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.

It is not uncommon for outstanding athletes to succeed in later life, but it is rare for teammates, literally playing side by side, both to be in the spotlight almost half a century later.

But such is the case with two old boys from Syracuse, who were roommates as freshmen, went on to become the starting backcourt, saw their lives diverge after college — and now, at an age when most men have retired, are facing two very different but very painful challenges in the professions they've chosen, in the places they love.

The most involved sports fans cannot let a little thing like death get in their way for their devotion to a team.

For several years now it's been possible to buy caskets that feature the logo of your favorite, so that you can lie forever with, say, the emblem of the Chicago Cubs resting right before your sightless eyes. Not perfect, but the best available option.

As confounding as was the failure of Penn State officials to act, the consensus explaining the motives for their ignoble behavior is that, first, Joe Paterno didn't want to scar the reputation of himself or his football program; and then, university executives wanted to protect the reputation of the dear old coach and his moneymaking team.

OK, here's the idea: Greece leaves the EU and jumps to the SEC.

Bingo! With all the television and bowl money it would get, Greece would be solvent again, and the Southeastern Conference would get that big Athens TV market.

You see, everybody talks about how colleges are all switching conferences, but essentially, they all just want to jump to the SEC or whatever best emulates the SEC. It's the Solid South of college football. Once, the South used to control Congress. Now, y'all: the gridiron.

There's an awful lot of games played in November –– even with the NBA locked out –– but it's really just an in-between month in sports... and life. There are no May-and-November romances, no good November songs. It's sort of a semi-final of a month.

Why are they still playing tennis in November? Let the boys and girls rest up for the summer so they're not all hurt when it matters.

For those of you desperately missing basketball during the NBA lockout, an antidote to your hoop pangs is on the way: A musical comedy about basketball will open for previews on Broadway on Nov. 12. It's called Lysistrata Jones and is based on the original Lysistrata, which, of course, was written by Aristophanes back in 411 B.C.

Sometimes in sports, like in the rest of life, stuff just hangs around because, well, it's always been there. Such is the best-of-seven game series to determine our champions of professional baseball, basketball and hockey.

A seven-game series is a wretched excess, and I'm going to tell you why, but nobody in charge is going to pay any attention to me because a best-of-seven series has just always been the way of the world.

Football is real big. Everybody knows that. But it is getting bigger. Football is now gigantic, monstrous, humongous. Sure, it was years ago that it passed baseball as our most popular sport, but by now it simply looms alone above the American sportscape.

I would rank the U.S. sports entities this way:

  1. The NFL
  2. College football
  3. Fantasy football
  4. Major League Baseball
  5. High school football
  6. The NBA

We're All Just 'Guys'

Sep 27, 2011

As best as I know, I own the distinction of being the first human being to call our national attention to a linguistic phenomenon.

This was back in 1972, in an article in Sports Illustrated about Robyn Smith, who was then the best female jockey in the land. Smith referred to married couples as "you guys." I was so bemused that someone might actually refer to a woman as a guy that I felt obliged to mention it in the piece.

Football season has hardly started and fans are already grousing about sideline reporters. To be sure, sideliners now exist in most all sports, and a handful of them –– notably Craig Sager of Turner, who was apparently in town the day the clown died, and thus got all his clothes –– are downright famous. While Sager is best known for basketball, it is football sideline reporters who are most identified with the sport.

Sports fans love to designate certain games as "the greatest ever," the "match of the century" and so forth. Well, I would like to state that a piece in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which was released online Tuesday, may well be the most important article ever written about college sports.

Years ago, it was an occasional debate among press box sociologists about which sport was more attractive to members of the two political parties.

The consensus was that football was more for Republicans, baseball for Democrats — the general reasoning being that GOP types were more militarily inclined, as is the gridiron game, and that since football had long been more a college sport, and more Republicans had gone to college, football had a greater Republican tradition.

When baseball fell into its current schedule more than a century ago, the national pastime owned the sporting landscape. There was no professional football, and college football was a regional enterprise in a nation where few folks even had a college alma mater to care about. In a culture still quite agricultural, the schools started later. So, in effect, the harvest extended summer.

All right, so the University of Miami's been caught in a humongous football scandal following Ohio State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oregon, and, as the King of Siam used to say: "Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."

What's more to add? The sport is totally out of control, and neither the college presidents nor the NCAA can do anything but make dopey, empty promises. So why bother? Let me, instead, tell you a nice college football story.

It is about a quest.

Now is the time when The Turk appears –– he being that mythic figure in the NFL camps who materializes one night with those words of doom for the poor player before him: Pick up your playbook and go see the coach.

It is, of course, not the messenger who actually performs the dirty deed. But for decades now, the person who tells the player to report to the boss has been known as The Turk –– presumably because some old player with a vivid imagination envisioned an Ottoman warrior, wielding a scimitar sword that, more dramatically than any other, said cut.

Bubba Smith, who died last week, was a teammate of mine. I can see him giving me a stern, put-on sneer in response to that claim, and in truth, no, Bubba and I were not football teammates. Rather, we acted in an ensemble as Lite Beer All-Stars back when Miller used a lot of washed-up old athletes — and one overwhelmed sportswriter — to hustle what was then a popular new product: a low-calorie beer.

Remember? "Tastes great!" "Less filling!"

Next week, at some place in Indianapolis where time has been instructed to stand still, Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, will convene what is being called, without irony, a "retreat."

Assembled will be about 50 college presidents, pledged, it seems, to make sure that college athletics continue to remain firmly in the past, in the antiquated amateur hours.

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