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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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.

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.

Nothing in sport reflects the changing demographics of the country more than college football — most especially the decline of the Big Ten Conference and the ascendance of the Southeastern Conference.

Big Ten territory represents steel mills and coal mines, blue collars and black smoke, where America's pigskin heroes used to be weaned on frozen fields. But the SEC, in the growing Sun Belt, has completely taken over. Mississippi State is the No. 1 team in the country. Excuse me: Mississippi State? This is like Antiques Roadshow soaring to the top of television ratings.

That familiar old preface we so often hear — usually from long-winded people — is: "To make a long story short." I've noticed lately that that expression has become more common, but, to make a long story short, it's been shortened to just "long story short." I'll even bet it's gotten initialed in the text universe to LSS.

Probably the three biggest recent stories involving women in sports have been Mo'ne Davis, Michele Roberts and Becky Hammon.

No, no, I promise: This is not about Derek Jeter. May bats fly down my chimney and trolls enter my door if I inflict any more Derek Jeter farewell upon you. But, of course, I am a sentimental creature, and the player whose name dare not be spoken again did gush forth memories of other grand finales.

There is no doubt that race, ever sensitive in sports, is most sensitive in basketball. Given the history, this is perfectly understandable, for when African-Americans began to appear on the court in larger numbers, there was resentment, even quotas.

To many whites, men of my vintage, men I knew, there was a sense that their game was being stolen. It was a very visceral racism.

There has been a crowded docket in our preeminent sport. Let's take just three cases. The defendants: the NFL, Roger Goodell and football itself.

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.

Let's boldly confront the greatest mystery in all of sport: Why do hot dogs always taste better at the ballpark?

Baseball food has, of course, taken on a much greater variety since 1908, when "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" only celebrated peanuts and crackerjack. But it is another enduring mystery of sport why fans eat during a baseball game, while the preferred mode of cuisine for football is before the game, out in the parking lot — tailgating.

There have been two recent major developments regarding big-time college athletics. While both are tremendously significant, the conclusions in both cases were foreshadowed and there don't appear to be any devils in the details.

The Big Satan — amateurism — took the hardest hit. And understand, most important of all: This is only the beginning. Many more changes in the NCAA and its anachronistic rules lie ahead.

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.

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.

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.