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
3:44 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Despite Everything, Tiger Will Always Be No. 1

Frank Deford says there'll never be another Tiger Woods of any sport.
Karim Sahib AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 4:33 pm

Most famously, Babe Ruth has been credited with saving baseball after the Black Sox scandal. Riding on the wave of the women's movement, Billie Jean King more or less created women's professional tennis. And Muhammad Ali kept boxing alive for its last hurrah.

But really, especially over a sustained period of time, has any one athlete ever mattered so much to a sport as Tiger Woods does to men's golf?

Anyone? Ever?

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on the issue.

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Sweetness And Light
3:35 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 8:02 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
3:57 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 1:04 pm

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
3:19 am
Wed March 26, 2014

The Mystery And History Of Sport's Front Office

Phil Jackson recently signed on as the new president of the New York Knicks.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 12:35 pm

One great mystery of sport is why they call the place that the general manager rules over the front office. Obviously, it's the box office that's out front. What they call the front office is really the "office office."

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Sweetness And Light
5:08 am
Wed March 19, 2014

There's A Reason They Call It Madness

Streeter Lecka Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 10:28 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
3:44 am
Wed March 12, 2014

In Sports, There's No Such Thing As A Bad Hustle

Pete Rose swings for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1985 season. Rose, aka "Charlie Hustle," famously ran to first base even when he was given a walk.
Stephen Dunn Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 7:32 am

Surely, "hustle" is the single most beloved word associated with sport. As color is to rainbows, as chocolate to the palate, as sweet nothings to love, hustle is to sport.

Hear it now:

Hustle up!
Hustle down the line!
Show us more hustle!

And oh, my, how often are you gonna hear this in the weeks ahead during March Madness: They gotta hustle back on defense. That, apparently, is the only way human beings can properly get back on defense.

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Sweetness And Light
3:09 am
Wed March 5, 2014

A Star Tennis Coach And The End Of The All-Around Athlete

Tennis Coach Nick Bollettieri gives instructions to a young Anna Kournikova of Russia during a training session at his tennis academy in Bradenton, Fla., in 1990. Kournikova went on to become a highly ranked international player, but she ended her career at age 21 because of injuries.
Simon Bruty Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 12:26 pm

Tennis coach Nick Bollettieri's deserved acceptance into the International Tennis Hall of Fame came late in life, at age 82. What makes him so important is not his long career but how he changed the way we bring up our athletic children.

The ultimate young athlete used to be the boy (girls didn't have the chance then) who starred in several sports. The all-around athlete. But Bollettieri changed that.

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Sweetness And Light
3:38 am
Wed February 26, 2014

It's Time To Shrink Home Plate

Imagine how much livelier baseball would be with a 14-inch home plate.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 11:09 am

It's time to make home plate smaller. I know: That's heresy; that's sacrilegious. But there are simply too many strikeouts in baseball now, and that hurts the game, because if the ball isn't in play, it's boring.

The size of home plate was not decreed by God. Back when it was an iron plate — where the name came from — it was, in fact, round. It became rubber and a square, 12 inches to a side, but its present distinctive shape was established in 1900 — a full 17 inches across.

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Sweetness And Light
3:46 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Michael Sam, A Distraction? Please

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel with players Robert Luce (from left) and Michael Sam, ahead of the Cotton Bowl in January.
Tim Sharp AP

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 8:05 am

Now that Michael Sam, an NFL draft prospect, has announced that he is gay, there's been a lot of mumbling that he would be a distraction — but it's really an issue of antipathy.

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Sweetness And Light
3:41 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Double Axels And Death Spirals — Yes, Figure Skating Is A Sport

Russia's Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar helped Russia take gold during the team figure skating competition in Sochi.
Adrian Dennis AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 7:57 am

With the addition of team figure skating to the Olympic manifest, I wasn't surprised to hear from my grumpy old pal the Sports Curmudgeon. "Hey, Frank," the crabby kibitzer said, "when you gonna admit that anything that calls itself a sport that has music outside o' halftime ain't a real sport?"

Actually, there are other sporting defenders of the faith who are even more critical. They maintain that any sport — like figure skating, gymnastics, diving, halfpipe — that is resolved by exterior judges rather than by the participants themselves is not a true sport.

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Sweetness And Light
3:32 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 9:33 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
2:58 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 12:49 pm

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
3:44 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 9:51 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
3:05 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 11:51 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
3:32 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Supporting The Home Team From The Comfort Of Your Couch

The Detroit Lions huddle during a snowstorm in the first half of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles in December.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 9:19 am

Nowadays, do sports fans have to show their support by purchasing tickets? After all, the NFL makes much more money from TV than at the box office. Aren't you doing your fair share by staying comfy-warm downstairs by your own huge, high-definition TV, where you're surrounded by chosen friends and family, and have your own choice refreshments and your own toilet facilities?

These are things that come to mind with recent sporting events conducted under the most gruesome of weather conditions.

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on this issue.

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Sweetness And Light
3:07 am
Wed January 1, 2014

The (Very) Long View On The State Of Football

iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Football is often called a "gladiator game." This past semester, several football players took a class at the University of Washington that explores the idea. It turns out that both the professor and her football-playing students found that it's not just a glib analogy.

Apart from the extreme fact that the Roman slaves actually killed each other in their games, there are certain fascinating parallels.

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on this issue.

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Sweetness And Light
3:22 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 7:04 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
3:01 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 10:02 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
4:58 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Should Character Count In Sports Awards?

