DON NOBLE: Writer Talks about State of Sports

Article excerpt

Although he has also had a long career in print journalism been on the television show "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," and has written 7 previous volumes of nonfiction and 10 novels, Frank Deford is best known to listeners of public radio as a columnist on "Morning Edition." Indeed he has been delivering his frank, often controversial, commentaries since 1979. He was recruited, oddly enough, by Ketzel Levine, the titular sports director for a network that did not actually cover sports.

Levine went on to become well-known as a gardening expert.

Deford kept on and has delivered more than 1,500 commentaries. He has been accused of pomposity but insists that anyone actually offering opinions these days is likely to sound pompous. He denies ranting, while admitting he might sound cockeyed or disagreeable.

In "Over Time" Deford doesn't do his usual rant about big-time college football and men's basketball. He simply announces his conclusions, that these sports are "a complete fraud, a fountain of deceit" and the last bastion of hypocrisy. Even the Olympics have decided to admit professional athletes. He mentions almost in passing that "Shameful amateur servitude still exists only in the United States, in college football and basketball, where coaches make millions and colleges make millions and television makes millions and sportswriters make a good living ... and the players make nothing except on the cheat."

Deford also insists that Americans never will join the rest of the globe in being crazy about soccer. In fact, he says, soccer matters entirely too much in many countries. Since they don't have five other sports to turn to, there is a nationwide depression if their team loses.

No worries here, though. Even though American kids are raised by soccer moms, as soon as they reach the age of free will they abandon that sport and take up a sport in which they are allowed to use their hands, "those most exquisite, divinely human instruments that God gave us to separate us from the beasts of the field."

Aside from all these opinions, this is also the story of Deford's life and of the changes in sports and sportswriting in America in the past 60 years. …