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.

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8:03pm

Tue June 12, 2012
Sweetness And Light

The Language of Baseball: In Is Out And Foul Is Fair

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 6:14 am

Pittsburgh Pirates fans reach for a foul ball hit into the stands by Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals in the seventh inning of a game in Pittsburgh.
Keith Srakocic AP

Baseball historians continue to poke around in the 19th century to better explain how the game was originated and developed, but I've always wondered if one of the prime movers wasn't a student of Shakespeare.

While I certainly don't know the terminology of all ball games, the popular ones I'm aware of — everything from basketball and football to golf and tennis — all use some variations of the words in and out when determining whether the ball is playable.

Only baseball is different.

"Fair is foul and foul is fair; Hover through the fog and filthy air."

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12:57am

Wed June 6, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Please Sir, I'd Rather Have Another

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 10:07 am

Triple Crown hopefull I'll Have Another is ridden by exercise rider Jonny Garcia during a morning workout at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Al Bello Getty Images

To be perverse, I'd suggest that for the horse-racing industry, it'd be best that I'll Have Another does not — yes, does not — win the Triple Crown this Saturday.

Oh, certainly, absolutely every year you want a horse to win the first two races — the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — so that suspense builds and a horse has a chance to win the Belmont and take the Triple Crown. But isn't it better to have the potential winner barely get beat so that the losing streak continues, building interest?

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8:02pm

Tue May 29, 2012
Sweetness And Light

In Europe's High Season For Sports, Soccer Rules

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 6:04 am

Larger Than Life: Tourists pose in front of a UEFA Euro 2012 Cup placard on Kiev's Independence Square in Ukraine. Europe is entering a packed sports schedule — but soccer still reigns supreme, says Frank Deford.
Sergei Supinsky AFP/Getty Images

It's a prime irony that while Europe is suffering a great financial crisis, in counterpoint, the Continent is starting to spend the summer awash in a veritable plethora of joyous sporting events, a rolling athletic circus to divert Europeans from Angela Merkel telling them to get serious and tighten their belts.

Now, as is the case every summer, there are two Grand Slam tennis championships — the French Open, which is already under way, and Wimbledon. Then the Tour de France and British Open golf.

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1:23am

Wed May 23, 2012
Sweetness And Light

NBA And NHL Playoffs: Does Anyone Really Care?

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 6:23 am

Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs have won 18 games in a row as they head into the NBA's Western Conference Finals. But Frank Deford wants to know: Has anyone noticed?
Harry How Getty Images

It's the climax of the hockey and basketball seasons, but both have potential playoff visibility problems. Let me explain.

OK, the NBA first. As you know, basketball is the most individualized, celebrity-ized team game. Like movie stars, the best players are known by their first names: LeBron, Kobe, Dirk. Every basketball superstar wants to take his talents to a hot-dog, big-time market. Or at least marry a Kardashian.

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8:03pm

Tue May 15, 2012
Sweetness And Light

The American Way: Winners And Losers, And No Ties

Originally published on Wed May 16, 2012 6:13 am

Real Salt Lake's Jonny Steele (right) trips Chicago Fire's Sebastian Grazzini during a Major League Soccer matchup. The game ended without a score — one of 11 ties each MLS team is likely to record this season.
John Smierciak AP

Politicians love to boast about American exceptionalism: how special we are from all the merely ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill countries around the globe. I would say that what sets us apart, more all the time, is that we Americans don't like ties.

I don't mean four-in-hands or bow ties, but the ties in games, the ones that somebody once said are "like kissing your sister." Boy, do I agree — and I never even had a sister. Nothing about me is more American than that I don't like ties.

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1:43am

Wed May 9, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Mind Games: Football And Head Injuries

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 6:14 am

Attorney William T. Gibbs (left), and Tregg Duerson, son of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, announce the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL on Feb. 23 in Chicago. The lawsuit accuses the NFL of negligently causing the brain damage that led Duerson to take his own life at 50, by not warning him of the negative effects of concussions.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Even as the great, sad Junior Seau killed himself, more and more other old football players are joining in class action to sue the National Football League. They're claiming, generally, that while the NFL understood — for years — how vulnerable its players were to head injuries, the league did not sufficiently warn players about the danger of concussions.

Nor did the teams first do no harm — instead, allowing players to go back into games when they should have been kept out of the action.

