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.

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.

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.

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."

When Fred Astaire was 69, he gave up dancing, explaining: "At my age, I don't want to disappoint anyone, including myself." All great athletes should keep that quotation up on their bathroom mirror.

More than half a century ago, there was a best-selling book — and then a movie — titled The Ugly American. The title was a twist, because the plot featured attractive Americans who were, however, boorish and haughty, acting most unattractively when they were sent abroad to represent the country at a time (post-World War II) when the United States had never been richer or more powerful.

Even with free agency, our professional leagues show a reliable sort of sameness from year to year. Oh sure, each season there are a few teams that surprise, but mostly, changes in the standings are evolutionary. That said, I don't believe I've ever seen a league that looks so cockeyed as the NBA is this year.

First of all, it's just plain weird to see the two historically glamorous franchises, the Celtics and Lakers, both down near the bottom of the standings, while up top are teams that previously were nondescript also-rans.

Oh, poor Boston. Where is Paul Revere when we need him to alert the citizenry? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is coming! The International Olympic Committee is coming!

Boston, lock up your municipal bonds and pension funds.

Even if you're a fairly enthusiastic sports fan — someone who can identify sportscasters Jim Nantz or Joe Buck by tenor and intonation alone — you may very well have never heard the name Doc Emrick.

Mike "Doc" Emrick is the world's premier announcer for what is America's fourth team sport: ice hockey. For those who know hockey, or those aficionados who listen to a few minutes of an NHL game just to hear Emrick talk about blue lines or poke checking, he is absolutely revered.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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.

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.

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!"

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.

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.

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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