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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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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3:25am

Wed November 27, 2013
Sweetness And Light

The Horse Who Picked Up A Paintbrush

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

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

3:00am

Wed November 20, 2013
Sweetness And Light

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

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

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

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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3:24am

Wed November 13, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Why Has Football Become So Brutish?

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

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

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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2:59am

Wed October 16, 2013
Sweetness And Light

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

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

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

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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3:28am

Wed October 2, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Love Of Victory In The Time Of Steroids

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

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

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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3:44am

Wed September 25, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Head Games: NFL Should Share Records About Concussions

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

iStockphoto.com

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

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3:19am

Wed September 18, 2013
Sweetness And Light

More Than Average: Dow Jones Adds The 'Swoosh'

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 4:01 pm

Don Ryan AP

After 117 years, sports has finally made it to the big time, when, starting next Tuesday, a sports company will be included in the Dow Jones averages.

The Dow Jones, of course, has always preferred very serious corporations –– your banks, your automotives, your insurers. OK, the movies were allowed in 1932 with the inclusion of Loews, and Walt Disney was brought onboard in 1991, but sports was never considered substantial enough for an industrial average until now, when Nike has been ordained.

Yes, Dow Jones has the swoosh.

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3:25am

Wed September 11, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Diana Nyad's Accomplishment Makes America's Cup Look All Wet

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 7:54 am

Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad swims toward shore in Key West, Fla., on Sept. 2, the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach about 53 hours after beginning her swim in Havana.
J Pat Carter AP

For sportswriters the fattest target has always been the America's Cup. It's too easy. It's like all those political writers who make fun of vice presidents and think they're being original. Sportswriters have been going har-de-har-har about the America's Cup even long before one of their wags said it was like watching paint dry. Or like watching grass grow. One or the other. Maybe both.

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2:15am

Wed September 4, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Why Keep Athletes Eligible But Uneducated?

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 4:31 pm

Ersin Kisacik iStockphoto.com

Each football season brings exciting plays and game heroes, but Frank Deford says the real heroes are often overlooked.

As another school year and college football season gets underway, Deford looks at the frustrations and challenges facing educators to keep student athletes eligible.

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

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3:36am

Wed August 28, 2013
Sweetness And Light

How About A Gold Medal For Human Rights For Gay People?

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 5:46 pm

A gay-rights activist chants slogans during a demonstration in front of the Russian Consulate in New York on July 31. Gays in the United States and elsewhere are outraged by Russia's intensifying campaign against gay-rights activism.
Mary Altaffer AP

Let's see, now. That self-proclaimed fortress of liberty and fellowship, the International Olympic Committee, awards the Winter Olympics to Russia for 2014. After all, China worked out so well as an exemplar of freedom of the press at Beijing in 2008.

Then, Russia, duly a signator of the Olympic charter proclaiming the "preservation of human dignity," trots out an anti-homosexual law that would've made Ivan the Terrible have second thoughts.

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3:05am

Wed August 21, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Tennis Fans: A Stadium Roof Is Coming. So Is Regis Philbin

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 12:03 pm

The ugliest, most ill-conceived physical addition to sports scenery was the construction, a few years ago, of the Arthur Ashe tennis stadium at the U.S. Open. Typical U.S. supersize. We'll be bigger than everyone else, so there.

Alas, in the upper reaches of this charmless behemoth you need a GPS to find the players somewhere down there at sea level. Worse, should it rain, which it has a wont to do in New York, there are no players on the court and you get wet.

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1:55am

Wed August 14, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Pete Rose Should Enter The Hall Of Fame With Ichiro Suzuki

Originally published on Wed August 14, 2013 9:16 am

Former baseball player Pete Rose at a boxing event in Oakland, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2012.
Jeff Chiu AP

In Japan, a noren is a short curtain that hangs to the entrance of a little teahouse or restaurant. It is not solid, but made of strips, and so when you go through it, your hand goes first, then your arm, and the rest of you, but quickly the strips fall back into place, and it is as if a wisp, a ghost, a sprite has passed through.

I always visualized Ichiro Suzuki that way, slipping from Japanese baseball to our major leagues so effortlessly, barely stirring the air.

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1:12am

Wed August 7, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Dick Kazmaier, 'A Honey Of A Guy'

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 5:24 am

Dick Kazmaier of Princeton University poses with the Heisman Trophy at New York's Downtown Athletic Club before the official presentation in 1951. Kazmaier, the last Ivy Leaguer to win the Heisman Trophy, died on Thursday.
John Rooney AP

You may never have heard of Dick Kazmaier. After all, he played in the Ivy League, never went to the NFL and filled a position, tailback, in a formation, the single-wing, that has long since disappeared.

