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
4:58 am
Wed July 29, 2015

Deford To Hollywood: Ban Boxing Movies

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Southpaw, a new film about a junior middleweight boxing champion who faces adversity.
Scott Garfield The Weinstein Company

Some people wanna ban boxing. I just wanna ban boxing movies.

You get the feeling sometimes that Hollywood still thinks Joe Louis is heavyweight champion and boxing is still top-tier popular? Yes, there's yet another boxing movie out, this one entitled Southpaw.

Oh, please, please. Making boxing movies when boxing is so passé would be like if Hollywood kept making showbiz movies about vaudeville.

Click the audio above to hear Frank Deford's take on movies about boxing.

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Sweetness And Light
4:57 am
Wed July 22, 2015

For Love Or Money: Fans And Businesses Flock To Fantasy Sports

Kelly Hirano, vice president of engineering, demonstrates the Yahoo Sports Daily Fantasy contest during a product launch in July in San Francisco. Yahoo has designed this experience for the mobile fantasy player and offers Daily Fantasy, Full Season Fantasy, and real-time sports news and scores as an all-in-one experience.
Eric Risberg AP

Originally published on Wed July 22, 2015 7:59 pm

In the famous Disney movie, a carpenter named Geppetto longed to have a son. He carved a puppet of a boy, and, wouldn't you know it, the wooden Pinocchio magically became a real child. Fantasy games are the Pinocchio of sport, for all who play them become Geppettos. Isn't it the dream of every fan to construct his or her own team, as Geppetto wanted to carve out a son?

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Sweetness And Light
4:00 am
Wed July 15, 2015

For Women's Sports To Soar, Female Fans Must Show Support

Head coach Jill Ellis of the United States celebrates with fans after the USA's 5-2 victory against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final in July.
Kevin C. Cox Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 15, 2015 8:52 am

Soccer owns sports nationalism. There are world championships and continental championships in all kinds of sports, but when it comes to countries playing against each other, soccer's tournament is more spectacular than all the others put together. Hey, win the World Cup, baby, you're ticker tape on Broadway.

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Sweetness And Light
5:07 am
Wed July 1, 2015

All-Star Games Are Worthless If The Players Are Not All-Stars

A giant All-Star Game sign at Great American Ballpark during a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, on May 30 in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Wed July 1, 2015 5:06 pm

For those of you who haven't got your baseball All-Star ballot in, don't panic, you have until Thursday. It's convenient. You can get a ballot off the Internet, and here's the good news: You can vote 35 times.

Understand what I'm saying? Each fan can cast 35 votes. Where that magic figure comes from, I don't know. Why not 3,500 apiece? Or 35,000?

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Sweetness And Light
5:03 am
Wed June 24, 2015

The Quieter Sports Season, And Why Tennis Needs Caddies

Marcel Granollers (left) and Roger Federer leave the court at the U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y., last August. Commentator Frank Deford says with all that baggage, tennis needs caddies.
Leslie Billman Ai Wire/Landov

Originally published on Wed June 24, 2015 8:05 am

Ah, it's summer, and sport is of a sweeter sort now — don't you think? For instance, of all the jobs in sport, I think maybe the best is retrieving foul balls. The boys and girls in that job get to wear uniforms and gloves, but mostly they just sit and occasionally gather up a foul ball, then give it away to some happy fan. Isn't that a neat job?

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Sweetness And Light
5:04 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Awards For Athletes Should Honor Unsung Heroes

American tennis champion Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. (1943 - 1993) was the first black player to win a major men's tennis tournament in 1985.
Keystone Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 7:34 pm

Something of a cause célèbre has developed because ESPN has decided to present the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner. The ceremony will take place at its annual ESPYs award show in July.

Around 1980, shortly after I had helped Ashe write an autobiography, I got a call from the leader of a powerful political faction. The group wanted to increase its appeal to minorities by presenting an award to a tennis player who aided the cause of minorities in the sport. They asked if I would chair a committee to select such a person.

