Frank Deford

Writer and commentator Frank Deford is the author of sixteen books. His latest novel, Bliss, Remembered, is a love story set at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and in World War II. Publishers Weekly calls it a "thought-provoking...and poignant story, utterly charming and enjoyable." Booklist says Bliss, Remembered is "beautifully written...elegantly constructed...writing that is genuinely inspiring."

On radio, Deford may be heard as a commentator every Wednesday on NPR's Morning Edition and, on television, he is the senior correspondent on the HBO show RealSports With Bryant Gumbel. In magazines, he is Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated.

Moreover, two of Deford's books — the novel Everybody's All-American and Alex: The Life Of A Child, his memoir about his daughter who died of cystic fibrosis — have been made into movies. Two of his original screenplays, Trading Hearts and Four Minutes, have also been filmed.

As a journalist, Deford has been elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. Six times Deford was voted by his peers as U.S. Sportswriter of The Year. The American Journalism Review has likewise cited him as the nation's finest sportswriter, and twice he was voted Magazine Writer of The Year by the Washington Journalism Review.

Deford has also been presented with the National Magazine Award for profiles, a Christopher Award, and journalism Honor Awards from the University of Missouri and Northeastern University, and he has received many honorary degrees. The Sporting News has described Deford as "the most influential sports voice among members of the print media," and the magazine GQ has called him, simply, "the world's greatest sportswriter."

In broadcast, Deford has won both an Emmy and a George Foster Peabody Award. ESPN presented a television biography of Deford's life and work, "You Write Better Than You Play." A popular lecturer, Deford has spoken at more than a hundred colleges, as well as at forums, conventions and on cruise ships around the world.

For sixteen years, Deford served as national chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and he remains chairman emeritus. Deford is a graduate of Princeton University, where he has taught in American Studies.

Pages

Sweetness And Light
1:55 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Pete Rose Should Enter The Hall Of Fame With Ichiro Suzuki

Former baseball player Pete Rose at a boxing event in Oakland, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2012.
Jeff Chiu AP

Originally published on Wed August 14, 2013 9:16 am

In Japan, a noren is a short curtain that hangs to the entrance of a little teahouse or restaurant. It is not solid, but made of strips, and so when you go through it, your hand goes first, then your arm, and the rest of you, but quickly the strips fall back into place, and it is as if a wisp, a ghost, a sprite has passed through.

I always visualized Ichiro Suzuki that way, slipping from Japanese baseball to our major leagues so effortlessly, barely stirring the air.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
1:12 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Dick Kazmaier, 'A Honey Of A Guy'

Dick Kazmaier of Princeton University poses with the Heisman Trophy at New York's Downtown Athletic Club before the official presentation in 1951. Kazmaier, the last Ivy Leaguer to win the Heisman Trophy, died on Thursday.
John Rooney AP

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 5:24 am

You may never have heard of Dick Kazmaier. After all, he played in the Ivy League, never went to the NFL and filled a position, tailback, in a formation, the single-wing, that has long since disappeared.

But as the years have passed, that is what makes Kazmaier so special: that he best represented another time, when there was more whimsy and capriciousness to college athletics.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
3:33 am
Wed July 31, 2013

Why Would You Volunteer For Next Year's Super Bowl?

Super Bowl volunteer Ben Schreiber distributes fan guides to any of the thousands of people who may need them while visiting Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI festivities, in 2012.
Chad Ryan CSM /Landov

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 1:40 pm

I read the other day that 16,000 people have been recruited as volunteers for next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey, and suddenly it occurred to me: the Super Bowl is one of the great financial bonanzas of modern times. From the players to the networks to the hotels, everybody involved with it makes a killing. Why would anybody volunteer to work for free for the Super Bowl? Would you volunteer to work free for Netflix or Disneyworld?

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

NCAA Should 'Bolster And Reinforce' African-American Players

Jaimie D. Travis iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed July 24, 2013 11:59 am

"And this is a long-term project: We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement." President Obama

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Clap If You Believe In Roger Maris

Davis says that in his opinion, Roger Maris (above) is the all-time home run record holder. Maris hit 61 homers in 1961.
AP

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 5:08 am

In 1961 the American League schedule was lengthened by eight games to 162, and it was about this time that summer that the commissioner –– of whom it was once written, "An empty cab drove up to the curb and Ford Frick got out" –– declared that even if some player broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs, it would not count if he needed more games than Ruth had had.

