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
1:29 am
Wed May 20, 2015

The Other Sacred Thing Tom Brady Squashed: Sportsmanship

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks to the sideline during this year's Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.
Christian Petersen Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 10:09 am

Sport may be dismissed as inconsequential child's play, but there is, in counterpoint, the ideal that sport is our best model for human fairness and equality — a Garden of Eden with competition. But, of course, there are snakes in this athletic garden. Rules will be broken.

To my mind there are, in ascending order, three kinds of transgressions. The first is the most simple: transgressions committed in the heat of the action, instinctively, because of frustration, failure or anger. There are referees to tend to that misconduct.

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Sweetness And Light
1:23 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Was 'Deflategate' About Tom Brady's Legacy Or His Ego?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. on May 7, 2015. An NFL investigation has found that New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs and Brady was "at least generally aware" of the rules violations. Now, he faces a four-game suspension and the Patriots a $1 million fine.
Charles Krupa AP

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 8:11 am

Here's a question to ponder over your morning coffee: Why?

Why would the New England Patriots' Tom Brady get involved in a scandal? This week, Brady, who has denied any wrongdoing, was suspended four games for his alleged involvement in lowering the pressure in the footballs he threw in a playoff game.

Yet he did not seem to need to cheat to win.

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Sweetness And Light
3:03 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Athletes Want To Talk To Fans Without Meddlesome Sports Journalists

Derek Jeter attends the launch party for his new website, The Players' Tribune, on Feb. 14 in New York City. The site is a platform for athletes to talk directly to fans.
Timothy Hiatt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 8:25 am

It's interesting to note the major differences in the way the media deals with sports stars and entertainment celebrities in public.

When entertainment personalities are interviewed, they are dressed to the nines, and the interrogation consists mostly of compliments. Athletes, however, are interviewed all grubby and sweaty, and primarily, they are rudely asked to explain themselves. Why did you strike out? How could you have possibly dropped that pass?

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Sweetness And Light
1:54 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Boxing Fans Shift Focus To Small Men, Big Money

The MGM Grand marquee is reflected in an escalator with advertising for the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, which will take place Saturday in Las Vegas.
John Locher AP

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 6:51 am

It was long an article of faith among sport cognoscenti that nothing in athletics approached the sheer electric drama and glamour of a heavyweight championship fight.

Well, if you missed it, they had one of those in no less a shrine than Madison Square Garden on Saturday. You could have watched it on plain old TV if you were not already analyzing the NFL draft, following the NBA or NHL playoffs or watching the baseball season unfold. Poor, ignored heavyweights.

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Sweetness And Light
1:48 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Bruce Jenner's Long History Of Clearing Hurdles

Decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner throws the javelin during an Olympic competition in Montreal on July 30, 1976.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 22, 2015 7:03 am

In an interview airing Friday on ABC, Bruce Jenner is expected to announce that he is transgender, though he has made no such acknowledgment.

As the public awaits his presumed revelations, Jenner is still invariably and glibly identified by his paternal connection to the Kardashian clan. It's presented almost anecdotally that he won the gold medal for the Olympic decathlon — the 10-event classic of track and field athleticism — in 1976. But back then, he was a glorified champion and called "the world's greatest athlete."

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Sweetness And Light
1:43 am
Wed April 15, 2015

As American Sports Skew More Armcentric, Throwing Injuries Rise

Texas Rangers relief pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla throws during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on March 4, in Surprise, Ariz. He is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery this week.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 6:11 am

Whatever happened to rotator cuffs? It seems like just yesterday that every pitcher who was injured had a problem with his rotator cuff. But baseball player injuries now invariably require something called "Tommy John surgery," which has become epidemic.

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Sweetness And Light
1:50 am
Wed April 8, 2015

Deford: Americans Don't Care About Major League Soccer

New York Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall (third from left) reacts toward the crowd after teammate Lloyd Sam scores during an MLS soccer game against D.C. United on March 22 in Harrison, N.J. The Red Bulls won 2-0.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 1:30 pm

Wherever you stand on the matter of American exceptionalism, there is one indisputable fact: We are the exception when it comes to soccer. For just about every other nation, soccer is the sport — a far, far better thing than the American dollar, beer, Google or sex. Alas, in the United States, soccer has been more commonly identified with soccer moms than soccer players.

