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
11:48 pm
Tue January 1, 2013

New Jersey Tries To Horn In On Nevada's Gambling Turf

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 9:16 am

For those dearly devoted of you who paid attention to me in September, I noted that the best bet in the NFL had proven to be whenever a West Coast team played an East Coast team at night, because the Pacific players had their body clocks better set.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Time For Gun Owners To Be Good Sports About Gun Restrictions

Frank Deford says those who have the potential to reduce the gun violence are people who own guns and who are good sports.
LeightonPhotography iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:44 am

I've never had any interest in hunting. Among other things, I'm a terrible shot, but I have friends who hunt, and it appears to me to be a perfectly reasonable sports hobby — certainly every bit as honorable as fantasy football. Moreover, shooting a deer or a duck with a bullet seems to me no more inhuman than catching a trout or a marlin with a hook.

Oh, sometimes I get a little piqued that those who hunt and fish are ennobled as "sportsmen," while people who play golf are just golfers and people who bowl are just bowlers. But then, that's just me being picayune.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

NHL Lockout Leaves Fans Out In The Cold

Mike Bolt, keeper of the Stanley Cup, takes it off the ice on Dec. 7, 2012, in Vancouver, British Columbia. The NHL lockout enters its 88th day on Wednesday.
Darryl Dyck AP

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 5:44 am

The entertainment industry seems to give us only three things: sex, Justin Bieber and boxing.

Justin Bieber aside, don't producers know almost nobody cares anymore about boxing? But here we have Clifford Odets' period piece, Golden Boy, back on Broadway, and — achtung! — a musical of Rocky mounted in Germany.

Plus the usual same-old, same-old treatments are floating around. Eminem wants to make a boxing movie. Really. Worse, there are actual plans to have Sylvester Stallone fight Robert DeNiro in a boxing film. OMG — I am perfectly serious.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Navel-Gazing: Why Golf Should Embrace Belly Putters

Carl Pettersson of Sweden putts for birdie on the eighth hole during the final round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C., in April. The long putter he uses is in danger of being banned.
Hunter Martin Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 12:20 pm

When did "issues" become such an all-purpose, often euphemistic word for anything disagreeable? We have issues now where we used to have problems, and concerns, and troubles, and hornet's nests. Like for example: The American and British big wheels who run golf have "issues" with putting.

Now understand, modern golfers have kryptonite drivers with club heads as large as prize pumpkins, and steroid balls that would not pass the drug test, even if the hapless International Cycling Union were doing the random sampling.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

College Football: Pro and Con(servative) Views

Despite the Big Ten's expansion, Frank Deford says the conference will struggle to compete with pro football in the Northeast. The conference announced the addition of Maryland and Rutgers earlier this month.
Patrick McDermott Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 1:21 pm

What do anti-abortion beliefs, and patronizing Chick-fil-A, and a devotion to college sports have in common? Hmm.

Well, according to Trey Grayson, the former Kentucky secretary of state and U.S. Senate contender who is now the distinguished head of the Harvard Institute of Politics, those are the trio of giveaway markers to suggest that you are conservative.

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Sweetness And Light
1:15 am
Wed November 21, 2012

What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander

Jockey Rosie Napravnik sponges off Shanghai Bobby after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile horse race at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Originally published on Wed November 21, 2012 7:49 am

A trivia question for you: Who today is the leading jockey who was born in the U.S.?

The answer is Rosie Napravnik. Yes, of all our American jockeys, the one with the best record is a woman.

Napravnik's mounts have earned more than $11 million this year, and none of the seven jocks who have earned more began life in this country. So, even in a dangerously athletic job like race-riding, a woman can sometimes compete straight up with men.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Dear Sports Czars: Take Your Ball And Go Home

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 6:06 am

Czars.

It was fun to call American sports commissioners czars, but once players started to have unions, a commissioner really became more like a majority leader in a legislature, trying to keep his party — the owners — together in their financial battles against the minority opposition, the athletes.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

The American Pastime Fades In Popularity

Wendell Franks iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 6:52 am

Jacques Barzun, the esteemed cultural historian, lived 104 years and wrote a multitude of words about the most important issues in society, but when he died last week, his one quote that was invariably cited was a pithy one that he wrote back in 1954: "Whoever wishes to know the heart and soul of America had better learn baseball."

Never mind that that is no longer even remotely true.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Brooklyn Finally Nets A Team Of Its Own

C.J. Watson of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles upcourt in a preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers. The New York City borough finally has a pro sports team to call its own, says Frank Deford.
Bruce Bennett Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 5:30 am

It's largely forgotten now — but there was a time when the mere mention of Brooklyn would produce a cascade of laughs. It was like saying "woman driver" — surefire guffaws. Everybody from Brooklyn was supposed to be a character.