So, when Roger Maris hit his 61st in the last game of the longer season, the distinction did not displace Ruth in the record books but was merely listed along with The Babe's lesser number.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Football Needs A Guardian, Not A CEO

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference at the NFL football spring meetings in Boston two months ago. Can he save our American sport from becoming a gladiator game?
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 8:03 am

Aaron Hernandez, who appears to be a monster, can no more be held up as representative of football than can Oscar Pistorius be fairly presented as an archetype of track and field.

But still, Hernandez does become a culminating figure. The sport is simply more and more identified with violence, both in its inherent nature and in its savage personnel.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
2:58 am
Wed July 3, 2013

Roger Federer: Leave While He's Good Or Play Because He Can?

Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts during his Gentlemen's Singles second round match against Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine on day three of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 26.
Mike Hewitt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 3, 2013 9:52 am

It's been a week but tennis fans are still talking about the big loss of a big favorite at Wimbledon. This is sports drama, a heartbreaking soap opera as only Frank Deford can imagine it:

She brushed her fallen golden locks from off her forehead and turned away, not letting him see that she was fighting off tears.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
5:00 am
Wed June 26, 2013

Let's Separate The Schoolin' From The Sports

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed June 26, 2013 11:13 am

We usually think of college sports in terms of classic big-time schools, polls and bowls.

But, in fact, our athletics are intertwined with — and complicate — all higher education.

The University of North Carolina, Wilmington provides a typical recent case. The Seahawks field teams in 19 Division One sports, but unfortunately, like many colleges, UNCW athletics are in the red, so the chancellor, Gary L. Miller, assembled a committee, which recommended the elimination of five sports: men's and women's swimming, men's cross country and indoor track and softball.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
3:23 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Tick Tock: Make The Serve, Pitch, Putt Or Shot

Two fans catch a nap during a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals last month in Milwaukee.
Tom Lynn Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 9:40 am

In Milwaukee, cartoon characters dressed up like various sausages race at each Brewers' game; in Washington, five of our beloved presidents do their own bratwurst ramble. But the character I want to appear at every baseball game –– and at a couple of other sports, too, is ...

tick-tock,tick-tock

... the crocodile from Peter Pan who swallowed a clock and shadows a terrified Capt. Hook.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Basketball: The 'Ultimate Contradiction'

In basketball, as in life, we may dutifully celebrate the aggregate, but we'™re always spellbound by the exceptional.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 5:53 am

Basketball offers its fans the ultimate contradiction. On the one hand, it's the sport that most depends on its stars. On the other, it's the most intimate — even organic — of all the team games, with its players more fundamentally involved with one another. Both of these opposing realities are rooted in the same base.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Take Golf Out Of The Rough, Into The 21st Century

Write This Down: Keeping your own score does not make you more noble, says Frank Deford.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 9:20 am

When my old pal the Sports Curmudgeon had some mildly churlish things to say about golf a few weeks ago, both he and I were upbraided by loyal linksters. As one snapped at me, "You don't know anything about golf."

Perhaps.

But I know all about golf propaganda.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:04 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Backing Becks: Don't Knock The Soccer Star's Talents

David Beckham spent six years in the U.S. with the LA Galaxy before returning to Europe earlier this year.
Fred Dufour AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 9:29 am

The most unforgiving criticism in sport is directed at any athlete who fans believe is celebrated too excessively above his true talent level — especially those stars who are gloried because they're such pretty people.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
3:32 am
Wed May 15, 2013

No. 1s: The Latest Greatest Of All Time

Watch The Throne: Not so long ago Michael Jordan was the GOAT. Now, there's a groundswell to ordain LeBron James as the greatest-of-all-time basketball player.
Fred Jewell/Alan Diaz AP

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 6:19 am

The Great Gatsby is on the screen again, re-opening the perennial debate about whether or not it is the great American novel. Or was that Huckleberry Finn? Or are we still waiting for the great American novel? Is the title vacant, like most recent Tour de France championships? In the arts, the argument over the great American novel is a rather unusual great fuss about the greatest. In most disciplines there simply doesn't seem to be a passion to constantly assess who's No. 1. Except, except ...

Except in sport.

Read more
Sports
10:03 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Ladies, Want Women's Sports To Get More Attention? Pony Up

Indiana Fever guard Erin Phillips (right) drives past Phoenix Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner during the first half of their WNBA basketball game Aug. 25.
Matt York AP

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 11:47 am

Fans of women's sports often maintain that female athletics get short shrift from the media, so it had to be something of a surprise gift when ESPN presented the start of the WNBA's draft live.