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Sweetness And Light
3:32 am
Wed May 27, 2015

For Sports Immortality, The 3rd Or 4th Time's The Charm

Serena Williams serves the ball to Andrea Hlavackova during the first round of the French Open in Paris.
Christophe Ena AP

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 10:56 am

There is hardly a sport that has not named a version of its annual multiple championships. Two wins is not enough; you have to win three (a "Crown") or four (a "Grand Slam"). For example, if you win the three major races in thoroughbred racing, it's called the Triple Crown. In men's and women's tennis and men's golf, to win all four majors is to earn a Grand Slam.

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Sweetness And Light
3:29 am
Wed May 20, 2015

The Other Sacred Thing Tom Brady Squashed: Sportsmanship

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks to the sideline during this year's Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.
Christian Petersen Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 12:09 pm

Sport may be dismissed as inconsequential child's play, but there is, in counterpoint, the ideal that sport is our best model for human fairness and equality — a Garden of Eden with competition. But, of course, there are snakes in this athletic garden. Rules will be broken.

To my mind there are, in ascending order, three kinds of transgressions. The first is the most simple: transgressions committed in the heat of the action, instinctively, because of frustration, failure or anger. There are referees to tend to that misconduct.

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Sweetness And Light
3:23 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Was 'Deflategate' About Tom Brady's Legacy Or His Ego?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. on May 7, 2015. An NFL investigation has found that New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs and Brady was "at least generally aware" of the rules violations. Now, he faces a four-game suspension and the Patriots a $1 million fine.
Charles Krupa AP

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 10:11 am

Here's a question to ponder over your morning coffee: Why?

Why would the New England Patriots' Tom Brady get involved in a scandal? This week, Brady, who has denied any wrongdoing, was suspended four games for his alleged involvement in lowering the pressure in the footballs he threw in a playoff game.

Yet he did not seem to need to cheat to win.

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Sweetness And Light
5:03 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Athletes Want To Talk To Fans Without Meddlesome Sports Journalists

Derek Jeter attends the launch party for his new website, The Players' Tribune, on Feb. 14 in New York City. The site is a platform for athletes to talk directly to fans.
Timothy Hiatt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 10:25 am

It's interesting to note the major differences in the way the media deals with sports stars and entertainment celebrities in public.

When entertainment personalities are interviewed, they are dressed to the nines, and the interrogation consists mostly of compliments. Athletes, however, are interviewed all grubby and sweaty, and primarily, they are rudely asked to explain themselves. Why did you strike out? How could you have possibly dropped that pass?

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Sweetness And Light
3:54 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Boxing Fans Shift Focus To Small Men, Big Money

The MGM Grand marquee is reflected in an escalator with advertising for the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, which will take place Saturday in Las Vegas.
John Locher AP

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 8:51 am

It was long an article of faith among sport cognoscenti that nothing in athletics approached the sheer electric drama and glamour of a heavyweight championship fight.

Well, if you missed it, they had one of those in no less a shrine than Madison Square Garden on Saturday. You could have watched it on plain old TV if you were not already analyzing the NFL draft, following the NBA or NHL playoffs or watching the baseball season unfold. Poor, ignored heavyweights.

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Sweetness And Light
3:48 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Bruce Jenner's Long History Of Clearing Hurdles

Decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner throws the javelin during an Olympic competition in Montreal on July 30, 1976.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 22, 2015 9:03 am

In an interview airing Friday on ABC, Bruce Jenner is expected to announce that he is transgender, though he has made no such acknowledgment.

As the public awaits his presumed revelations, Jenner is still invariably and glibly identified by his paternal connection to the Kardashian clan. It's presented almost anecdotally that he won the gold medal for the Olympic decathlon — the 10-event classic of track and field athleticism — in 1976. But back then, he was a glorified champion and called "the world's greatest athlete."

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Sweetness And Light
3:43 am
Wed April 15, 2015

As American Sports Skew More Armcentric, Throwing Injuries Rise

Texas Rangers relief pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla throws during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on March 4, in Surprise, Ariz. He is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery this week.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 8:11 am

Whatever happened to rotator cuffs? It seems like just yesterday that every pitcher who was injured had a problem with his rotator cuff. But baseball player injuries now invariably require something called "Tommy John surgery," which has become epidemic.

