WASHINGTON — If you haven’t heard, there’s a new book out, written by a current NFL player under a pseudonym. “NFL Confidential” is a modern day player’s look behind the curtain into the day-to-day drama, machinations and overall grind of the professional football season.
At 239 pages, the book itself is a fairly engaging and quick read, and pretty much exactly what you would expect from a 20-something professional athlete. There are no deeper ruminations about the culture of football and its place in American society beyond a shallow dive into the racial dynamics of the locker room, how players sit divided by their race, but still perform together on the field.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the book was that it offered very little in the way of new information, at least to anyone who follows the NFL with any regularity.
The position players all fit archetypes already constructed in nearly every football movie ever produced. Some of the players drink too much. They all pop painkillers before games. The quarterbacks are self-serious prima donnas. The skill position guys are flashy divas. The highest-paid players, no matter their position, are above reproach from the coaching staff, who fear for their own job security too much to challenge them.
Sure he talks about the pain, the side that the NFL doesn’t like to talk about.
“This is all the time, other than a six-week window in the offseason,” he told WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis in a phone interview earlier this week, explaining that the in-season pain doesn’t die down week-to-week until “probably late Friday, Saturday.”
But these are all things most football fans, especially those who have played at lower levels, already know. All in all, the biggest question I was left with was this: If there wasn’t anything truly revelatory to expose, why write the book at all?
The author goes by the admittedly sophomoric “Johnny Anonymous,” the desire for secrecy an understandable one given the personal details he gives about some of his teammates and coaches. But that’s the thing — Johnny Anonymous’ identity doesn’t seem to be much of a secret.
In the press materials that accompanied “NFL Confidential,” there was a challenge.
“Go ahead, try. I dare you. Catch me if you can.”
I took it for the marketing material it was, but figured I’d play along.
Reading the book, I had a pretty solid guess of who I thought “Johnny” was by about page 30, which was only further confirmed as I continued to read. After I finished the book, a colleague forwarded a Reddit thread to me which further confirmed the same basic facts I had matched up. And the day after a Johnny Anonymous interview on the Opie & Jimmy Show, the hosts exposed him pretty blatantly, both calling him by his first name and identifying the team he was drafted by.
All of this begs the question — did Johnny Anonymous really want to remain so, or was this all a ploy to take a backup lineman, who by most accounts was already entirely anonymous to the average football fan, and actually make it easy enough to expose him that those who read the book would do his public relations work for him?
In those same press materials, “Johnny” says that if the league found him out, “they’d destroy me.”
But ultimately, the revelations in the book are not all that sordid. There is nothing overtly illegal alleged, more just the day-to-day issues between players and coaches. The one piece that may have taken me the most by surprise was the freely admitted use of Toradol, for which former players had sued the league for overuse of heading into the 2014 season, the one described in the book, on page 142.
“Before the game I took three Toradols, the NFL player’s current pain pill of choice. Doctors recommend that you only take one, but my trainers tell me three. Legal? Sure. Good for me? Highly unlikely.”
Given the bad press around the drug and FDA inspections that line up nearly to the day with the timeline in the book, that admission raises eyebrows. Especially once the dots are connected to “Johnny’s” team.
It would seem impossible for such a player to return to his team after trashing his coaches and fellow teammates, and making allegations about potential medical malpractice. But woven throughout the book is the theme that he really just wants to quit, focus on the restaurants he purchased with his dad, move on from football. Considering that he’s already written a book and has a gig contributing to Funny or Die, one can’t help but think the hope is to not really be Johnny Anonymous after all.