This happened as it was announced that after two abject failures in the past decade, yet another professional soccer league for women will dare venture forth in the United States.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Get Off My Lawn! And Other Grumblings About Sports Today

iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 10:51 am

My friend the Sports Curmudgeon called me the other day: "Hey, Frank, I got a few things to get off my chest." He was about to take off on a Fantasy Fan cruise, where devoted sports buffs are drafted as fans for desperate losing teams, but he promised to text me his complaints once the ship got out to sea.

Sure enough, here came the Sports Curmudgeon's latest rants.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
2:55 am
Wed April 17, 2013

The Pitch For More No. 42s

Jackie Robinson during spring training at Vero Beach, Fla., in March 1956. It would be Robinson's 10th and last year with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 2:46 pm

Yet another movie about Jackie Robinson arrived as baseball held its annual commemorative celebration of No. 42, but officials of the game are fretting over the fact that only 8 1/2 percent of current major leaguers are black.

Given that African-Americans only constitute about 13 percent of the U.S. population, and that rarely do we have any industry or school system or community population that correlates exactly to the whole country's racial or ethnic makeup, baseball's somewhat smaller black cohort hardly seems like an issue to agonize over.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

Tiger At The Masters: The Juncture Of Exhilaration And Peril

Tiger Woods spends some time on the driving range during Monday's practice round for the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 7:20 am

Let us now ponder the exquisite status of Tiger Woods, who has clawed back to the top of the charts thereby to proclaim, with the help of his Nike mouthpiece, that his ragged and raw past few years never really happened because — ta-da –– as his ad says: "Winning takes care of everything."

And yes, indeed, he is No. 1 in the rankings again. And, too, he has a beautiful new girlfriend, although, of course, I will not mention her name here, so as not to be a member of what he calls the "stalkerazzi."

Read more
Sports
10:03 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Baseball Isn't Dead; It Just Takes More Work To Appreciate

Some say baseball is too slow and doesn't appeal to young people. Not Frank Deford.
Rodolfo Arguedas iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 8:19 am

It being the start of baseball season, that means we've been inundated by predictions — who'll win the divisions and the pennants and the World Series? We know two things on this subject. In every sport, at the start of the season, the experts are bound and determined to make these long-range predictions. And second, they are invariably wrong.

Read more
Sports
10:03 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

It's Been An Ugly Year For College Basketball

This photo illustration released by Adidas shows the uniforms for NCAA basketball teams (from left) University of Cincinnati, University of Kansas, University of Notre Dame, Baylor University, UCLA and the University of Louisville.
Aaron Hewitt AP

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 4:40 am

There once was a wise old basketball coach named Arad McCutchan who led the Evansville Purple Aces to five national championships in the small-college division, dressing his Purple Aces in bright orange T-shirts. I've been reminded of this recently as a number of grubby athletic directors have sold out to the sporting goods companies, allowing their teams to be costumed in the most hideous outfits.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

What's The Score On Spirited Sports Banter At Bars?

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 9:30 am

The more I travel, the more I see sports bars. They've been around for years, usually in obvious places, like in college towns or near arenas.

But now they're everywhere, even in airports and hotels, places where you'd expect generic bars. Sports bars are becoming ubiquitous and ordinary — merely, as my wife calls them, public man caves.

All bars, of course, have forever been places where men talk about sports. Other prime saloon subjects include women, the traffic and the weather.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
1:53 am
Wed March 13, 2013

School Bands Should Not Be Entertainment Adjunct For Sports

A marching band performs at halftime on the field during a high school football game.
Jani Bryson iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 5:36 pm

Several years ago I gave a speech in which I mentioned that athletes tended to be the only college students who were awarded scholarships for what is an extracurricular activity.

Afterward, Myles Brand, the late president of the NCAA, told me I was wrong, that many music extracurricular scholarships were awarded at colleges.

Brand and I seldom agreed on much of anything, but I've always found him to be a gentleman. So, I expressed surprise at this claim.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
3:21 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Catholic Universities See True Path To Salvation: Basketball

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova universities have decided to leave the Big East Conference and pursue a new basketball framework.
Todd Taulman iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 11:18 am

I've always felt it's no coincidence that some basketball powerhouses — let us say, off the top of my head, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Indiana — get a few better players because those hoops museums don't do very well with football.

I mean, if I were a big-deal high school recruit, I might very well say to myself, "You know, I'd rather be a Hoosier or a Wildcat or a Jayhawk than I would go someplace where I'm just gonna be a lounge act for the glamorous Mr. Touchdowns."

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Dear College Presidents: Break The NCAA's Vise Grip On Athletes

Ronald Martinez Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 7:37 am

The great social quest in American sport is to have one prominent, active, gay male athlete step forward and identify himself.