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8:13pm

Tue May 1, 2012
Sweetness And Light

A Horse Of A Different Color

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 12:04 pm

Hansen, ridden by Ramon A. Dominguez, races to the finish to win the March 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York.
Adam Coglianese AP

The 3-year-old champion colt named Hansen will not be the favorite in the Derby Saturday, but most eyes will unavoidably be upon him.

You see, in a field of chestnuts and bays, Hansen is already brilliant white. Well, technically he's a gray, but without boring you with equine pigmentation detail, thoroughbred grays — like the great Native Dancer — turn whiter as they grow older, and Hansen is simply prematurely white, sort of a four-legged Steve Martin.

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1:04am

Wed April 25, 2012
Sweetness And Light

U.S. Women In Golf, Tennis: Where Are You?

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 6:10 am

Yani Tseng of Taiwan hits a bunker shot to the ninth green during the second round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Hawaii.
Jeff Gross Getty Images

Here's today's sports question: Who are Victoria Azarenka and Yani Tseng?

Give up? Well, they only happen to be the No. 1 women's tennis player and golfer in the world. If you don't know them, you're obviously a sexist fantasy football zealot.

No, no, I'll give you a pass.

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8:03pm

Tue April 17, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Those Wild And Crazy Miami Marlins

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 5:59 am

Billy the Marlin cheers during a game between the Miami Marlins and the Houston Astros at Marlins Park in Miami.
Mike Ehrmann Getty Images

Can I give you a word I love that you just don't hear anymore?

Zany.

It used to be that all kinds of stuff was described as "zany," but it seems to have mostly gone out for fancier words like "dysfunctional."

Now, I bring this up because most sports franchises are pretty standard issue. Oh, some are rich, some poor, some win, some lose, but only one currently, to my mind, descends to the dear old level of zany. That is the Miami Marlins, formerly the Florida Marlins, or, now, as I like to call them, given their location in Little Havana, Los Zany-os.

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8:00pm

Tue April 10, 2012
Sweetness And Light

The NCAA: Is Membership Worth It?

Originally published on Wed April 11, 2012 5:41 am

NCAA President Mark Emmert delivers his State of the Association speech on Jan. 12 during the organization's annual convention in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings AP

Just as the public has lately been surprised to discover that football is really a very perilous game for your head, those Americans who do not pay that much attention to sports have been brought up short recently to learn better what an incredibly hypocritical and autocratic cartel is the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

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12:30am

Wed April 4, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Is It Time To Tone Down The Tiger Woods Coverage?

Originally published on Wed April 4, 2012 12:47 pm

Tiger Woods at a practice round ahead of the 2012 Masters Tournament, which begins Thursday in Augusta, Ga. Woods receives the lion's share of press coverage despite his poor record over the past several years.
Streeter Lecka Getty Images

Hearing about golf these past couple of years has turned into some sort of dual universe. On the one hand there is the real world, like: "Smith and Jones Tied for Lead in Cat Food Open."

But then, in more detail, the larger shadow story reads: "Tiger's Putter Falters, Trails By 12 Strokes."

Golf has become like fantasy football or Rotisserie Baseball. Only, imagine if everybody has the same guy — Tiger Woods — on his team. No other golfers seem to exist, except possibly The Ghost of Jack Nicklaus.

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10:01pm

Tue March 27, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Watching College Basketball's Slump Into Anonymity

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 8:31 am

Duke freshman Austin Rivers, seen here in the Blue Devils' loss to Lehigh in the NCAA tournament, is leaving school for the NBA draft. The trend of athletes spending only one year in college has hurt the sport, says Frank Deford.
Streeter Lecka Getty Images

This year's Final Four seems more like Best in Show at the Westminster. Such pedigree: Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville –– four of the very top dogs in the history of the sport. Well, it's a Meryl Streep kind of year, isn't it?

But if the Final Four might delight fans by giving them aristocracy in its teams, unfortunately the whole of college basketball is plagued by anonymity in its players, and external issues that have diminished the popularity of the game.

Good grief. This year, there has been more buzz about Mad Men than about March Madness.

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2:08am

Wed March 21, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Americans Hit The Brakes On NASCAR

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 10:25 am

Drivers practice for the Budweiser Shootout at the NASCAR Nextel Cup Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Fla.
Jamie Squire Getty Images

Individual sports are always volatile, and after being the next big thing, NASCAR's popularity has stalled.

A lot had to do with the economy. In a sport that depends on sponsorships and rich owners — like those good buddies Mitt Romney kicks tires with --– NASCAR was especially vulnerable.

