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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Since too few Americans go to the polls, I say what this country needs is a bobblehead election, where voters will get free bobblehead dolls of their choice when they show up and vote for president.

Hey, it works in sports. And what sports needs is some kind of uniform, sensible policy relating to suspensions.

In the television era, the second week of the Olympics is reserved for what is considered the marquee event: track and field.

So, the shared premier showcases of the first week are swimming and women's gymnastics. While swimming was always a spotlight sport, I was, if you will, sort of present at the creation when gymnastics became the new star lead-off hitter.

Pete Rose may not make the Hall of Fame, but a statue of him is going to be erected outside the Cincinnati Reds' ballpark. Statues of sports stars are all the rage — especially in baseball. There are already seven other players frozen in statuary in Cincinnati, nine in St. Louis, six in both Baltimore and Detroit. It makes the legendary Monument Park in Yankee Stadium look like some drab wall in a hospital with the names of donors on plaques. Sports plaques seem so Rotary Club now.

A few years ago during an interview, Dave Pear, a former defensive lineman with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, suddenly, without warning, grabbed me — his huge thumb and forefinger pinching my poor neck. It was only for a few seconds, but my knees started to buckle and the pain shot through me. Calmly then, Dave said, "That's how I used to feel all day long."

On Thursday, it'll be three months till the Olympics begin. Usually, there'd be a panic by now that construction was way behind schedule, but, incredibly, only a couple of major projects remain incomplete in Rio.

No, rather the question remains how much can go haywire during the games to distract us from our enchanting presidential campaign.

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

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It was not that long ago when the accepted wisdom in football was that the running game had to be established — that was always the obligatory verb: established — before passes could become effective. My, we know how that has changed. Now the pass is established from the get-go, and running is an afterthought.

I firmly believe that football games are best when both the quarterbacks are stars, which is what we've definitely got Sunday.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Defense wins games and a football takes funny bounces, and, as every bad analyst regularly declares, man, those turnovers can kill you, but football absolutely needs quarterbacks. Otherwise, the sport only has all those faceless battalions of fungible gladiators.

Dear People of St. Louis:

I want you to be good sports. Yes, you lost an NFL franchise, but that's just the way it is in America. Owners own teams so that they might move them to another municipality with better luxury boxes. Get over it.

Even New York, premier city of the world, has lost teams. So did glitzy, glamorous LA. Chicago? Hey, it was St. Louis that took the football Cardinals from Chicago before Phoenix took the Cardinals from St. Louis so that St. Louis could take the Rams from Los Angeles. And so on.

Much as we talk about certain financial institutions that may be too big to fail, you can be absolutely certain that the one organization in the whole wide world that truly fits that definition is FIFA, the grubby behemoth that runs soccer. Too many international sports associations are rife with corruption, but the graft exposed at FIFA beggars the imagination.

We start 2016 with a command: that the subject of Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame is over, finis, kaput forever and ever. As sure as we will no longer discuss whether Lindsey Graham or George Pataki can be president. The new commissioner has been even more adamant in dismissing Rose's pleadings, so it doesn't matter how passionately you feel — it is a dead issue. There.

Until Dec. 12, the Golden State Warriors were undefeated, 24-0. They're the popular NBA defending champs, who play a fun style, led by an absolutely beguiling star, Stephen Curry. It's hard enough to draw attention away from the NFL, but the Warriors caught the public fancy, going for the record of most consecutive wins ever in major league sports.

Then a mediocre Milwaukee team clobbered them, and back everybody's attention went to Tom Brady, the Carolina Panthers and the point spreads of the week.

I love corny sports terminology. My favorite newspaper word is "tilt," meaning game. Have you ever, even once in your life, heard anybody speak the word "tilt" when they mean game? No, you haven't.

The best term in broadcast is "shaken up." The quarterback could have his throwing arm ripped from his body, and the announcer would say he is "shaken up." Have you ever, even once in your life, heard anybody use the expression "shaken up," when they mean hurt real bad? No, you haven't.

Click the audio to find out Frank Deford's favorite sports word.

The spectacular global terrorism that's been so prominent lately can best be dated from 1972, when 11 Israeli Olympians were murdered at the Munich Games. That seminal atrocity has taken on even more horror, too, now that we've learned that some of the victims suffered mutilation and torture before they died.

We may take some solace, though, that, after 43 years, the construction of a monument to the Israelis has finally begun and will be unveiled next October. Pointedly and poignantly, it stands barely more than a hundred yards from where the Israelis were first taken hostage.

