Review by Budd Bailey
Every so often a movie comes along out of absolutely nowhere and catches on with the general public. The best example of that probably was “Rocky” – the low-budget story of a boxing underdog that caught the imagination of those who saw it.
Rocky, meet Sean Conley – who tells his life story in “The Point After.” I suppose practically everyone who turns up in a National Football League training camp – especially among the free agents who are long shots – has a story to tell. Conley is one of those people.
The native of Erie, Pennsylvania, had a dream of being a professional kicker. To do that, he had to take the long way to success. Long way? An understatement.
Conley joined a Division III program that was just getting started, and somehow made the team … where he put up some of the worst statistics in the country. Even so, he was convinced he could be a quality kicker, and moved over to the University of Pittsburgh where, against all odds, he made the team. Conley put up some good, if not great, numbers at Pitt.
That wasn’t quite enough for Sean, even when his name went uncalled in the 1993 NFL draft. He spent the next few years still trying to grab one of those coveted kicking jobs in the NFL. Conley was so devoted to the idea (ADD plays a role in the story) that he probably overtrained, and suffered some injuries that prevented him from getting even closer to that dream. He had tryouts with Detroit, Indianapolis, and the New York Jets, and even got to kick in a European league for a while. Still, he won’t pop up on the Pro Football Reference website of those who played in at least one NFL game.
Along the way, Sean picked up a wife, Karen, who certainly will be nominated for sainthood for her nonstop support of her husband’s attempt to beat the odds. She also started delivering children along the way, which probably helped deliver some perspective to Sean as he realized that maybe fate wasn’t on his side.
Along the way, though, Conley delivers a excellent and interesting account of the ups and downs of placekicking. The pressure is extraordinary; a couple of bad kicks, which can be caused by hitting the football a fraction of an inch from the sweet spot, can send the kicker to the bench or the unemployment line, depending on the level.
Once Conley gives up on kicking, the book takes a turn away from the sports world. Sean became a salesman but gave that up to help his wife in her yoga studio. Perhaps the ending won’t be as interesting to a football fan, but many who have gone through his journey through the pages of the book will be happy to see that the story turns out nicely as a wiser person emerges. Rocky Balboa learned some lessons along the way, too.
“The Point After” ought to appeal to anyone who has watched a preseason NFL game, looked down at the guys playing in the fourth quarter, and asked, “What motivates these people?” The fact that Conley is so honest and articulate about his feelings along the way helps too. It’s a book that might be a little hard to find outside of Western Pennsylvania. But it’s a nice story, it can be read in a day, and it might just work well for you.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)
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