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
1:33 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics

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

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 6:53 am

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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Sweetness And Light
1:28 am
Wed June 25, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 10:48 am

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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Sweetness And Light
1:26 am
Wed June 18, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 8:22 am

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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Sweetness And Light
1:39 am
Wed June 4, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 6:32 am

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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Sweetness And Light
1:36 am
Wed May 28, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 10:57 am

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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Sweetness And Light
1:17 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Don't Judge Exceptional Players By The Company They Keep

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

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 6:06 am

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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Sweetness And Light
1:47 am
Wed May 14, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 10:50 am

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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Sweetness And Light
5:49 am
Wed April 30, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 7:13 am

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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Sweetness And Light
1:35 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 6:02 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
3:08 am
Wed March 19, 2014

There's A Reason They Call It Madness

Streeter Lecka Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:28 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
1:32 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 7:33 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
3:23 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 7:51 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
3:17 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 9:51 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
1:22 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 5:04 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
1:01 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 8:02 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
3:07 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 8:10 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
1:07 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 10:39 am

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
1:25 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 8:55 am

This is a Thanksgiving story about a horse. Actually, a horse artist. I don't mean an artist who paints horses, like Degas or Remington, but a horse who paints — and thereby also raises money for less fortunate horses.

Really.

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Sweetness And Light
1:00 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 10:51 am

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
1:24 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 9:08 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
1:02 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 7:01 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
3:03 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 3:24 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
3:19 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 7:16 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
12:59 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 10:35 am

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
1:28 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 10:18 am

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
1:44 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Head Games: NFL Should Share Records About Concussions

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 11:15 am

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

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Sweetness And Light
1:19 am
Wed September 18, 2013

More Than Average: Dow Jones Adds The 'Swoosh'

Don Ryan AP

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 2:01 pm

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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Sweetness And Light
1:25 am
Wed September 11, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 5:54 am

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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Sweetness And Light
12:15 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Why Keep Athletes Eligible But Uneducated?

Ersin Kisacik iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 2:31 pm

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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Sweetness And Light
1:36 am
Wed August 28, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 3:46 pm

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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