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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10:00pm

Tue September 20, 2011
Sweetness And Light

No Respect For The Women On The Sidelines

Originally published on Wed September 21, 2011 4:16 pm

Pam Oliver, sideline reporter for Fox Sports, interviews head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers as he leads his team against the Denver Broncos.
Doug Pensinger Getty Images

Football season has hardly started and fans are already grousing about sideline reporters. To be sure, sideliners now exist in most all sports, and a handful of them –– notably Craig Sager of Turner, who was apparently in town the day the clown died, and thus got all his clothes –– are downright famous. While Sager is best known for basketball, it is football sideline reporters who are most identified with the sport.

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12:01am

Wed September 14, 2011
Sweetness And Light

The NCAA And The So-Called 'Student-Athlete'

The NCAA lost control of college football contracts in the 1980s, forcing it to rely on fees paid to broadcast its annual basketball tournament. Here, CBS broadcasters Jim Nantz, left, and Clark Kellogg interview North Carolina coach Roy Williams and player Ty Lawson after a 2009 game.
Joe Murphy Getty Images

Sports fans love to designate certain games as "the greatest ever," the "match of the century" and so forth. Well, I would like to state that a piece in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which was released online Tuesday, may well be the most important article ever written about college sports.

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10:00pm

Tue September 6, 2011
Sweetness And Light

It's A Coin Toss: Presidential Speech Or Football?

Years ago, it was an occasional debate among press box sociologists about which sport was more attractive to members of the two political parties.

The consensus was that football was more for Republicans, baseball for Democrats — the general reasoning being that GOP types were more militarily inclined, as is the gridiron game, and that since football had long been more a college sport, and more Republicans had gone to college, football had a greater Republican tradition.

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10:00pm

Tue August 30, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Too Many Days Hath September (And Baseball)

Originally published on Wed August 31, 2011 12:54 pm

The sun sets over Coors Field in Denver. While summer nights are perfect for baseball, late-season games can get a little chilly.
Doug Pensinger Getty Images

When baseball fell into its current schedule more than a century ago, the national pastime owned the sporting landscape. There was no professional football, and college football was a regional enterprise in a nation where few folks even had a college alma mater to care about. In a culture still quite agricultural, the schools started later. So, in effect, the harvest extended summer.

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12:01am

Wed August 24, 2011
Sweetness And Light

The Goal(post)-Oriented Pilgrimage

On his 56-year quest, Dick Wessels visited all the stadiums of all the Division One college football teams.
David Lee iStockphoto.com

All right, so the University of Miami's been caught in a humongous football scandal following Ohio State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oregon, and, as the King of Siam used to say: "Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."

What's more to add? The sport is totally out of control, and neither the college presidents nor the NCAA can do anything but make dopey, empty promises. So why bother? Let me, instead, tell you a nice college football story.

It is about a quest.

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10:00pm

Tue August 16, 2011
Sweetness And Light

You're Off The Team: The Most Unkindest Cut

Now is the time when The Turk appears –– he being that mythic figure in the NFL camps who materializes one night with those words of doom for the poor player before him: Pick up your playbook and go see the coach.

It is, of course, not the messenger who actually performs the dirty deed. But for decades now, the person who tells the player to report to the boss has been known as The Turk –– presumably because some old player with a vivid imagination envisioned an Ottoman warrior, wielding a scimitar sword that, more dramatically than any other, said cut.

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10:00pm

Tue August 9, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Thinking Back On Bubba Smith

Bubba Smith, who died last week, was a teammate of mine. I can see him giving me a stern, put-on sneer in response to that claim, and in truth, no, Bubba and I were not football teammates. Rather, we acted in an ensemble as Lite Beer All-Stars back when Miller used a lot of washed-up old athletes — and one overwhelmed sportswriter — to hustle what was then a popular new product: a low-calorie beer.

Remember? "Tastes great!" "Less filling!"

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12:01am

Wed August 3, 2011
Sweetness And Light

NCAA: Still Stalled By 'Amateur Hour' Thinking

NCAA President Mark Emmert address the media during a press conference before the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17 in Washington, D.C.
Nick Laham Getty Images

Next week, at some place in Indianapolis where time has been instructed to stand still, Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, will convene what is being called, without irony, a "retreat."

Assembled will be about 50 college presidents, pledged, it seems, to make sure that college athletics continue to remain firmly in the past, in the antiquated amateur hours.

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11:10pm

Tue July 26, 2011
Sweetness And Light

When Owens Beat Hitler, And The Olympics Changed

Jesse Owens crosses the finish line in Berlin to win the 100-meter sprint, one of four events in which Owens won gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.
Keystone Getty Images

While of course nothing can approach the horror of the terrorist murders at the 1972 Olympics, it is now the 75th anniversary of what were surely the most fascinating and historically influential Games –– those in Berlin that began at this very time in the summer of '36. It was novelty, and glory, and evil — all in athletic conjunction as never before or since.

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10:00pm

Tue July 19, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Yankees' HOPE Week: Batting A Thousand

At last year's HOPE Week, pitcher Mariano Rivera warmed up with Jorge Grajales before the New York Yankees played the Detroit Tigers. Grajales threw out the game's first pitch.
Jim McIsaac Getty Images

Virtually all professional sports franchises make a point of aligning themselves in some ways with charities. From a cynical point of view, it's good public relations. But my experience is that the teams are genuine in their good works. And a funny thing often happens. Perhaps especially where children are involved, some of the athletes who initially look upon their involvement with a team's charity as drudgery — just more PR duty — end up being quite moved.

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10:00pm

Tue July 12, 2011
Sweetness And Light

New Winners Face Pressure To Be Brilliant. Again.