Every platoon in every war movie had one wise guy from Brooklyn in it. Brooklyn natives spoke funny. They said, most famously, "youse guys." At a time when African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics barely existed — visibly — in movies or on radio or television, Brooklyn was the all-purpose stand-in for our great American ethnic diversity.

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Sweetness And Light
1:48 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Kickers Are Taking The Kick Out Of Football

Place kicker Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos kicks a second quarter field goal on a hold by Britton Colquitt against the Houston Texans at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High in Denver on Sept. 23.
Justin Edmonds Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 6:31 am

Of all the strained sports cliches, my favorite was "educated toe." Remember? An accomplished field goal kicker possessed an educated toe. I had a newspaper friend who wrote that a punter had an "intellectual instep," but the copy desk wouldn't allow it. Spoilsports.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

It's Good To Root, Root, Root For The Home Team

Baltimore Orioles Nate McLouth (from left), J.J. Hardy, Robert Andino and Manny Machado high-five teammates after Game 2 of Major League Baseball's American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. Somewhere, commentator and Orioles fan Frank Deford is also giving high-fives.
Nick Wass AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 4:48 am

My first protocol on rooting in sports is that you should stick with the teams that you grew up with. I know we're a transient society, but that's just it: Continuing to cheer for your original hometown teams is one way of displaying the old-fashioned value of allegiance.

If you grew up in Cleveland, say, and moved somewhere Sun Belt-ish, I know how hard it is, but the measure of whether you are a good person is that you must remain loyal to the Browns and Indians and that team that LeBron James left behind.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

The NFL's Lesson: There's No Replacing Good Refs

Referee Walt Anderson makes a call in the Chicago Bears game against the Dallas Cowboys Monday, ending the NFL's first full slate of games with its regular officials.
Ronald Martinez Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 3, 2012 8:14 am

So, we found out that the National Football League is too big to fail. But not so big that it couldn't make a complete fool of itself and show to the world that its owners are stingy, greedy nincompoops.

Not so big that it couldn't make its commissioner, Roger Goodell, stand out in front, looking lost and small, so that their erstwhile tough-guy commander suddenly became an errand boy, losing respect and dignity that will be hard to regain the next time he needs it.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

RG3: A Game Changer For 'Thirds' Everywhere

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III watches from the sidelines. RG3 as he is known has a fan in other thirds like Frank Deford.
Rob Carr Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 8:36 am

We're all familiar with the many sports terms that have moved into general usage: "par for the course," "slam-dunk," "curveball," "photo finish" and so on.

Curiously, though, every now and then something of the inverse occurs, and we get an expression which is commonly used that has been derived from sport, but never used in sport.

For example, that awful, overdone cliche, "level playing field." Never in my life have I ever heard anyone in sport — that is, somebody actually right there on the level playing field — say, "I'm glad we're playing on a level playing field."

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Sweetness And Light
10:03 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

The Big East Conference: What's In A Name?

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco answers questions from the media before an NCAA college football game. Aresco says there are no plans for the conference to change its name.
Jessica Hill AP

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 6:45 am

All you have to know about the nonsense of college athletic conferences in America today is that the Big Ten has 12 members, and the Big Twelve has 10. Honestly.

But as badly as athletic conferences flunk arithmetic, they do no better with geography. Next year, for example, San Diego State will be in the Big East. This is like, you never could believe that Vladivostok, way out there, was really in Russia, could you?

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

NFL's West Coast Teams Have An Edge: The Sandman

Quarterback Matt Stafford and the Detroit Lions will travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers Sunday night. Because their body clocks are set to the Eastern time zone, the Lions could be at a disadvantage.
Rick Osentoski AP

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 7:28 pm

Hi! Are you a gambler? Do you like to bet football? Then this is your lucky day, for if you'll just stay tuned, I'm gonna offer you a free money-back guarantee: how you, too, can pick an NFL winner. Just don't turn that dial, and listen to this important message.

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Sweetness And Light
12:24 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Southern Pride And The Southeastern Conference

Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin speaks to reporters at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media day.
Butch Dill AP

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 2:09 pm

Well, the Southeastern Conference season has begun. I have it on good authority that other college football teams around the country will also be playing games this fall.