And as for fans, when it became cutback time, they had to think twice about gassing up those big old RVs and driving a far piece to sit in those ear-shattering stadiums.

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10:01pm

Tue March 13, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Calling Foul: In Basketball, Crunch Time Goes Limp

In the closing minutes of a game last month, Purdue University's Robbie Hummel was fouled by Penn State's Matt Glover. College basketball needs to find ways to make its games' final moments more exciting, says Frank Deford.
Michael Conroy AP

One thing that distinguishes most team sports is that the game is suddenly played differently at the end. Often, this adds to the fascination, too. Nothing, for example, gets a rise out of me like when the hockey goalie skates off the ice with a minute or so to go, his team down a goal, leaving an open net.

In championship soccer, tie games go to a shoot-out, which is totally alien with all that came before. Neat stuff.

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10:01pm

Tue March 6, 2012
Sweetness And Light

What Baseball Really Needs: Mr. Personality

Originally published on Wed March 7, 2012 5:36 am

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine watches over a baseball spring training workout.
David Goldman AP

Coaches and managers, as a group, have always been pretty straightforward types. We don't think of generals or preachers as humorists — and, after all, that's pretty much what coaches are, a hybrid of the military and the pulpit.

But at least in the past, there were always a fair complement of coaching characters: old cracker-barrel philosophers, feisty wise guys and even a few sardonic intellectuals.

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10:01pm

Tue February 28, 2012
Sweetness And Light

100 Points, One Game: A Basketball Record Turns 50

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 9:02 am

Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors poses in the dressing room after he scored 100 points in a game against the New York Knickerbockers on March 2, 1962.
Paul Vathis AP

Dave Zinkoff — or simply "The Zink" — was perhaps the most distinctive public address announcer in sports when, years ago, he called games in Philadelphia, especially for the city's NBA teams. Just his declaring that there were two minutes left in the quarter made you feel that, never mind that quarter, doomsday was but 120 seconds away.

But nothing The Zink cried out was so resounding as when Wilt Chamberlain would make an emphatic slam.

"Dipper dunk!" he would holler.

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8:00pm

Tue February 21, 2012
Sweetness And Light

When There's More To Winning Than Winning

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 11:28 am

Senior Cory Weissman (center) of Gettysburg College, takes his second free-throw shot in a Division III Centennial Conference game against Washington College.
Tommy Riggs Gettysburg College

When last we left the NCAA, it was February madness, colleges were jumping conferences, suing each other, coaches were claiming rivals had cheated in recruiting — the usual nobility of college sports.

And then, in the midst of all this, the men's basketball team at Washington College of Chestertown, Md., journeyed to Pennsylvania to play Gettysburg College in a Division III Centennial Conference game.

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10:00pm

Tue February 14, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Looking For Lin In All The Wrong Places

Jeremy Lin chases the loose ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis. Lin is one of the few Asian-Americans in NBA history.
Jim Mone AP

By now, most everybody knows Michael Lewis' story of Moneyball — best-selling book or Oscar-nominated film — about the poor little franchise in Oakland that learned how to compete against the big-city rich teams by discovering overlooked players.

The maestro of this policy, Billy Beane, is an endearing character, but I've never been all that charmed by the story, because Beane was just employing cold statistics. Oh, he was right, but it was like rooting for a guy at the blackjack tables who counts cards.

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8:00pm

Tue February 7, 2012
Sweetness And Light

For Love And The Game, A Star Shines In Delaware

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 11:11 am

Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, seen here during a game against Princeton, made headlines when she turned her back on the University of Connecticut.
Mel Evans AP

Imagine being not only the best high school player in the country — probably the world — and signing to play for the best college program in the country, but then walking away from the sport. Why would any kid do that?

But, of course, Elena Delle Donne did exactly that, and the reason she did is simply that she did not want to be away from her older sister.

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10:01pm

Wed February 1, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Signing Day: Like Christmas For College Sports

Originally published on Wed February 1, 2012 10:03 pm

Ahead of signing day, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham of Springfield, Mo., was the highest-ranking recruit who had yet to announce his college choice. Here, he visits a basketball game at the University of Missouri.
L.G. Patterson AP

Well, here we are starting February, with the single most important day in sports upon us.

No, of course I don't mean a silly little thing like Super Bowl Sunday. But today, the first Wednesday of the second month, is by some sort of — what, pagan lunar calendar? –– officially decreed National Signing Day, when all over America, high school seniors can officially plight their troth to a college football program.

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