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Sweetness And Light
1:56 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Remembering Legendary NBA Announcer 'Hot Rod' Hundley

"Hot Rod" Hundley (right) does postgame commentary with Ron Boone after the Utah Jazz-Seattle SuperSonics game on May 5, 2000, in Salt Lake City.
Douglas C. Pizac AP

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 3:22 pm

The inimitable "Hot Rod" Hundley died last week at age 80. He will be remembered as a great announcer, even though he was also an All-American basketball player. He messed it up after just six years in the NBA when he forgot about concentrating on the fun and games.

"You gotta love it, baby" was his signature call for the 35 years he broadcast games for the NBA Jazz. Even when he was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, he was already trying out expressions, mimicking announcers and working on punch lines.

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Sweetness And Light
2:23 am
Wed March 25, 2015

'Borland Effect' A Fumble For Football? Deford Says It Will Pass

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, center, during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif. Borland announced that he will retire after just one season to protect himself from brain injuries.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 6:18 am

Once again, the question of the NFL's pre-eminence — even existence — has been raised with the retirement of Chris Borland, a very good player, who has walked away from the game and millions of dollars at the age of 24 in order to preserve his health, or more specifically, his brain.

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Sweetness And Light
1:09 am
Wed March 18, 2015

News From The Charity Stripe

Arizona State fans showcase their Curtain of Distraction during a game against UCLA on Feb. 18 in Tempe, Ariz.
Rick Scuteri AP

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 10:23 am

It's the venerable custom in tennis and golf for the crowd to be still and quiet when players hit their shots.

Now, since even ordinary baseball batters have some success hitting against 98 mph fastballs with 40,000 fans standing and screaming, do you really believe that great athletes like Novak Djokovic or Rory McIlroy couldn't serve or putt with a few thousand fans hollering? If they'd grown up playing tennis or golf that way, that is. When disorder is a sustaining part of the game, players, in effect, put it out of their minds. Hear no evil, see no evil.

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Sweetness And Light
1:35 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Deford: NCAA Fans Continue To Drink Deeply Of The (Sports) Spirits

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, right, speaks with an official during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 28
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 5:41 am

OK, after an eight-year investigation, the NCAA hit Syracuse University and its basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, with all sorts of penalties for academic and recruiting violations. Normally in sports media, nobody is particularly surprised whenever any coach is caught, so a great deal of speculation was then diverted to how this might affect Boeheim's "legacy."

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Sweetness And Light
1:34 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Alex Rodriguez Is Back, For Better Or Worse

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez watches from the dugout during an intrasquad game at a spring training baseball workout Monday in Tampa, Fla.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 3:27 pm

One of the very best old-time sports columnists was named Jimmy Cannon. He wrote after Hemingway, tough-guy style, and Jimmy had a lot of original devices, too. One was an occasional column he'd do in what I called the second person impersonal. For example, my favorite was about an aging hitting star when he was in a slump. Cannon began: "Your name is Stan Musial and all your bats are broken."

Now, that's how you start a column. And so, in honor of Jimmy Cannon: Your name is Alex Rodriguez, and nobody likes you.

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Sweetness And Light
2:11 am
Wed February 25, 2015

An Uneventful Week In Sports Could Still Go Down In History

Kurt Busch drives during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 2, 2014. Busch was recently suspended indefinitely amid domestic violence accusations.
Larry Papke AP

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 12:42 pm

Sometime in the future, when the Winter Olympics are being held in the tropics, in Zimbabwe, because there are no other dictators that want them and Robert Mugabe promised the International Olympic Committee he'd build an artificial ski mountain, historians will study what happened in sports during these last few days in February of 2015.

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Sweetness And Light
2:38 am
Wed February 18, 2015

John Calipari Gets The Best Out Of His One-And-Done Bench

Kentucky's Aaron Harrison and coach John Calipari watch from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi on Jan. 6. Kentucky won 89-86 in overtime.
James Crisp AP

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 8:27 am

You may have your Bill Belichick and another Super Bowl, you may salute Mike Krzyzewski and his over 1,000 college basketball wins or you may even worship at the altar of Joe Maddon, who's the latest savior ballyhooed to lead the Cubs to heaven above. Forget them all. In the here and now, there is only one coach who stands tallest.

