, both mentally and physically; it was also where Anonymous began to understand what football would do to his brain and body. He suffered injuries playing college ball and he considered quitting, but going pro was a chance to “make a… ton of money.”

He was cut from his first pro team, through no fault of his own. He started as third-string at his second team and soon decided that standing on the sidelines was an easy way to make a living – but then his teammates started getting injured.

They were out. Anonymous was in, at least for awhile.

He tried to bring fun back into the game. He tried to remember that it was a game, “not World War III,” and he endured hassle from his coach and from fans. He repeatedly lost, then found, the anger that made him good at playing offense, and he ate constantly to maintain the weight the coaches unofficially said he had to have. He hurt everywhere, often, until his teammates returned from their injuries and Anonymous stepped back because that’s what players do.

“… This isn’t a fairy tale,” he says. “This isn’t a Hollywood story. This isn’t a happy ending. This is the NFL.”

There’s a reason why author Johnny Anonymous has changed “Names, timeline, details, the usual” in this book. “Go ahead, try” to figure out who he is. I’m sure the League would like to know, too, because “NFL Confidential” is TNT on paper.

But here’s the rub: it’s easy to wonder if Anonymous is hiding behind a pseudonym in order to embellish the truth; because this book is funny, very entertaining, and more than a little smart-alecky, readers may be tempted to dismiss his words. It would be likewise easy to say that it’s just a profanity-laced, updated North Dallas Forty, until you consider that what Anonymous describes seems to be on display, to a greater or lesser degree, each August-through-February: injuries, mental abuse, domestic issues, substance abuse, and more.

So… truth? Or just a good story? You’ll have your theories but either way, I think you’ll love this book. For die-hard fans of the ol’ pigskin, “NFL Confidential” is a big win.

NFL Confidential

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