I don't know when exactly the SEC took over America. I know this is hard to believe, but the epicenter of college football used to be in the Midwest. I'm so old, I can remember when Notre Dame actually mattered, and the real tough players were supposed to come from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

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Sweetness And Light
1:19 am
Wed August 29, 2012

Just Say No: Doping Diminishes All Athletes

San Francisco Giants' Melky Cabrera fouls off a pitch. Cabrera was suspended Aug 15 for 50 games without pay after testing positive for high levels of testosterone.
Ben Margot AP

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 6:23 am

Certain forms of art are performed in private. The painter is alone when he paints, the writer likewise.

But the most pertinent aspect of the performing arts is that they are watched. Dance, music, drama and sport are most challenging — and most thrilling — precisely because they are real, before our eyes.

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Sweetness And Light
8:09 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Serena Williams Takes Tennis For A Ride

Serena Williams returns a shot during a match at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in Mason, Ohio.
Tom Uhlman AP

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 11:44 am

For the first time in a long time there is actually more than a modicum of interest in the women's side of a Grand Slam tournament. And, of course, it's all strictly due to a party of one: Serena Williams.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Feeling Just Wild About Wild Cards

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is out at second against Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. Despite less-than-stellar statistics, the Orioles are contenders in the American League wild-card race.
Nick Wass AP

Originally published on Wed August 15, 2012 11:46 am

Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, has persuaded his owners and the players to add an extra wild-card team to the playoffs, so now five teams per league will qualify.

Not only is this terrific for the fans, but Selig also wisely managed to make it so that the wild-card teams engage in a one-game showdown for the privilege of being the team that joins the three division winners in the battle for the league championship.

I have just the old-fashioned word for this newfangled development: nifty.

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Sweetness And Light
1:27 am
Wed August 8, 2012

How Can You Really Measure The Greatest Olympian?

Before U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps broke the record for the most medals, did anyone say the precious record-holder, gymnast Larisa Latynina, was the greatest Olympian?
Leon Neal AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 9:52 am

I always like it when Olympic champions from one sport go to another competition, so I was particularly touched to see Kobe Bryant, with his children in tow, watching as the magnificent Michael Phelps bid adieu to his sport by winning yet one last gold.

Phelps and Bryant are connected these days, too, because both have prompted some historical conversation. Kobe boasted that his current U.S. basketball squad could beat the sainted Dream Team of '92, while Phelps, simply by piling up more medals, opened up the barroom debate about who might be the greatest Olympian ever.

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Sweetness And Light
3:12 am
Wed August 1, 2012

Four Sports Superstars, Four Years Later

Michael Phelps reacts after winning silver in the men's 200-meter butterfly final at the Aquatics Centre on Tuesday. South Africa's Chad le Clos took home the gold.
Matt Slocum AP

Originally published on Thu August 2, 2012 2:34 pm

Let us go back an Olympiad, to August of 2008. Incredibly, then, in all four of the world's most popular men's individual sports, we were at a time when, quite possibly, the four greatest champions ever in each of those sports was at or near his peak.

There they were, as the Beijing Olympics began:

  • Tiger Woods, 32 years old, still a prime age for a golfer, winner of his 14th major, the U.S. Open, only a few weeks ago — gloriously alone at the top.
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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

From Obscurity To The Olympics Back To Obscurity

Know who this gymnast is? You will soon. Seventeen-year-old Jordyn Wieber will compete for the U.S. women's gymnastics team in the 2012 London Olympics.
Jeff Roberson AP

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 6:12 am

Why do we like the Olympics?

If somebody hadn't thought to start them up again 116 years ago, would ESPN have invented them to fill in summer programming?

I'm not being cranky. It's just that most of the most popular Olympic sports are the groundhog games. Swimming, gymnastics and track and field come out every four years, see their shadow and go right back underground where nobody pays any attention to them for another four years. Can you even name a gymnast?

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Doping In Baseball: The Needle And The Damage Done

Marathon medal winners listen to the anthem from the victory stand during the presentation ceremony at the XXI Summer Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976. From left, Frank Shorter, U.S.A., silver; Waldemar Cierpinski, East Germany, gold, Olympic record; and Karel Lismont, Belgium, bronze. Evidence of doping by the East Germans suggests that Shorter deserved the gold medal.
AP

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:57 am

The 2012 induction ceremony for the Baseball Hall of Fame takes place this weekend, so there's even more discussion about the 2013 election, because then both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be on the ballot, along with several other players who are also suspected of having used performance-enhancing drugs.

I've been surprised to learn that some baseball writers have declared that they'll vote for Bonds and Clemens because they were the best players in an era when drug use was widespread — ergo if there's a lot of guilt going around, then nobody should be assigned guilt.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Going To The Game: The Price Is Wrong?

