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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4:58am

Wed July 29, 2015
Sweetness And Light

Deford To Hollywood: Ban Boxing Movies

Originally published on Wed July 29, 2015 7:59 am

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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4:57am

Wed July 22, 2015
Sweetness And Light

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

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

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

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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3:29am

Wed May 20, 2015
Sweetness And Light

The Other Sacred Thing Tom Brady Squashed: Sportsmanship

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

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

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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3:54am

Wed April 29, 2015
Sweetness And Light

Boxing Fans Shift Focus To Small Men, Big Money

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

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

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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3:48am

Wed April 22, 2015
Sweetness And Light

Bruce Jenner's Long History Of Clearing Hurdles

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

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

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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4:23am

Wed March 25, 2015
Sweetness And Light

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

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

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

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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3:09am

Wed March 18, 2015
Sweetness And Light

News From The Charity Stripe

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

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

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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3:35am

Wed March 11, 2015
Sweetness And Light

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

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

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

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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3:24am

Wed December 24, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

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

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

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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4:15am

Wed November 26, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Be Thankful This Year For The San Antonio Spurs

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

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

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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3:49am

Wed November 19, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Outside Of The Games, Are Sports Corrupt?

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

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

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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3:32am

Wed November 5, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Americana: Hot Dogs, Apple Pie And Football?

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

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

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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3:39am

Wed October 15, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Nonprofit NFL Seeks Super Bowl Volunteers, Again

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

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

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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3:33am

Wed August 27, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics

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

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

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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3:28am

Wed June 25, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 12:48 pm

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

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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