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston reacts during the ACC Championship game on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Streeter Lecka Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 10:10 am

The Grammy nominations are in, and the talk now is of what actors will be chosen for the Academy Awards, but not once have I heard anyone suggest that any of the singers or actors may not be nominated because of some character deficiency.

Likewise, when it comes to awards in theater or television or dance or literature, I don't ever recall any candidate losing out because of a personal flaw.

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Sweetness And Light
3:07 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 12:39 pm

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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Sweetness And Light
3:25 am
Wed November 27, 2013

The Horse Who Picked Up A Paintbrush

Metro Meteor, a retired racehorse, stands with owners Ron and Wendy Krajewski and one of his paintings at Motters Station Stables in Rocky Ridge, Md., earlier this year.
Jeffrey B. Roth Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 27, 2013 10:55 am

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Sweetness And Light
3:00 am
Wed November 20, 2013

In Basketball, It's Always About What's Next

This year, there are three college players being called "the next LeBron James." Meanwhile, many are speculating about where the first LeBron James, now playing for the Miami Heat, will be next season.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 12:51 pm

College basketball seems to get started sooner every year, like puberty in American children. Why does everything have to begin so early now, before you have time to get ready for it?

Things move so fast in college basketball that there are three players this year who are being called "the next LeBron James. " In the NBA, most of the talk is already about where the superstars will be next season.

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Sweetness And Light
3:24 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Why Has Football Become So Brutish?

Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (left) and tackle Jonathan Martin stand on the field during practice in Davie, Fla. Martin left the NFL after he faced harassment from Incognito that his lawyer said went "beyond locker-room hazing."
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 11:08 am

Not surprisingly, in the explosive revelations about the Miami Dolphins team turmoil, most attention has been paid to the fact that, in the midst of a locker room predominately composed of African-American players, a white, Richie Incognito, slurred a black teammate, Jonathan Martin, with the ugliest racial epithet –– and was actually publicly supported by some blacks on the team. Incognito's sadistic employment of the word has not only sickened but also astounded most of us.

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Sweetness And Light
3:02 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Root, Root, Root For The Home Team?

"In our world of global entertainment ... passports don't matter and ... taste trumps nationalism," says Frank Deford.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 9:01 am

Does a citizen of any country, not just the good ole U.S. of A., have an obligation to support its national teams? For goodness sake, it's just a game, not Horatius at the Bridge standing between us and national defeat.

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Sweetness And Light
5:03 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Can NASCAR Steer Itself Back Into Popularity?

Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) and Juan Pablo Montoya (42) drive through turn four on a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 5:24 am

As the NASCAR season climaxes, America's prime motor sport continues to see its popularity in decline. For several years now, revenues and sponsorship have plummeted, leaving an audience that increasingly resembles the stereotype NASCAR so desperately thought it could grow beyond: older white Dixie working class.

Both ESPN and the Turner Broadcasting Co., longtime NASCAR networks, took a look at the down graphs and the down-scale demographics and didn't even bother to bid on the new TV contract.

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Sweetness And Light
5:19 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Frank Deford: 'Some Of Us Are More Valiant Than The Rest'

Hit The Numbers: Stats guys say that the clutch is a random crap shoot.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 9:16 am

As a child, your heart is broken when you learn that your grandfather really can't pull real quarters out of your ear. And if you're a baseball fan, that disillusionment happens once more to you in life when you first hear the numbers mavens tell you that there is no clutch hitter. None. No such thing.

Oh my, but if you have any romance in your soul, you do so want to believe that there are people in all walks of life whom we can count on to rise to the occasion. Don't you want that?

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Sweetness And Light
2:59 am
Wed October 16, 2013

You Asked For It: Frank Deford's Top 12 List

Frank Deford to football players: Get more creative when you win, please.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 12:35 pm

As a commentator, Frank Deford gets a lot of suggestions about prominent subjects that he should take to task. Usually, he has already sounded off on these suggested topics, and most of them are cut and dried, with nothing new to add. But here, Deford takes on 12 of these familiar issues — this time with brief updates.

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Sweetness And Light
2:44 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Sick Of How U.S. Sports Are Run? Take A Look At Europe

Shadows of journalists are seen next to a FIFA logo after a recent press conference on controversy swirling around 2022 World Cup construction projects in Qatar.
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 4:44 am

Complain all you want about how sports in the U.S. are run, but the playing fields aren't always greener on the other side.

In Europe, FIFA, the soccer federation, is dealing with problems associated with the 2022 World Cup's timing and venue. For one, after awarding the World Cup to Qatar, those running FIFA wonder now if it'd be better to play the games in winter when it will be cooler — only that's when all the European leagues are operating.

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Sweetness And Light
3:28 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Love Of Victory In The Time Of Steroids

The Straight Dope: The use of steroids and blood doping traces back at least into the 1970s.
Robert Byron iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 12:18 pm

There's a certain anniversary irony to the fact that Alex Rodriquez's illegal doping ban appeal hearing is taking place this week, for it was, essentially, a quarter-of-a-century ago that what we think of as the drug era in sports began.

And here A-Rod is now, 38 years old, his body in betrayal (perhaps from years of all the drugs), hitting .244, hearing boos, even at home at Yankee Stadium, yet pleading desperately for a lesser sentence at the price of suffering more embarrassing revelations — a figure of pity that no one does.

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Sweetness And Light
3:44 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Head Games: NFL Should Share Records About Concussions

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 1:15 pm

Football is unique in that most players participate in only half the game — offense or defense.

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