Andy Murray returns a shot during the men's final match at Wimbledon. A pair of tickets for the match went for £32,000 (about $50,000).
Paul Gilham Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 2:45 am

Sports is more ubiquitous than ever on television. And sports is almost the only thing that's left, live, on TV. NBC Universal is even going to let Americans see the Olympics live this year.

Nevertheless, despite TV's charm, last week as Andy Murray, Great Britain's homeboy, drew closer to making the Wimbledon final, the word was that tickets for actual Centre Court seats would be scalped for up to £32,000 a pair. If you're not hanging around the currency exchange market, that comes to something like $50,000. For two tickets. To a game.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Joe Paterno's Legacy: Protect Players At All Costs

Joe Paterno walks the sidelines during warm-ups before a game between his Penn State Nittany Lions and the Temple Owls in Philadelphia last September. Paterno, who died in January, was fired on Nov. 9, four days after Jerry Sandusky was initially arrested on charges of sexually abusing 10 boys.
Chris Szagola AP

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 6:39 am

It is not facetious to say that dying may not have been the worst thing to happen to Joe Paterno this past year.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Title IX At 40: What Has Changed, And What's Next

The adoption of Title IX has spurred growth in women's collegiate sports, including soccer. But a women's pro league has struggled, cutting its season short this year. Here, Notre Dame celebrates winning the NCAA College Cup in 2010.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed June 20, 2012 6:08 am

Saturday is the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which, although almost nobody anticipated it then, resulted in women's gaining the right to participate in sports commensurate with their numbers attending college.

Title IX not only had a huge effect on women's participation in sports, but also, culturally, it influenced the way both men and women view the idea of women and athletics. It's mattered greatly in our American society.

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Sweetness And Light
8:03 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

The Language of Baseball: In Is Out And Foul Is Fair

Pittsburgh Pirates fans reach for a foul ball hit into the stands by Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals in the seventh inning of a game in Pittsburgh.
Keith Srakocic AP

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 6:14 am

Baseball historians continue to poke around in the 19th century to better explain how the game was originated and developed, but I've always wondered if one of the prime movers wasn't a student of Shakespeare.

While I certainly don't know the terminology of all ball games, the popular ones I'm aware of — everything from basketball and football to golf and tennis — all use some variations of the words in and out when determining whether the ball is playable.

Only baseball is different.

"Fair is foul and foul is fair; Hover through the fog and filthy air."

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Sweetness And Light
12:57 am
Wed June 6, 2012

Please Sir, I'd Rather Have Another

Triple Crown hopefull I'll Have Another is ridden by exercise rider Jonny Garcia during a morning workout at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Al Bello Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 10:07 am

To be perverse, I'd suggest that for the horse-racing industry, it'd be best that I'll Have Another does not — yes, does not — win the Triple Crown this Saturday.

Oh, certainly, absolutely every year you want a horse to win the first two races — the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — so that suspense builds and a horse has a chance to win the Belmont and take the Triple Crown. But isn't it better to have the potential winner barely get beat so that the losing streak continues, building interest?

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Sweetness And Light
8:02 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

In Europe's High Season For Sports, Soccer Rules

Larger Than Life: Tourists pose in front of a UEFA Euro 2012 Cup placard on Kiev's Independence Square in Ukraine. Europe is entering a packed sports schedule — but soccer still reigns supreme, says Frank Deford.
Sergei Supinsky AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 6:04 am

It's a prime irony that while Europe is suffering a great financial crisis, in counterpoint, the Continent is starting to spend the summer awash in a veritable plethora of joyous sporting events, a rolling athletic circus to divert Europeans from Angela Merkel telling them to get serious and tighten their belts.

Now, as is the case every summer, there are two Grand Slam tennis championships — the French Open, which is already under way, and Wimbledon. Then the Tour de France and British Open golf.

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Sweetness And Light
1:23 am
Wed May 23, 2012

NBA And NHL Playoffs: Does Anyone Really Care?

Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs have won 18 games in a row as they head into the NBA's Western Conference Finals. But Frank Deford wants to know: Has anyone noticed?
Harry How Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 6:23 am

It's the climax of the hockey and basketball seasons, but both have potential playoff visibility problems. Let me explain.

OK, the NBA first. As you know, basketball is the most individualized, celebrity-ized team game. Like movie stars, the best players are known by their first names: LeBron, Kobe, Dirk. Every basketball superstar wants to take his talents to a hot-dog, big-time market. Or at least marry a Kardashian.

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