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Sweetness And Light
3:50 am
Wed April 8, 2015

Deford: Americans Don't Care About Major League Soccer

New York Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall (third from left) reacts toward the crowd after teammate Lloyd Sam scores during an MLS soccer game against D.C. United on March 22 in Harrison, N.J. The Red Bulls won 2-0.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 3:30 pm

Wherever you stand on the matter of American exceptionalism, there is one indisputable fact: We are the exception when it comes to soccer. For just about every other nation, soccer is the sport — a far, far better thing than the American dollar, beer, Google or sex. Alas, in the United States, soccer has been more commonly identified with soccer moms than soccer players.

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Sweetness And Light
3:56 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Remembering Legendary NBA Announcer 'Hot Rod' Hundley

"Hot Rod" Hundley (right) does postgame commentary with Ron Boone after the Utah Jazz-Seattle SuperSonics game on May 5, 2000, in Salt Lake City.
Douglas C. Pizac AP

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 5:22 pm

The inimitable "Hot Rod" Hundley died last week at age 80. He will be remembered as a great announcer, even though he was also an All-American basketball player. He messed it up after just six years in the NBA when he forgot about concentrating on the fun and games.

"You gotta love it, baby" was his signature call for the 35 years he broadcast games for the NBA Jazz. Even when he was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, he was already trying out expressions, mimicking announcers and working on punch lines.

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Sweetness And Light
4:23 am
Wed March 25, 2015

'Borland Effect' A Fumble For Football? Deford Says It Will Pass

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, center, during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif. Borland announced that he will retire after just one season to protect himself from brain injuries.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 8:18 am

Once again, the question of the NFL's pre-eminence — even existence — has been raised with the retirement of Chris Borland, a very good player, who has walked away from the game and millions of dollars at the age of 24 in order to preserve his health, or more specifically, his brain.

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Sweetness And Light
3:09 am
Wed March 18, 2015

News From The Charity Stripe

Arizona State fans showcase their Curtain of Distraction during a game against UCLA on Feb. 18 in Tempe, Ariz.
Rick Scuteri AP

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 12:23 pm

It's the venerable custom in tennis and golf for the crowd to be still and quiet when players hit their shots.

Now, since even ordinary baseball batters have some success hitting against 98 mph fastballs with 40,000 fans standing and screaming, do you really believe that great athletes like Novak Djokovic or Rory McIlroy couldn't serve or putt with a few thousand fans hollering? If they'd grown up playing tennis or golf that way, that is. When disorder is a sustaining part of the game, players, in effect, put it out of their minds. Hear no evil, see no evil.

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Sweetness And Light
3:35 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Deford: NCAA Fans Continue To Drink Deeply Of The (Sports) Spirits

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, right, speaks with an official during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 28
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 7:41 am

OK, after an eight-year investigation, the NCAA hit Syracuse University and its basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, with all sorts of penalties for academic and recruiting violations. Normally in sports media, nobody is particularly surprised whenever any coach is caught, so a great deal of speculation was then diverted to how this might affect Boeheim's "legacy."

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Sweetness And Light
3:34 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Alex Rodriguez Is Back, For Better Or Worse

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez watches from the dugout during an intrasquad game at a spring training baseball workout Monday in Tampa, Fla.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 5:27 pm

One of the very best old-time sports columnists was named Jimmy Cannon. He wrote after Hemingway, tough-guy style, and Jimmy had a lot of original devices, too. One was an occasional column he'd do in what I called the second person impersonal. For example, my favorite was about an aging hitting star when he was in a slump. Cannon began: "Your name is Stan Musial and all your bats are broken."

Now, that's how you start a column. And so, in honor of Jimmy Cannon: Your name is Alex Rodriguez, and nobody likes you.

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Sweetness And Light
4:11 am
Wed February 25, 2015

An Uneventful Week In Sports Could Still Go Down In History

Kurt Busch drives during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 2, 2014. Busch was recently suspended indefinitely amid domestic violence accusations.
Larry Papke AP

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 2:42 pm

Sometime in the future, when the Winter Olympics are being held in the tropics, in Zimbabwe, because there are no other dictators that want them and Robert Mugabe promised the International Olympic Committee he'd build an artificial ski mountain, historians will study what happened in sports during these last few days in February of 2015.

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