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NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football


NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football

Who is Johnny Anonymous? That question is wandering through the internet as sports fans and members of the sports media sift through the various clues in NFL CONFIDENTIAL, his tell-all of life in the National Football League. Johnny’s identity eventually will become known, but for now it is sufficient to recognize that he is an athlete telling fans things about their game that many refuse to accept.

Behind-the-scenes sports books written by athletes appear frequently these days. Jim Brosnan wrote THE LONG SEASON in the late 1950s and was soon followed by Jim Bouton’s BALL FOUR. Both writers were Major League Baseball pitchers, telling fans about the sordid side of the game. For their efforts, they earned the enmity of many baseball fans, executives and players. But they told the truth. In NORTH DALLAS FORTY, Peter Gent told football fans about life in a fictional NFL. For his effort, he was blackballed from the game.

"Johnny Anonymous is smart and a decent writer.... NFL CONFIDENTIAL was a great book to read during the NFL playoffs, and I strongly recommend it to any football fan."

Perhaps Johnny is unwilling at this time to reveal his identity. He might still be playing, or he might hope for a post-playing career in the NFL. Whatever his motive, he chooses to keep his identity secret. He also avoids the names of teammates, coaches and his own team in his effort at secrecy. But the lack of that information does not in any fashion lessen the disclosures in NFL CONFIDENTIAL. Many fans will not be surprised by the revelations of the book, which is a chronicle of the 2014 season. In the year since, a great deal of dirty NFL laundry has been discovered and washed in public. Reading it, many fans will simply nod and say, “I knew that.” 

Johnny toils in the NFL obscurity of the offensive line. He is an undersized and underweight reserve guard. At 6’3” and 279 pounds, he must struggle to weigh in at 285. In a world of 300-pound linemen, Johnny has to gorge himself on 4,000 calories a day in order to maintain his prescribed playing weight. Arriving at training camp, he finds himself third-string, which means he faces the prospect of not making the team. The NFL is an exclusive club; 53 men make the final rosters of the 32 teams. You can do the math. The financial reward is great. Make the team, and you will earn at least $500,000 a season. Star players earn salaries in the millions. But as Johnny observes, only about one-third of the players do it for the money. They could live comfortably in another profession, but the money is good…damn good.

The rest of the players do it for two reasons. One, because it is the only thing they know how to do. If football did not exist for them, they might be in a gang or in prison, or both. Most fans will appreciate that some players, even with football in their lives, eventually end up behind bars. Another group of players do it because they love it. They would be nothing without it. As Johnny observes, they are obviously psychotic.

As the season progresses, Johnny tells readers quite a bit about the NFL. We learn of the routines, the drills, the silly rules, and the insecurities of players, coaches, owners and the entire league structure. No one who follows the NFL should be surprised by any of this. For me, he confirmed what I already knew about the NFL and what I have long suspected about most professional athletes --- they are grown men who have never really grown up. They are like that obnoxious Peter Pan in the television commercial, behaving and acting as they do because they can. They have the money and the adoration to allow their behavior, and they walk very close to the line of appropriateness. Too often, many cross that line.

Many football people will tell you that offensive linemen are the smartest players on the team. Johnny Anonymous is smart and a decent writer. I wish he would curse a little less and not be so obsessed with scatological facts. But NFL CONFIDENTIAL was a great book to read during the NFL playoffs, and I strongly recommend it to any football fan.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 22, 2016

NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football
by Johnny Anonymous

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2016
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Sports
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books
  • ISBN-10: 006242243X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062422439