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
3:24 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Deford: It's Hard To Write A Christmas Story About Sport

A sculpture at Britannia stadium in the English city of Stoke-on-Trent commemorates the Christmas Truce, a legendary soccer game played between German and British troops in December 1914.
Rui Vieira AP

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:02 am

Several years ago, I wrote a sports Christmas story. It was about a greedy basketball superstar who, imbued with Yuletide cheer, helps save his small-market franchise.

A big-time producer wanted to make a TV movie out of it. So off I went to Hollywood to turn my story into a script and thereby, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, make a killing.

Let me tell you: It's hard to write a Christmas story about sport.

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Sweetness And Light
3:46 am
Wed December 17, 2014

What's A Sportsman Anyway?

San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.
David J. Phillip AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:29 am

Sports Illustrated named its sportsman of the year the other day, Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, which reminded me once again that you only hear the word "sportsman" anymore about the time when Sports Illustrated names its Sportsman of the Year. The term seems so archaic that it would be as if Time magazine annually chose a Gentleman of the Year.

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Sweetness And Light
6:23 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Deford: What's Wrong With Pro Athletes Taking A Stand?

Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms to protest the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., before a game last month. The players faced a backlash from St. Louis police and have been asked to apologize.
L.G. Patterson AP

A common complaint I've long heard was that current athletes were selfish and not politically involved like their passionate forebears –– players like Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Bill Russell and Arthur Ashe.

My response was, "Well, how many of the modern athletes' peers are especially engaged in social controversy?" It wasn't fair to compare the sensibility of the athletes of, say, 1995 or 2005 to those of 1965; the apt comparison is with other members of their own cohort.

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Sweetness And Light
3:22 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Flag On The Play! Playoffs May Shift Focus From Football's Fumbles

Alabama defensive back Nick Perry (right) breaks up a pass on Auburn wide receiver D'haquille Williams (center) as Alabama defensive back Landon Collins looks on during the second half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won 55-44.
Butch Dill AP

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 10:07 am

For years, the great brouhaha in college football was its lack of a real playoff. But at last we have one — the four qualifying teams to be announced Sunday.

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Sweetness And Light
4:15 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Be Thankful This Year For The San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Miami Heat in game five of the NBA finals in June.
Ashley Landis EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 8:53 am

Has there ever been a team in any sport in the United States that everybody loves as much as the San Antonio Spurs? Sure, there have been popular teams — the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cowboys when they were America's team and not Jerry Jones' team, Notre Dame — but all those teams engendered almost as much hate as love.

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Sweetness And Light
3:49 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Outside Of The Games, Are Sports Corrupt?

The executive committee of FIFA — the international organization that regulates soccer — was so suspected of taking bribes that FIFA ordered its own internal investigation. It's no surprise, says Frank Deford, that it found no wrongdoing.
Kirill Kudryavstev AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 9:03 am

We so regularly excuse the chicanery of sport. We fans suspect that our team is just as guilty as whatever ooze bubbles to the surface elsewhere, so let it go lest we be the next one caught. For us privileged to actually be down in the rabbit hole, the sins have been so present for so long, they simply become accepted as a benign part of the landscape. Hey, it's all just fun and games, so go along, be a — well, be a good sport.

Only, every now and then ...

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Sweetness And Light
3:50 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Chicago Or Cleveland: Whose Teams Had More Downs Than Ups?

Joe Tinker of the Chicago Cubs and Bill Bradley of the Cleveland Naps around 1910.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 8:09 am

For those of us in sports who like to wallow in extended misery, this has been one terrific time. The Chicago Cubs hired a popular new manager, reminding us again, interminably, that they have now gone 106 years without winning the championship, eating up 51 managers in the process.

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Sweetness And Light
3:32 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Americana: Hot Dogs, Apple Pie And Football?

Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Karlos Dansby celebrates during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns won 22-17.
David Richard AP

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 7:02 pm

Every election suggests change, so given all the scandals involving football, now's an appropriate time to envision what reforms might be forced upon the sport. Well, I'll tell you: It's tough to mess with football.

Now, to begin with, from hindsight, it was probably misleading to call baseball "the national pastime." The claim was, essentially, based almost entirely on the fact that baseball was the only team sport that boasted a professional presence. The World Series was our World Cup and the Olympics rolled into one.

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Sweetness And Light
5:00 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Start World Series Games Earlier; Let Us Sleep

Fans cheer during the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park.
Rob Carr Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 10:48 am

Let me ask you a question: No matter what the sport, if you could only see the start of a game or the finish of a game, which would you prefer? Of course, any fool would choose to see the finish of the game.

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Sweetness And Light
4:33 am
Wed October 22, 2014

College Football's Big Ten Conference? Try The Littler Ten

Brandon Wells of the Mississippi State Bulldogs takes the field before a game against the Ole Miss Rebels last year.
Stacy Revere Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 10:24 am

Nothing in sport reflects the changing demographics of the country more than college football — most especially the decline of the Big Ten Conference and the ascendance of the Southeastern Conference.

Big Ten territory represents steel mills and coal mines, blue collars and black smoke, where America's pigskin heroes used to be weaned on frozen fields. But the SEC, in the growing Sun Belt, has completely taken over. Mississippi State is the No. 1 team in the country. Excuse me: Mississippi State? This is like Antiques Roadshow soaring to the top of television ratings.