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Sweetness And Light
1:41 am
Wed February 11, 2015

'Gentleman And Coach' Dean Smith Did What He Believed In

UNC Tar Heels head basketball coach Dean Smith gives instructions during a 1997 playoff game against the Colorado Buffaloes. Smith died Saturday. He was 83.
Doug Pensinger Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 6:54 am

When I was a callow basketball reporter, I wrote critically of a stall strategy called the four corners that North Carolina Tar Heels coach Dean Smith would have his team use if they were ahead late in a game. He asked me why I didn't like the ploy, and I told him that it was my experience (my experience: I'm like 25 years old) that "sitting on a lead" — that's the expression — changes the emotion, the passion, and while it may be rational, it's dangerous psychologically.

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Sweetness And Light
1:42 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Dear Aging Athletes: Say Hello To Goodbye

Tiger Woods on the ninth hole during the second round of the Phoenix Open last Friday, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Woods, who'll turn 40 this year, is making Frank Deford wonder: How does an athlete know when to retire?
Rick Scuteri AP

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 7:13 am

When Fred Astaire was 69, he gave up dancing, explaining: "At my age, I don't want to disappoint anyone, including myself." All great athletes should keep that quotation up on their bathroom mirror.

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Sweetness And Light
1:32 am
Wed January 28, 2015

The Tennis Court Offers A Good Lesson For The NFL

Rafael Nadal (right) shakes hands with Tim Smyczek after winning a match at the Australian Open on Jan. 21.
Rob Griffith AP

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 11:06 am

More than half a century ago, there was a best-selling book — and then a movie — titled The Ugly American. The title was a twist, because the plot featured attractive Americans who were, however, boorish and haughty, acting most unattractively when they were sent abroad to represent the country at a time (post-World War II) when the United States had never been richer or more powerful.

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Sweetness And Light
12:58 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Frank Deford To The NBA: Who's On Worst?

The Atlanta Hawks' Mike Scott scores over the Detroit Pistons' Greg Monroe in a game Monday. The Hawks are currently leading the NBA's Eastern Conference.
Dave Tulis AP

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 6:58 am

Even with free agency, our professional leagues show a reliable sort of sameness from year to year. Oh sure, each season there are a few teams that surprise, but mostly, changes in the standings are evolutionary. That said, I don't believe I've ever seen a league that looks so cockeyed as the NBA is this year.

First of all, it's just plain weird to see the two historically glamorous franchises, the Celtics and Lakers, both down near the bottom of the standings, while up top are teams that previously were nondescript also-rans.

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Sweetness And Light
1:15 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Not So Wicked Smaht: Boston's Olympic Hopes

Boston is in the running to host the 2024 Olympics.
walknboston Flickr

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 7:04 am

Oh, poor Boston. Where is Paul Revere when we need him to alert the citizenry? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is coming! The International Olympic Committee is coming!

Boston, lock up your municipal bonds and pension funds.

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Sweetness And Light
1:39 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Crowning The 33rd-Best Football Team In America

The Yale football team in an undated photo. Commentator Frank Deford finds it curious that a sport as brutal as football became popular among the academic elite.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 10:35 am

So, we finally have our first official college football championship, and something like 50 million or so fans will be watching to see whether Oregon or Ohio State is the 33rd-best team in the country. This statement makes me, I admit, both perfectly accurate and infuriatingly facetious.

Certainly, no one would dispute that even the most miserable of the 32 NFL teams is far superior to any collegiate squad, but at the same time, a great segment of America will be deeply invested in watching what is, essentially, the equivalent of Triple-A baseball.

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Sweetness And Light
1:24 am
Wed December 31, 2014

Hockey's Doc Emrick And His 153 Verbs

Sports commentator Mike "Doc" Emrick waves to fans as he is presented with a jersey by the New Jersey Devils in 2012.
Bill Kostroun AP

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 10:06 am

Even if you're a fairly enthusiastic sports fan — someone who can identify sportscasters Jim Nantz or Joe Buck by tenor and intonation alone — you may very well have never heard the name Doc Emrick.

Mike "Doc" Emrick is the world's premier announcer for what is America's fourth team sport: ice hockey. For those who know hockey, or those aficionados who listen to a few minutes of an NHL game just to hear Emrick talk about blue lines or poke checking, he is absolutely revered.

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Sweetness And Light
1:24 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Deford: It's Hard To Write A Christmas Story About Sport

A sculpture at Britannia stadium in the English city of Stoke-on-Trent commemorates the Christmas Truce, a legendary soccer game played between German and British troops in December 1914.
Rui Vieira AP

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 6:02 am

Several years ago, I wrote a sports Christmas story. It was about a greedy basketball superstar who, imbued with Yuletide cheer, helps save his small-market franchise.

