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

10:01pm

Tue January 24, 2012
Sweetness And Light

As A Coach, Paterno Was One Of A Kind

Originally published on Wed January 25, 2012 6:20 am

After former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's death was announced Sunday, fans paid their respects at a Paterno statue on campus. Paterno exerted a rare amount of control in his decades coaching football, says Frank Deford.
Patrick Smith Getty Images

Now that Joe Paterno has passed on from Happy Valley, we must ponder whether we will ever see his like again.

But please: I am now, you understand, talking about Coach Paterno. Let us, for the moment, put aside how the old citizen whose credo was "Success with Honor" acted with regard to pedophilia: so without sensitivity, so irresponsibly, so –– ultimately –– cold-bloodedly. That will sully Paterno's memory forever.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue January 17, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Take Your Ball And Go Home? How Dare You!

Originally published on Wed January 18, 2012 6:11 am

"It's not that I've fallen out of love; I've actually never liked sports, and I never understood how I became an athlete," Serena Williams said recently, according to TennisNow.com. "I don't like working out; I don't like anything that has to do with working physically."
Tertius Pickard AP

Now that Tim Tebow is out of hearts and minds, and we can actually turn our attention to other things, let us go clear to the other side of the world. There, a short while ago, while preparing for the Australian Open, Serena Williams said: "I don't love tennis today, but ... I've actually never liked sports."

While her confession might have surprised some, I suspect that even more were irritated, actually angered, that an athlete — a great champion! — could utter such blasphemy.

Read more

10:01pm

Tue January 10, 2012
Sweetness And Light

If You Pay For Cable, You're A Hostage Of Sports

Originally published on Wed January 11, 2012 12:59 am

Even if you don't watch ESPN's Monday Night Football, you help to pay for it if you're a cable subscriber. ESPN's monthly fees are the highest in the business.
Ronald Martinez Getty Images

For the many reasons that the Republican presidential debates have been so popular, the main one is simply that they're live. Happening right before our eyes. When Rick Perry says "Oops," he's saying it just as we're hearing it. Live. Wow: "Oops."

This is why, whether you like sports or not — perhaps you'd desperately prefer NPR to have somebody else right now, talking about something really important, not sports — nonetheless, each month, you're charged about eight bucks on your cable bill for the privilege of not watching sports.

Read more

10:01pm

Tue January 3, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Why The BCS Is The Holy Roman Empire Of Sport

In the Rose Bowl Monday, Oregon defeated Wisconsin, 45-38. And later that night, No. 3 Oklahoma State beat No. 4 Stanford, 41-38. But despite those wins, neither team has a chance to win the BCS championship.
Jeff Gross Getty Images

The Bowl Championship Series climaxes Tuesday, with a game in New Orleans between Louisiana State and Alabama for the national bragging rights to Dixie.

As there is a joke about the Holy Roman Empire — that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire — so can the same be said about the Bowl Championship Series.

It's not a bowl; it's a game played in the Superdome.

It's not a championship, just an exhibition, because the teams have been appointed to show up without earning the right to challenge for the title.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Dear NHL: Hit The Puck, Not The Players

Originally published on Wed December 28, 2011 2:02 pm

Michael Haley of the New York Islanders fights Stu Bickel of the New York Rangers in the first period of an NHL game at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Dec. 26.
Paul Bereswill Getty Images

Ah, we still do the town on New Year's Eve, but tearing the goal posts down is now verboten. Deemed too dangerous. In fact, as our new year approaches, it's a good time to look back on several other things in sport that have long since faded away.

Who remembers, for example, that at the end of each inning in the field, baseball players would just chuck their gloves onto the grass behind their position, leaving the field littered with mitts. All game long.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue December 20, 2011
Sweetness And Light

The NBA Is Bullish On Christmas, By Necessity

The Chicago Bulls mascot, dressed as Santa Claus, dunks during a game last December. The NBA is starting its season on Christmas Day, with a quintuple-header.
Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

This time last year, Phil Jackson, then the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, complained that the NBA scheduled games on Christmas Day. It seemed, he said, that "Christian holidays don't mean anything" any longer.