Rory McIlroy poses with his prize after winning the 2011 U.S. Open. Now, the pressure is on him to perform well in the British Open.
David Cannon Getty Images

Precocity is always in vogue in sports. Or anyway, the media love to cuddle up with precocity, to present us the next great thing. A new phenom can't merely be promising. No, he obviously must be the best there ever was.

And here comes Rory McIlroy now, winner of exactly three professional tournaments, a prefabricated legend, already being carried off to golf heaven.

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10:00pm

Tue July 5, 2011
Sweetness And Light

When Athletes Play Dirty, Government Bats Cleanup

For those of you depressed that two of our grandest leagues, the NFL and the NBA, are both temporarily out of business via lockout, cheer up: There's other major news to divert you. Drugs are back, front and center. In fact, right now it's a veritable pharmaceutical hullabaloo.

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10:00pm

Tue June 21, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Who Wants To Be The GOAT?

Spain's Rafael Nadal (right) and Switzerland's Roger Federer pose with their trophies after the men's final match at the 2011 French Open. The two men are currently playing in the 2011 Wimbledon Championships.
Lionel Cironneau ASSOCIATED PRESS

Always, the worst thing you could call an athlete was "goat." He's the chump who cost his team by dropping a fly ball, making a turnover, fumbling.

Bill Gallo, the beloved New York Daily News cartoonist, would draw a portrait of the goat of every World Series game, depicting the poor stiff with horns for ears. In fact, I suspect the designation of the goat as the figure of ridicule derives from the medieval sign of the horn for a cuckolded husband.

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10:00pm

Tue June 14, 2011
Sweetness And Light

ESPN: Nobody Does It Bigger

Graffizone iStockphoto.com

Now, in the heart of the baseball season, a time of NBA and NHL championships, another fabulous Nadal-Federer final, the start of golf's U.S. Open, the lockouts — continued and impending — in the NFL and the NBA, one name in sport still stands above the rest: ESPN.

Of course, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports always bestrides the athletic world like a colossus, but in the astrology of sport, this June has even more so been under the sign of the behemoth.

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10:00pm

Tue June 7, 2011
Sweetness And Light

International Sports: Fair Or Foul Play?

FIFA President Joseph S. "Sepp" Blatter talks to media at a press conference after being re-elected during the 61st FIFA Congress on June 1 in Zurich.
Julian Finney Getty Images

As sure as death and no new taxes, American sports fans are always convinced that the people who run sports here are dimwits. Well, yes, we have occasionally had some real nincompoops in charge of various professional American sports, and not even Pericles could successfully manage the NCAA, but in point of fact, our domestic sports are a paragon of efficiency and integrity compared with the way international athletic organizations are managed.

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12:01am

Wed June 1, 2011
Sweetness And Light

If You Can't Stand The Heat ...

A fan of the Chicago Bulls holds up a sign mocking LeBron James of the Miami Heat.
Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

Miami beat Dallas Tuesday night in the first game of the NBA finals. Boo. Hiss.

Please understand, that's just the consensus expressing an opinion. Nobody much outside of South Florida roots for the Heat. In fact, it's hard for anybody outside of South Florida to like the Heat fans, inasmuch as they all come wearing white, so a Heat home game, like last night, looks like a dentist convention or an agricultural rally of Cuban Communists in Havana.

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10:00pm

Tue May 17, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Can Gay Athletes Come Out And Play?

Suddenly, with a diverse sampler of incidents, the subject of homosexuality in sport has again moved back to the forefront. Invariably, too, this brings up the question: When will the first gay male American athlete in a prominent professional team sport step forward and declare his sexuality?

True or not, male athletes have generally been assumed to be uneasy about gays in their midst, if not downright homophobic.

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10:00pm

Tue May 10, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Pacman: Last Of The Great Boxers?

Manny Pacquiao hits Shane Mosley in the seventh round of their WBO welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 7. Pacquiao retained his title with a unanimous-decision victory.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

In a springtime of pro basketball and hockey playoffs, of NASCAR and, heaven help us, mixed martial arts, it may be hard for anybody on the sunny side of the baby boom era to appreciate that what took place last Saturday would have been, not so long ago, about the biggest sports day of the year.

Yes sir, both the Kentucky Derby — the fabled Run for the Roses — and the greatest boxer on the planet, the legendary Pacman, defending his title. Same day. What a twin bill.

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10:00pm

Tue May 3, 2011
Sweetness And Light

America's Love Of Team Sports Comes At Price

I've always thought that one of the best things about American sport is that we aren't dominated by one team game, as so much of the rest of the world is soccer-centric. That's why we can have our own American dream. The dream of most other countries is simply to have their national soccer team do well.

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10:00pm

Tue April 26, 2011
Sweetness And Light

(Don't) Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Ice hockey has a reputation for televising poorly: You can't see the puck! Even ESPN, which buys up the rights to every sport this side of musical chairs, let the National Hockey League go. So what's happened? NHL ratings have soared, and the league just signed a new contract with Comcast, doubling its old figure.

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10:00pm

Tue April 19, 2011
Sweetness And Light

Sorry, Sports Fans: The Losers Don't Learn More

Recently, we seem to have had some especially spectacular and even tragic defeats. But of course, in sport we don't devote much extended contemplation to those who lose –– unless, of course, they should come back and win.

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10:00pm

Tue April 12, 2011
Sweetness And Light

The NFL Owners' Prevent Offense: Play For Time

Do you get the feeling that the National Football League labor negotiations harken us back to nothing less than the Vietnam peace talks? Any minute now, I expect the two sides to start arguing over the shape of the table.

Both sides have essentially said, "Yeah, we sure do want to talk, only not actually to one another" — until finally, a judge has ordered them to meet again again, pretty please, starting tomorrow.

If you haven't been paying attention, which is to your credit, the whole business has been turned over to lawyers.

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