Sports gets bigger all the time, everywhere. But even with a superabundance of sport, that's not enough to satisfy our appetites, and so now we have to have make-believe sport, too. Who would've ever thought we would bet real money on our sports fantasies?

Maybe H.L. Mencken was right when he said: "I hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense." And Mencken didn't even know about Ultimate Fighting or the halfpipe of snowboarding.

When the Royals won the World Series, I, like most everyone else, was so happy for the good people of Kansas City, because I kept being reminded that the Royals hadn't won since 1985. Poor, poor little KC. Then it occurred to me: so what? That's exactly how long it should be, because there are 30 major league franchises, so for any team to win once every 30 years is just par for the course.

It's accepted that the president of the University of Missouri stepped down in a racial dispute only when the football team threatened not to play a game. The players showed us again — surprise, surprise — how powerful is football, and let's throw in basketball, too, throughout our bastions of higher education.

U.S. leagues love playing games abroad. At first it was more just to show off our indigenous sports and hope the simpleminded foreigners would see what they were missing and start playing the red, white and blue games themselves.

The defending champion New England Patriots are undefeated, on that rare road to repeat, but, of course, except for the denizens of the northeast corner of our nation, the Pats are mostly unloved. It's not the sort of antipathy directed toward the Yankees. That's always been the anti-plutocrat sensation. Rather, there is about the Patriots the sense that they're rather untrustworthy, if not downright nasty — not America's Team, but more America's Gang.

Or, perhaps more accurately, the Belichick Gang.

I have an idea to help the Republicans solve their presidential nominating dilemma: Let's have a fantasy primary campaign. The Fox network can run it, and the voters will choose which candidates they think will win the various primaries.

After all, fantasy is in, fantasy is fantastic. In sports, fantasy is giving reality a run for its money. Why should sports have all the fun?

One of the great misunderstandings about college sports, which the big-time schools love to slyly imply, is that other sports on campus must be forever grateful that football and basketball pay for their right to exist.

Moreover, there is the concomitant threat that if ever colleges had to actually pay salaries to their football and basketball players, well, then, the athletic departments would be forced to drop those other "beggar sports" that don't bring in revenue.

This is, of course, utter nonsense.

Pitching a baseball overhand — which has always been a rather contorted, unnatural action — is now leading to an epidemic of injuries. Incredibly, it is estimated that one-fourth of all major league pitchers have had what's called Tommy John surgery, which involves the elbow's ulnar collateral ligament.

It was 75 years ago this week — Oct. 5, 1940 — when the movie Knute Rockne, All-American was released and first we heard, "Rock, some day when the team's up against it, breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got, win just one for the Gipper."

It isn't just because a future president of the United States was the actor who uttered it, that this became the single most famous line ever spoken in a sports movie. No, it was because of who the Gipper was playing for: Notre Dame.

You may not know that the WNBA finals begin this weekend. It's probably fair to say that if it were the NBA you would know.

More people pay attention to men's sports than women's sports, and one reason for that is inertia. Women are pretty new to big-time sports — and perhaps the media haven't caught up with them.

Also, there aren't that many women's team sports. Lots of people tune in to watch Serena Williams play tennis, and this summer, swimmer Katie Ledecky got a lot of attention — but they play individual sports.

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Yogi Berra died last night at the age of 90. In remembrance of his passing, let's go back 10 years and listen to a commentary Frank Deford delivered in honor of a man who was both a baseball legend and one of the game's truly great characters.

"It's plain and simple: baseball is a radio game." So said Milo Hamilton, the longtime play-by-play man for the Houston Astros, who died the other day. And, yes, radio and baseball have so long gone together. The familiar voices in the booth — perennials, like flowers — announcers such as Hamilton and Vin Scully, who, at the age of 87, just signed on to broadcast Dodger games for another year — often have been more identified with their teams than the players who merely come and go.

As an absolutely impossible thing happened to Serena Williams on the way to becoming the absolutely guaranteed Grand Slam champion, it reminds us once again, on the field of play, there is no sure thing. But off the field, some things are, to coin a word: un-upsettable.

At the top of the un-upsettable list is that in American city after American city, either the voters or their elected tribunes will put up oodles of the citizens' hard-deducted tax money in order to fund a new stadium for the benefit of a filthy-rich team owner.

While many legal experts expected the Tom Brady deflated football case to be settled in favor of the NFL, those wise lawyers neglected pertinent history. That is, that for 40 years now, most important decisions between sports organizations and their players, which have been adjudicated by some neutral outside agency, have been settled in favor of the athletes.

Players may win and lose games on the field, but in America, players win big in court — and they have, time and time again, since 1975, when the Andy Messersmith case led to the demise of the reserve clause in baseball.