A big-time producer wanted to make a TV movie out of it. So off I went to Hollywood to turn my story into a script and thereby, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, make a killing.

Let me tell you: It's hard to write a Christmas story about sport.

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Sweetness And Light
1:46 am
Wed December 17, 2014

What's A Sportsman Anyway?

San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.
David J. Phillip AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:29 am

Sports Illustrated named its sportsman of the year the other day, Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, which reminded me once again that you only hear the word "sportsman" anymore about the time when Sports Illustrated names its Sportsman of the Year. The term seems so archaic that it would be as if Time magazine annually chose a Gentleman of the Year.

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Sweetness And Light
2:54 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Deford: What's Wrong With Pro Athletes Taking A Stand?

Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms to protest the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., before a game last month. The players faced a backlash from St. Louis police and have been asked to apologize.
L.G. Patterson AP

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 4:23 am

A common complaint I've long heard was that current athletes were selfish and not politically involved like their passionate forebears –– players like Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Bill Russell and Arthur Ashe.

My response was, "Well, how many of the modern athletes' peers are especially engaged in social controversy?" It wasn't fair to compare the sensibility of the athletes of, say, 1995 or 2005 to those of 1965; the apt comparison is with other members of their own cohort.

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Sweetness And Light
1:22 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Flag On The Play! Playoffs May Shift Focus From Football's Fumbles

Alabama defensive back Nick Perry (right) breaks up a pass on Auburn wide receiver D'haquille Williams (center) as Alabama defensive back Landon Collins looks on during the second half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won 55-44.
Butch Dill AP

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 8:07 am

For years, the great brouhaha in college football was its lack of a real playoff. But at last we have one — the four qualifying teams to be announced Sunday.

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Sweetness And Light
2:15 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Be Thankful This Year For The San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Miami Heat in game five of the NBA finals in June.
Ashley Landis EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 6:53 am

Has there ever been a team in any sport in the United States that everybody loves as much as the San Antonio Spurs? Sure, there have been popular teams — the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cowboys when they were America's team and not Jerry Jones' team, Notre Dame — but all those teams engendered almost as much hate as love.

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Sweetness And Light
1:49 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Outside Of The Games, Are Sports Corrupt?

The executive committee of FIFA — the international organization that regulates soccer — was so suspected of taking bribes that FIFA ordered its own internal investigation. It's no surprise, says Frank Deford, that it found no wrongdoing.
Kirill Kudryavstev AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 7:03 am

We so regularly excuse the chicanery of sport. We fans suspect that our team is just as guilty as whatever ooze bubbles to the surface elsewhere, so let it go lest we be the next one caught. For us privileged to actually be down in the rabbit hole, the sins have been so present for so long, they simply become accepted as a benign part of the landscape. Hey, it's all just fun and games, so go along, be a — well, be a good sport.

Only, every now and then ...

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Sweetness And Light
1:50 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Chicago Or Cleveland: Whose Teams Had More Downs Than Ups?

Joe Tinker of the Chicago Cubs and Bill Bradley of the Cleveland Naps around 1910.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 6:09 am

For those of us in sports who like to wallow in extended misery, this has been one terrific time. The Chicago Cubs hired a popular new manager, reminding us again, interminably, that they have now gone 106 years without winning the championship, eating up 51 managers in the process.

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Sweetness And Light
1:32 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Americana: Hot Dogs, Apple Pie And Football?

Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Karlos Dansby celebrates during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns won 22-17.
David Richard AP

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 5:02 pm

Every election suggests change, so given all the scandals involving football, now's an appropriate time to envision what reforms might be forced upon the sport. Well, I'll tell you: It's tough to mess with football.

Now, to begin with, from hindsight, it was probably misleading to call baseball "the national pastime." The claim was, essentially, based almost entirely on the fact that baseball was the only team sport that boasted a professional presence. The World Series was our World Cup and the Olympics rolled into one.

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Sweetness And Light
3:00 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Start World Series Games Earlier; Let Us Sleep

Fans cheer during the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park.
Rob Carr Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 8:48 am

Let me ask you a question: No matter what the sport, if you could only see the start of a game or the finish of a game, which would you prefer? Of course, any fool would choose to see the finish of the game.

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