A few players echoed Jackson's sentiments, but the complaint died aborning. This Christmas, Sunday, the league has scheduled ... (to the tune of "The 12 Days Of Christmas"):

  • 5 gold games,
  • 4 point guards,
  • 3 referees,
  • 2 free throws,
Read more

8:00pm

Tue December 13, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Look, Ma, I'm In The End Zone!

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 8:39 am

Even In Canada: During the CFL's Grey Cup title game in November, Arland Bruce (1) and Andrew Harris of the BC Lions choreographed their moves to celebrate a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Vancouver.
Jeff Vinnick Getty Images

Hear ye, hear ye: The court of public opinion will now come to order in the class-action suit by disturbed football fans against dopey football players who act like imbeciles in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.

Your honor, the plaintiffs call to the stand a man of great taste, good manners and exquisite judgment –– namely, me.

What is this?

Read more

8:00pm

Tue December 6, 2011
Sweetness And Light

For Some Marching Bands, Hazing Means Brutality

The Marching 100, Florida A&M University's band, performs on the field before Super Bowl XLIV, Feb. 7, 2010. The band's director, Julian White, was fired in November after a band member died, allegedly from a hazing incident on a bus.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Every now and then, as a journalist, you want to think that you haven't just done a good "story," but maybe you've actually brought attention to something that can actually do good.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue November 29, 2011
Sweetness And Light

For Two Old Teammates, Risks Of Loyalty Are Real

Originally published on Tue November 29, 2011 10:01 pm

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim (above), two days after sexual abuse allegations against a former assistant were made public, and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (below), during a youth leadership event last year, played alongside each other in the 1960s.
Nate Shron Getty Images

It is not uncommon for outstanding athletes to succeed in later life, but it is rare for teammates, literally playing side by side, both to be in the spotlight almost half a century later.

But such is the case with two old boys from Syracuse, who were roommates as freshmen, went on to become the starting backcourt, saw their lives diverge after college — and now, at an age when most men have retired, are facing two very different but very painful challenges in the professions they've chosen, in the places they love.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue November 22, 2011
Sweetness And Light

An Eternal Tee Time Option For Die-Hard Golfers

For the most avid golf fans, there's now a golf course where they can be laid to rest for all eternity.
iStockphoto.com

The most involved sports fans cannot let a little thing like death get in their way for their devotion to a team.

For several years now it's been possible to buy caskets that feature the logo of your favorite, so that you can lie forever with, say, the emblem of the Chicago Cubs resting right before your sightless eyes. Not perfect, but the best available option.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue November 15, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Is Football Culture The Core Of The Problem?

Originally published on Tue November 15, 2011 10:01 pm

As confounding as was the failure of Penn State officials to act, the consensus explaining the motives for their ignoble behavior is that, first, Joe Paterno didn't want to scar the reputation of himself or his football program; and then, university executives wanted to protect the reputation of the dear old coach and his moneymaking team.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue November 8, 2011
Sweetness And Light

In With The South, Out With The East

Originally published on Thu November 10, 2011 6:44 am

Florida players (from left) Taurean Green, Corey Brewer, Walter Hodge, Joakim Noah and Marreese Speights hold up the Southeastern Conference sign after defeating Arkansas in the SEC basketball tournament championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in 2007.
John Bazemore AP

OK, here's the idea: Greece leaves the EU and jumps to the SEC.

Bingo! With all the television and bowl money it would get, Greece would be solvent again, and the Southeastern Conference would get that big Athens TV market.

You see, everybody talks about how colleges are all switching conferences, but essentially, they all just want to jump to the SEC or whatever best emulates the SEC. It's the Solid South of college football. Once, the South used to control Congress. Now, y'all: the gridiron.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue November 1, 2011
Sweetness And Light

No Love For November, Sports' Drama-Free Month

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 7:03 am

The Presidents Cup, on display in front of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. It's unclear to Frank Deford exactly what the Presidents Cup is — he knows only that it's played in November.

Matt King Getty Images Sport

There's an awful lot of games played in November –– even with the NBA locked out –– but it's really just an in-between month in sports... and life. There are no May-and-November romances, no good November songs. It's sort of a semi-final of a month.