But as the years have passed, that is what makes Kazmaier so special: that he best represented another time, when there was more whimsy and capriciousness to college athletics.

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3:33am

Wed July 31, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Why Would You Volunteer For Next Year's Super Bowl?

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 1:40 pm

Super Bowl volunteer Ben Schreiber distributes fan guides to any of the thousands of people who may need them while visiting Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI festivities, in 2012.
Chad Ryan CSM /Landov

I read the other day that 16,000 people have been recruited as volunteers for next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey, and suddenly it occurred to me: the Super Bowl is one of the great financial bonanzas of modern times. From the players to the networks to the hotels, everybody involved with it makes a killing. Why would anybody volunteer to work for free for the Super Bowl? Would you volunteer to work free for Netflix or Disneyworld?

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10:03pm

Tue July 23, 2013
Sweetness And Light

NCAA Should 'Bolster And Reinforce' African-American Players

Originally published on Wed July 24, 2013 11:59 am

Jaimie D. Travis iStockphoto.com

"And this is a long-term project: We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement." President Obama

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10:03pm

Tue July 16, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Clap If You Believe In Roger Maris

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 5:08 am

Davis says that in his opinion, Roger Maris (above) is the all-time home run record holder. Maris hit 61 homers in 1961.
AP

In 1961 the American League schedule was lengthened by eight games to 162, and it was about this time that summer that the commissioner –– of whom it was once written, "An empty cab drove up to the curb and Ford Frick got out" –– declared that even if some player broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs, it would not count if he needed more games than Ruth had had.

So, when Roger Maris hit his 61st in the last game of the longer season, the distinction did not displace Ruth in the record books but was merely listed along with The Babe's lesser number.

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10:03pm

Tue July 9, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Football Needs A Guardian, Not A CEO

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 8:03 am

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference at the NFL football spring meetings in Boston two months ago. Can he save our American sport from becoming a gladiator game?
Elise Amendola AP

Aaron Hernandez, who appears to be a monster, can no more be held up as representative of football than can Oscar Pistorius be fairly presented as an archetype of track and field.

But still, Hernandez does become a culminating figure. The sport is simply more and more identified with violence, both in its inherent nature and in its savage personnel.

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2:58am

Wed July 3, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Roger Federer: Leave While He's Good Or Play Because He Can?

Originally published on Wed July 3, 2013 9:52 am

Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts during his Gentlemen's Singles second round match against Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine on day three of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 26.
Mike Hewitt Getty Images

It's been a week but tennis fans are still talking about the big loss of a big favorite at Wimbledon. This is sports drama, a heartbreaking soap opera as only Frank Deford can imagine it:

She brushed her fallen golden locks from off her forehead and turned away, not letting him see that she was fighting off tears.

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4:51am

Wed June 26, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Let's Separate The Schoolin' From The Sports

Originally published on Wed June 26, 2013 11:13 am

iStockphoto.com

We usually think of college sports in terms of classic big-time schools, polls and bowls.

But, in fact, our athletics are intertwined with — and complicate — all higher education.

The University of North Carolina, Wilmington provides a typical recent case. The Seahawks field teams in 19 Division One sports, but unfortunately, like many colleges, UNCW athletics are in the red, so the chancellor, Gary L. Miller, assembled a committee, which recommended the elimination of five sports: men's and women's swimming, men's cross country and indoor track and softball.

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3:23am

Wed June 19, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Tick Tock: Make The Serve, Pitch, Putt Or Shot

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 9:40 am

Two fans catch a nap during a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals last month in Milwaukee.
Tom Lynn Getty Images

In Milwaukee, cartoon characters dressed up like various sausages race at each Brewers' game; in Washington, five of our beloved presidents do their own bratwurst ramble. But the character I want to appear at every baseball game –– and at a couple of other sports, too, is ...

tick-tock,tick-tock

... the crocodile from Peter Pan who swallowed a clock and shadows a terrified Capt. Hook.

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10:03pm

Tue June 11, 2013
Sweetness And Light

Basketball: The 'Ultimate Contradiction'

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 5:53 am

In basketball, as in life, we may dutifully celebrate the aggregate, but we'™re always spellbound by the exceptional.
iStockphoto.com

Basketball offers its fans the ultimate contradiction. On the one hand, it's the sport that most depends on its stars. On the other, it's the most intimate — even organic — of all the team games, with its players more fundamentally involved with one another. Both of these opposing realities are rooted in the same base.

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