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
2:15 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 6:53 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
1:49 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 7:03 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
1:32 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 5:02 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
3:00 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 8:48 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
2:33 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 8:24 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
1:39 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 12:18 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
2:58 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 6:04 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
2:19 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 5:50 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
1:33 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 6:53 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
1:33 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 9:52 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
1:26 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 8:15 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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Sweetness And Light
2:59 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Deford: Is Goodell Good Enough To Lead The NFL?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference in May. Goodell's handling of concerns about concussions and controversies surrounding players has led commentator Frank Deford to wonder whether Goodell is up to the job.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Wed July 30, 2014 11:59 am

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's piddling suspension of Ray Rice of the Ravens for a mere two games for Rice's apparent violent attack upon his then-fiancee, now wife, has been met with shock and disappointment.

But for now, never mind Ray Rice. The larger question is whether Goodell is good enough to serve as the leader of the NFL.

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Sweetness And Light
1:28 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Deford: NCAA Says Amateurism Is Alive And Well, But The Jig Is Up

Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson at practice for the 2014 NCAA men's college basketball tournament. Commentator Frank Deford says that, despite NCAA claims to the contrary, most college players are not typical students — "their job is to play a sport."
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 10:48 am

Amateurism is dead, revealed so in the trial against the NCAA now in progress in Oakland, Calif., U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken presiding. Before her skeptical eyes, amateurism has been laid out naked on a courtroom slab for a jury of all fans to see that it has no beating heart.

Amateurism, Judge Wilken has been told in the case, commonly known as the O'Bannon trial, nobly protects college athletes from being exploited by evil outsiders — so the NCAA knighthood was created in order that colleges could tie up athletes all by themselves.

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Sweetness And Light
1:26 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Deford: How To Host A Sports Extravaganza That Won't Break The Bank

Remodeling the National Stadium Mane Garrincha in Brasilia, Brazil, for the FIFA World Cup cost the Brazilian government $900 million.
Eraldo Peres AP

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 8:22 am

You know, it is the 21st century, and it is possible to acknowledge that and make both the World Cup and the Olympics more affordable. The current waste and opulence simply aren't defensible anymore.

For the soccer pooh-bahs to demand that Brazil build new stadiums, costing billions of dollars, is unconscionable. How much more logical to utilize existing stadiums in neighboring countries, in large cities like Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Santiago.

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Sweetness And Light
1:39 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Will A Triple Crown Win Save Horse Racing? Don't Bet On It

Even if California Chrome wins Saturday's Belmont Stakes, most Americans are too disconnected from horses to flock to the race track, says commentator Frank Deford.
Al Bello Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 6:32 am

At the start of a movie these days, how often do you read: "Based on a true story?" But if a movie was made about California Chrome, whether or not the horse wins the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, it would read: "Based on a dream."

Because the colt — of the most undistinguished heritage, bred by neophytes and trained by a kindly septuagenarian –– well, the whole thing is a ridiculous reverie.

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Sweetness And Light
1:36 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Don't Overlook The Unsung Umpire; Referees Can Be Pretty, Too

Referee Mendy Rudolph officiates a Knicks-Pistons game in 1971. Refs often say it's best to go unnoticed, but an official who "makes a call with vigor and elan is really a beautiful part of the game," says Frank Deford.
AP

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 10:57 am

Not so long ago, while enjoying a libation in a decorous saloon, the proprietor — who happened to hail from the fabled Windy City — suddenly jarred the genteel assembled by turning on the Cubs game. Just at that moment, a Cubby was heading toward the plate when the throw came in, and the runner (spoiler alert!), being a Cub, was tagged out.

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Sweetness And Light
1:17 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Don't Judge Exceptional Players By The Company They Keep

Some critics have hedged their appraisals of Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant solely because his team hasn't won a title, says commentator Frank Deford.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 6:06 am

Ty Cobb, miserable human being that he was, is still considered the greatest American athlete of his era. But did you know the Georgia Peach never played on a championship team? Still, when the first Baseball Hall of Fame elections were held, he got the most votes –– even more than Babe Ruth.

Ted Williams was never a champion, either. Nor Barry Sanders, Elgin Baylor, Dan Marino or many of the very best team athletes.

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Sweetness And Light
1:47 am
Wed May 14, 2014

The Olympics: A Modern Day World's Fair (And Money Magnet)

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Comcast Corp. chairman Brian Roberts signed an agreement this month that secures U.S. broadcast rights for NBC Universal through 2032.
Arnaud Meylan AP

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 10:50 am

Because it's the 50th anniversary, there's been a wave of nostalgia for the last New York World's Fair. It made me wonder: Whatever happened to World's Fairs?

Well, it turns out that they still exist. In fact, you, too, can go to a certified World's Fair next year in Milan, where the fun theme is "Feeding the planet, energy for life" — real cotton candy stuff that helps explain why World's Fairs are not so popular anymore.

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Sweetness And Light
1:37 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Draft Season: All-American, Twisted And Downright Infectious

Fans outside Radio City Music Hall show support for their teams during the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft on April 25, 2013, in New York.
Al Bello Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 12:08 pm

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, there is now a fifth season in major American team sports to go along with baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey. Well, it's sort of an adjunct season, but it's very real and is passionately followed by die-hard fans. It is the draft season, which begins tomorrow with the NFL and extends through late June, when the NHL holds its draft. The NBA and Major League Baseball hold theirs in between.

Fans love real draft days.

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Sweetness And Light
6:22 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Bad Behavior From A Sports Franchise Owner? That's Not New

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling at a game against the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 7, 2012, in Los Angeles.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 7:13 am

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life from the NBA after he made racist comments.

