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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Sweetness And Light
12:01 am
Wed March 7, 2012

What Baseball Really Needs: Mr. Personality

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

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

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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Sweetness And Light
12:01 am
Wed February 29, 2012

100 Points, One Game: A Basketball Record Turns 50

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

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 11:02 am

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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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

When There's More To Winning Than Winning

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

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 1:28 pm

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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Sweetness And Light
12:00 am
Wed February 15, 2012

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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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

For Love And The Game, A Star Shines In Delaware

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

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 1:11 pm

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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Sweetness And Light
12:01 am
Wed January 25, 2012

As A Coach, Paterno Was One Of A Kind

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

Originally published on Wed January 25, 2012 8:20 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Take Your Ball And Go Home? How Dare You!

"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

Originally published on Wed January 18, 2012 8:11 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
2:59 am
Wed January 11, 2012

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

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.

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Sweetness And Light
12:01 am
Wed January 4, 2012

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue December 27, 2011

Dear NHL: Hit The Puck, Not The Players

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

Originally published on Wed December 28, 2011 4:02 pm

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

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,
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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

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

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

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 10:39 am

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?

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

For Two Old Teammates, Risks Of Loyalty Are Real

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

Originally published on Wed November 30, 2011 12:01 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Is Football Culture The Core Of The Problem?

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 12:01 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

In With The South, Out With The East

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

Originally published on Thu November 10, 2011 8:44 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

No Love For November, Sports' Drama-Free Month

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

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 9:03 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

The (Basketball) Show Must Go On

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

Originally published on Wed October 26, 2011 8:44 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue October 11, 2011

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
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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

The Luxurious Revenue College Sports Model

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

Originally published on Wed October 5, 2011 12:01 am

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.

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Sweetness And Light
10:00 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

No Respect For The Women On The Sidelines

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

Originally published on Wed September 21, 2011 4:16 pm

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.

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