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Sweetness And Light
3:39 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Nonprofit NFL Seeks Super Bowl Volunteers, Again

Super Bowl volunteer Ben Schreiber distributes fan guides for Super Bowl XLVI festivities in 2012.
Chad Ryan CSM/Landov

Originally published on Wed October 15, 2014 2:18 pm

That familiar old preface we so often hear — usually from long-winded people — is: "To make a long story short." I've noticed lately that that expression has become more common, but, to make a long story short, it's been shortened to just "long story short." I'll even bet it's gotten initialed in the text universe to LSS.

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Sweetness And Light
3:17 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Deford: A New Sports Talk Show By Women, But Will People Watch?

NFL sideline reporter Alex Flanagan (center) interviews Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last year.
Mark Zaleski AP

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 12:22 pm

Probably the three biggest recent stories involving women in sports have been Mo'ne Davis, Michele Roberts and Becky Hammon.

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Sweetness And Light
5:10 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Goodbye To All That: Farewells In Sports

Rulon Gardner took off his shoes to symbolize his retirement after defeating Sajad Barzi, of Iran, during the men's Greco-Roman 120kg wrestling bronze medal bout at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 8:04 am

No, no, I promise: This is not about Derek Jeter. May bats fly down my chimney and trolls enter my door if I inflict any more Derek Jeter farewell upon you. But, of course, I am a sentimental creature, and the player whose name dare not be spoken again did gush forth memories of other grand finales.

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Sweetness And Light
4:02 am
Wed September 24, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Race And Sports

Florida State fans cheer Rashad Greene after a 74-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sept. 20. In college sports, African-American student athletes and white student audiences are the norm. Commentator Frank Deford asks why this dynamic does not make us more squeamish.
Mark Wallheiser AP

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 1:31 pm

There is no doubt that race, ever sensitive in sports, is most sensitive in basketball. Given the history, this is perfectly understandable, for when African-Americans began to appear on the court in larger numbers, there was resentment, even quotas.

To many whites, men of my vintage, men I knew, there was a sense that their game was being stolen. It was a very visceral racism.

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Sweetness And Light
4:19 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Is The NFL Too Big To Fail?

The NFL has had a lot of bad press lately. But it doesn't seem to have any impact on sponsors or fans.
AJ Mast AP

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 7:50 pm

There has been a crowded docket in our preeminent sport. Let's take just three cases. The defendants: the NFL, Roger Goodell and football itself.

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Sweetness And Light
3:25 am
Wed September 10, 2014

The National Anthem, And The National Pastime

The Star-Spangled Banner, played before every baseball game, has become so tied to the sport that an old joke asks, "What are the last two words of the national anthem?" and answers, "Play ball!"
Michael Dwyer AP

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 11:09 am

This Sunday, Sept. 14, marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of Francis Scott Key's poem, "The Defence of Fort McHenry" — better known today as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

And is any national anthem so identified with sports as ours?

The association is probably because the song is played before every baseball game, and baseball games are legion. It is even responsible for that oldest of sports jokes: "What are the last two words of the national anthem? Play ball!"

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Sweetness And Light
3:33 am
Wed September 3, 2014

You'll Never Walk-Off Alone

Yasmani Grandal is swarmed by teammates after hitting a walk-off single to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. But commentator Frank Deford wonders why "walk-off" has become such a ubiquitous term.
Gregory Bull AP

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 8:22 am

Along with the U.S. Open in tennis, early September means baseball's pennant race is in full swing ... and no sports term has become a more maddening cliche than baseball's "walk-off."

At first it was applied only to a walk-off home run — that is, when the home team would win in the last inning with a homer — game's over, so it's a walk-off, because there's no need to run. Then there became walk-off triples, doubles, singles, sacrifice flies — even walk-off walks with the bases loaded. It's creeping walk-offism.

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Sweetness And Light
3:33 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics

Commentator Frank Deford advises the White House press office not to let the president be photographed in a golf cart again.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 8:53 am

There's been much criticism of the president lately, even within his own party, that he's too detached and withdrawn, not combative enough anymore. This can be explained completely with a sports analogy: We elected a basketball president, but then we ended up with a golf president.

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Sweetness And Light
3:33 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Deford: Frankly, Hot Dogs Best Served At The Ballpark

Between innings, racing sausages entertain Milwaukee Brewers fans.
Christian Petersen Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 11:52 am

Let's boldly confront the greatest mystery in all of sport: Why do hot dogs always taste better at the ballpark?

Baseball food has, of course, taken on a much greater variety since 1908, when "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" only celebrated peanuts and crackerjack. But it is another enduring mystery of sport why fans eat during a baseball game, while the preferred mode of cuisine for football is before the game, out in the parking lot — tailgating.

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Sweetness And Light
3:26 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Amateurism's Dying Hour

Former University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson graces the cover of NCAA Football 14.
EA Sports

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 10:15 am

There have been two recent major developments regarding big-time college athletics. While both are tremendously significant, the conclusions in both cases were foreshadowed and there don't appear to be any devils in the details.

The Big Satan — amateurism — took the hardest hit. And understand, most important of all: This is only the beginning. Many more changes in the NCAA and its anachronistic rules lie ahead.

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