Sports bans aren't new.

In 1990, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was banned from day-to-day management of the club by Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.

Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993.

Sterling is 80. He comes from another time and is not only the senior NBA owner –– since 1981 –– but also, although probably this won't surprise you, historically the very worst owner in all of sport.

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Sweetness And Light
1:35 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Time To Root, Root, Root For Final Innings

Elsa/Getty Images and Mike Groll/AP

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 6:02 am

Sometimes the most disparate of people end up as pairs. As baseball begins, here's your 2014 All-Star Odd Couple: Bud Selig and Derek Jeter. But different as these personalities are, different as their positions, they've survived for so long together, and now both have announced that this season is their swan song.

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Sweetness And Light
6:58 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Deford: Paying College Athletes Would Level The Playing Field

Paycheck Players: Love of the game may no longer be enough motivation for college athletes.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 11:04 am

For many decades, baseball had a reserve clause, which essentially tied a baseball player to a franchise in perpetuity. The statute fell into legal jeopardy, and a few wise men amongst the owners said, maybe we ought to toss these players a bone, before we blow the whole scam.

But the owners were arrogant and stood pat, and, soon enough, the reserve clause, kit and caboodle, was outlawed as, essentially, un-American.

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Sweetness And Light
3:01 am
Wed March 19, 2014

There's A Reason They Call It Madness

Streeter Lecka Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:28 am

More than any other nation, America is awash in teams. There are the pro teams, the college team, the high school team, the fantasy teams.

Well, at a certain point, something has to give — and apparently, the team sport that's given way the most is men's college basketball.

Yes, college hoops has its fleeting moment in the vernal equinox. It's fun. You make out brackets — but it's not like other sports where you're familiar with the principals.

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Sweetness And Light
1:32 am
Wed February 5, 2014

An Olympic Shame: Vladimir Putin Plays Host To Winter Games

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Olympic volunteers in Sochi, Russia, in January.
Alexei Nikolsky AP

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 7:33 am

You know those commercials for prescription medicines on television when they devote the first 15 seconds to the benefits of the drug and then take the next 45 telling you all the bad things that could happen if you use it? Vladimir Putin's Olympics remind me of that. For all the happiness his Winter Games are supposed to bring us, you need considerably more time to hear about all the things that could go wrong.

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Sweetness And Light
12:58 am
Wed January 29, 2014

America's Love Affair With Football Keeps Getting Stronger

Seattle Seahawks fans, perhaps in a moment of reflection, before the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 19.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 10:49 am

Football fandom simply overwhelms all other sports in America, growing not just merely super, but superior, from high school right on up to this Sunday's quasi-religious festival — which celebrates our adoration of the sport as much as the sport itself.

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Sweetness And Light
1:44 am
Wed January 22, 2014

In Ice Skating's Biggest Story, The Media Were Poor Sports

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan at the 1992 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Orlando, Fla.
Phil Sandlin AP

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 7:51 am

It's difficult to understand why certain athletes are harshly singled out by the media, but one of the most baffling examples has to be the criticism displayed toward figure skater Nancy Kerrigan after she was clubbed in the leg at a practice session just weeks before the 1994 Olympics.

The ex-husband of another member of the U.S. women's team, Tonya Harding, was convicted of arranging the attack. Harding herself was fined and banned from the sport.

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Sweetness And Light
1:05 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Women's Team Sports: Where Is The Love?

Candace Parker (right) of the Los Angeles Sparks and Candice Dupree of the Phoenix Mercury during Game 2 of their WNBA semifinal series in September.
Matt York AP

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 9:51 am

Two recent sporting disappointments underscore the state of interest in women in sports. The first: Lindsey Vonn, sadly acknowledging that her injuries were too serious, announced that she would not be able to compete in the Olympics next month. The second: The owners of the Los Angeles Sparks, acknowledging that they were overwhelmed by debt, just gave up the franchise.

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Sweetness And Light
1:22 am
Wed December 25, 2013

No Rest For Ye Merry NBA Players This Christmas

Benny and the Elevators perform during the game between the NBA's Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets Dec. 25, 2012. The Bulls are one of 10 NBA teams playing on Christmas Day this year.
David Banks Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 5:04 pm

Holidays have long been made for sports. Football has all but replaced the turkey as the signature of Thanksgiving. For decades, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day meant stadiums filled for baseball double-headers. It's almost as if games are now an excuse for holidays, rather than the other way around.

So I now wish you a Merry NBA Day! There will be five nationally televised pro basketball games, lasting 13 straight hours, on Wednesday.

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Sweetness And Light
1:01 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Why The American Dream Is Still Alive In Sports

Wesley Matthews of the Portland Trail Blazers goes up for the shot as Philadelphia 76ers defend the basket on Saturday in Philadelphia.
Chris Szagola AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 8:02 am

Political innocent I may be, but I find great irony in that, while everybody agrees there is massive inequality in the United States today, it's in sports where the American dream still lives — more than ever.

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Sweetness And Light
1:07 am
Wed December 4, 2013

To Liven Up NFL Pregame Shows, Take A Cue From 'The View'?

Fox sportscasters Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson appear during the 2005 Super Bowl pregame show in Jacksonville, Fla.
Frank Micelotta Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 10:39 am

The Sunday pregame shows feature interchangeable ex-players and ex-coaches saying the same banal things, one after another.

"They've got to cut down on turnovers."

"They've got to convert more third-down situations."

And so on. There's no human interaction, just mirthless recitations. But on female-centered shows like The View and The Talk, the hosts actually discuss, argue, hash things out, laugh for real and behave like flesh-and-blood human beings. And they dare do it all without a net, before a live audience.

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