But I have a similar quest. I seek one prominent college president to say to her trustees or to the other presidents in his conference: "The NCAA is a sham and disgrace. Let's get out of it."

We know those presidents who disdain the NCAA are out there, but, alas, none dare speak the words that will break the evil spell.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Reminders Flood In: Athletes Are People, Not Heroes

Oscar Pistorius, seen here winning a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, faces charges that he murdered his girlfriend. Pistorius also competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Ben Stansall AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 4:08 pm

These have certainly been dispiriting times for those who admire athletes, who proclaim that sports build character. The horrendous shooting by Oscar Pistorius is of course, in a category mercifully unapproached since the O.J. Simpson case, but the Whole Earth Catalog of recent examples of athletic character-building is certainly noteworthy.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
2:11 am
Wed February 13, 2013

An Oft-Told Tale: The Beauty Queen And The Quarterback

Katherine Webb (left), the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, and McCarron's mother, Dee Dee Bonner (second from left), watch McCarron celebrate after the BCS National Championship college football game on Jan. 7. Webb was caught on camera and announcer Brent Musburger enthusiastically remarked that quarterbacks "get all the good-looking women." ESPN later apologized.
John Bazemore AP

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 6:24 am

Gentlemen of a certain age might make a nostalgic note that today, Valentine's eve, is the 80th birthday of Kim Novak.

One of Miss Novak's most famous movie roles was in Picnic, where she played the gorgeous ingenue who could've married the son of the richest man in town but instead fell for a hunk of a bum who was an old football star.

Picnic is being revived on Broadway, as is Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, where — guess what? — Maggie, played by the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, is married to a hunk of a bum who is a former football star.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
2:01 am
Wed February 6, 2013

It's The Dog Days For America's Sports Dynasties

Maltipoo Shaggy is dressed as a Yankees fan at the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in New York City last year. Commentator Frank Deford says the Yankees are turning into a home for the assisted living.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 10:51 am

Since that devilish little morality saga with Linda Evans and Joan Collins left television in 1989, there have been no dynasties in our world outside of sports.

Today, nobody says that William and Kate are continuing a dynasty or the Kennedys are a dynasty, or the Rockefellers, or even that dreadful ugly chubby family in North Korea.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
1:45 am
Wed January 30, 2013

History Joins The 49ers In Opposing Ray Lewis

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis speaks at a news conference in New Orleans on Monday. The Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. It will be Lewis' last game.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Thu January 31, 2013 9:09 am

When Secretariat won what was certified to be his last race, I went down onto the track at Woodbine, and gauging where he had crossed the finish line, snatched up the last grass that perhaps the greatest thoroughbred ever had laid hooves to in his career.

Read more
Sports
10:03 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Sports Calendar's Black Hole Gives Us Time To Reflect On Sportswriters

According to commentator Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King — shown here during an event at Seton Hall Preparatory Academy in Dec. 2005 — is the champion model of sportswriters.
Tim Larsen AP

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 8:13 am

Sports fans are jealous of sportswriters, because it's a dream job where you get to watch games free, which is, above all, what sports fans want.

Once upon a time this was true. The sportswriters watched games, keeping score, me. . .tic. . . u. . . lous. . . ly, and then wrote it all up, so that the poor devils who had real jobs could read about the games.

Well, that's the way it was.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Love Of Football May Kick America Down The Path Of Ruination

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey lies motionless after he was hit while attempting to catch a pass during a Sept. 23, 2012, game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Heyward-Bey suffered a concussion and neck strain and spent the night in the hospital under observation.
Hector Amezcua AP

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 5:37 am

This may sound far-fetched, but football reminds me of Venice. Both are so tremendously popular, but it's the very things that made them so that could sow the seeds of their ruin.

Venice, of course, is so special because of its unique island geography, which, as the world's ecosystem changes, is precisely what now puts it at risk. And as it is the violent nature of football that makes it so attractive, the understanding of how that brutality can damage those who play the game is what may threaten it, even as now the sport climbs to ever new heights of popularity.

Read more
Sweetness And Light
3:17 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Steroid Accusations Likely To Bench Baseball Hall Of Fame Candidates

Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees on Oct. 16. Morris is a candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 6:26 am

The results of this year's baseball Hall of Fame voting will be revealed on Wednesday.

Given the exit polling, it appears both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, as well as other candidates stained by accusations of steroid use, will not be admitted.

Among other reasons for not voting for them, I would suspect that accusations against Lance Armstrong for using performance-enhancing drugs in cycling is bound to have some carry-over effect. At a certain point, when the circumstantial evidence for drug use is so compelling, who can possibly believe these guys?

Read more

Pages