A bio on
OK. Maybe he is, and maybe he did.
Now a sprightly 73 and likely recognizable more for what he says on NPR or HBO than for anything anyone in this 21st century of ours reads, this legendary fellow Deford has produced a memoir, "Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter," that might or might not outsell any of his 15 previous books, none of which exactly zoomed to the top of the bestseller lists.
Funny how fickle the printed word can be. Deford's cred is incredible, his accolades deserved. Yet from a literary-world standpoint, his closest thing to a literary work you've heard of, fiction or non, might be 1981's "Everybody's All-American," in part because it became a semi-successful film starring Dennis Quaid.
Benjamin Franklin Deford III is in few ways your everyday sportswriter. He is a tall (6-foot-4), lean, Ivy League-educated chap. His ancestors were "among the wealthiest families in Baltimore," he writes. And though Frank himself might not have been born to the purple — a color he frequently wears, as part of a wardrobe that makes him look, in "HBO Real Sports" host
A certain Mr. Titman, a fellow Princetonian, became a factor in Deford's landing a job interview that just as easily could have led him to a periodical life at Time or Life. A while thereafter, Deford began to make his mark within the company, even if Sports Illustrated then wasn't held in a particularly high esteem by the men who ran it.
Thousands of words poured forth. A "long-form writer" is what Deford came to be, one who came up with so-called bonus pieces as opposed to one from, say, the baseball or basketball beats. Deford delivered the goods. His profiles were elegant and eloquent. He dabbled in the offbeat —
It is odd then to read in the writer's own words how hated some of his stories were. Lew Alcindor (pre-Kareem),
Photographs at Sports Illustrated gave him a hard time as well. Deford details how a long look at
Tennis has fewer friends in the media more dedicated than Deford, whose writings on the likes of Billie Jean King, Big
He does not pull a punch when it comes to boxing or even to the tastes-great, less-filling Miller Lite commercials he once made, where Deford and others came to have no respect (seriously) for a certain Mr. Dangerfield or what a jerk (actually a stronger word) he found wrestling promoter
Deford's career stats include wins and losses, like other greats of sport. His helmsmanship in the '80s of an all-sports tabloid known as the National turned it into the Edsel of newspapers. His lyrical way with words does on occasion go tone-deaf, as with one chapter's opening line: "While the prolonged athletic torpor of my Baltimore was unusual, it was also the case that in the country at whole sport remained incredibly static." (Uh … huh?)
A healthy ego is not a prerequisite for a memoir, meanwhile, but it must take a certain self-confidence to begin every chapter of one with a quotation from oneself. "Over Time" overdoes it quoting Frank Deford quoting Frank Deford.
Legendary? Could be. Could very well be. That's for others to decide, and some obviously have. But from the storytelling department of a magazine made famous and infamous by its pictures of models in swimsuits, many, many, many wonderful writers have emerged, famous or semi. One is definitely Deford, who has long been the genuine article.