Why are they still playing tennis in November? Let the boys and girls rest up for the summer so they're not all hurt when it matters.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue October 25, 2011
Sweetness And Light

The (Basketball) Show Must Go On

Originally published on Wed October 26, 2011 6:44 am

Fans who are tired of the NBA lockout can get some basketball entertainment from a new show, Lysistrata Jones, which opens on Broadway next month.

Carol Rosegg AP

For those of you desperately missing basketball during the NBA lockout, an antidote to your hoop pangs is on the way: A musical comedy about basketball will open for previews on Broadway on Nov. 12. It's called Lysistrata Jones and is based on the original Lysistrata, which, of course, was written by Aristophanes back in 411 B.C.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue October 18, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Sometimes, One Is Enough

Bored with a best-of-seven series? Frank Deford has some alternative suggestions.

Paul Giamou iStockphoto.com

Sometimes in sports, like in the rest of life, stuff just hangs around because, well, it's always been there. Such is the best-of-seven game series to determine our champions of professional baseball, basketball and hockey.

A seven-game series is a wretched excess, and I'm going to tell you why, but nobody in charge is going to pay any attention to me because a best-of-seven series has just always been the way of the world.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue October 11, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Football Uber Alles. Uber Alles, Football

It's hard to relate America's love for the NFL to the broader national temperament — but the league now dominates all sports. Here, a young Oakland Raiders fan watches his team on a recent Sunday.

Thearon W. Henderson Getty Images

Football is real big. Everybody knows that. But it is getting bigger. Football is now gigantic, monstrous, humongous. Sure, it was years ago that it passed baseball as our most popular sport, but by now it simply looms alone above the American sportscape.

I would rank the U.S. sports entities this way:

  1. The NFL
  2. College football
  3. Fantasy football
  4. Major League Baseball
  5. High school football
  6. The NBA
Read more

8:00pm

Tue October 4, 2011
Sweetness And Light

The Luxurious Revenue College Sports Model

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 10:01 pm

Despite the popularity of college football, according to Frank Deford, only 14 athletic departments show a profit. Why? Because football has to cover the costs of the college sports that lose money.

iStockphoto.com

Hollywood inhabitants always joke that nobody can understand the profit and loss statements of films. There's an old expression: "We shoulda shot the deal instead of the movie — it's got a better plot." The same, it seems to me, could be said of the economics of college athletics.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue September 27, 2011
Sweetness And Light

We're All Just 'Guys'

Opening night for Guys and Dolls on Broadway or, for Frank Deford, "Guys and Guys."
Joe Corrigan Getty Images

As best as I know, I own the distinction of being the first human being to call our national attention to a linguistic phenomenon.

This was back in 1972, in an article in Sports Illustrated about Robyn Smith, who was then the best female jockey in the land. Smith referred to married couples as "you guys." I was so bemused that someone might actually refer to a woman as a guy that I felt obliged to mention it in the piece.

Read more

8:00pm

Tue September 20, 2011
Sweetness And Light

No Respect For The Women On The Sidelines

Originally published on Wed September 21, 2011 2:16 pm

Pam Oliver, sideline reporter for Fox Sports, interviews head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers as he leads his team against the Denver Broncos.
Doug Pensinger Getty Images

Football season has hardly started and fans are already grousing about sideline reporters. To be sure, sideliners now exist in most all sports, and a handful of them –– notably Craig Sager of Turner, who was apparently in town the day the clown died, and thus got all his clothes –– are downright famous. While Sager is best known for basketball, it is football sideline reporters who are most identified with the sport.

Read more

10:01pm

Tue September 13, 2011
Sweetness And Light

The NCAA And The So-Called 'Student-Athlete'

The NCAA lost control of college football contracts in the 1980s, forcing it to rely on fees paid to broadcast its annual basketball tournament. Here, CBS broadcasters Jim Nantz, left, and Clark Kellogg interview North Carolina coach Roy Williams and player Ty Lawson after a 2009 game.
Joe Murphy Getty Images

Sports fans love to designate certain games as "the greatest ever," the "match of the century" and so forth. Well, I would like to state that a piece in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which was released online Tuesday, may well be the most important article ever written about college sports.

Read more

Pages