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 1:38 pm

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Southpaw, a new movie 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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3:26am

Wed June 18, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 10:22 am

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

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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3:39am

Wed June 4, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 8:32 am

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

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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3:36am

Wed May 28, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 12:57 pm

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

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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3:17am

Wed May 21, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Don't Judge Exceptional Players By The Company They Keep

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 8:06 am

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

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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3:47am

Wed May 14, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 12:50 pm

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

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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7:49am

Wed April 30, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 9:13 am

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

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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3:35am

Wed April 9, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Time To Root, Root, Root For Final Innings

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 8:02 am

Elsa/Getty Images and Mike Groll/AP

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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5:08am

Wed March 19, 2014
Sweetness And Light

There's A Reason They Call It Madness

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

Streeter Lecka Getty Images

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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3:32am

Wed February 5, 2014
Sweetness And Light

An Olympic Shame: Vladimir Putin Plays Host To Winter Games

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 9:33 am

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

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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5:23am

Wed January 22, 2014
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 9:51 am

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

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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5:17am

Wed January 15, 2014
Sweetness And Light

Women's Team Sports: Where Is The Love?

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 11:51 am

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

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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3:22am

Wed December 25, 2013
Sweetness And Light

No Rest For Ye Merry NBA Players This Christmas

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:04 pm

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

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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3:01am

Wed December 18, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Why The American Dream Is Still Alive In Sports

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 10:02 am

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

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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5:07am

Wed December 11, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Should Character Count In Sports Awards?

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

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

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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3:07am

Wed December 4, 2013
Sweetness And Light

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

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 12:39 pm

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

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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