Frank Deford is revered as one of the best sportswriters of our time. His profiles at Sports Illustrated were magic and he wrote thousands of beauties.
I just finished reading his 18th book, entitled Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter, and was awestruck by many of his insightful stories. I re-read many paragraphs just to make sure I had actually digested things properly.
Now a senior contributing editor at SI and a regular correspondent on the HBO show Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Deford joined the magazine in 1962, fresh out of Princeton.
Writes Tony Kornheiser of the popular Pardon The Interruption, on the front flap of the book: “I wanted to write like him, and the sad part for me was that I knew he was playing in a higher league. If there’s a Mount Rushmore of sportswriting, Deford is up there, purple ties and all.”
Here are some of my favourite anecdotes from the book…
n “Those of us in the grandstand seats want our athletes – the ones who are out age – to quit while they’re still on top. That way they won’t embarrass us. We then want our heroes to instantly disappear so that we can always remember them (and ourselves) as magnificent and forever green. For it is when our athletes start to go downhill that we are first forced to come to grips with the possibility of our own mortality.”
n “Never mind all the salacious sex stuff that came out — Tiger Woods always got mulligans for his surly behaviour on the links. My favourite euphemism in all of sports is that a drive finds a sand trap. Not that bum actually hit his Titleist there. But in all of baseball history, there’s never been a batter whose ball found the shorstop’s gloves with the bases loaded.”
n “It has always been my impression that few top athletes are avid sports fans. These fellows succeed so easily at games – and from an early age – that they have no need to transfer any of their sporting interest to the performance of others. This is the reason, I think, why so few of them can comprehend the manic affection in which they are held.”
n “Sportswriting legend Grantland Rice was, however, well compensated for his extraordinary labors. At the height of his powers, he was making something like $100,000 a year – at a time when a top all-star baseball player might be pulling down $20,000…”
n “The fuss we make over high school sports is probably the main reason so many men in the United States are forever adolescent. High school sports have replaced The Western as the male American lyric.”
n “As a sportswriter, you get to like the old-timers even better than you like the coaches. Whatever else they’ve forgotten, they remember so much about their games of long ago, and they’re grateful for anybody younger who cares to ask about what it was like when the One Great Scorer was still paying attention to the, back when they were in their prime.”
n “I’ll tell you, (Phillies’ broadcaster Richie) Ashburn said, “Pete Rose is the most obsessive person I’ve ever met in my life. It doesn’t matter – baseball, women, gambling – he’s obsessed with whatever he’s involved with. He doesn’t drink, you know. Let me tell you, Frank. If Pete had a drink at lunch, he’d be an alcoholic by the time he went to bed.”
n “Unfortunately, I had a wonderfully happy childhood of little note. If you are to become a writer it helps immensely to have suffered a miserable upbringing, rife with trauma – ideally with a drunken father who beat you and a mother who was a prostitute, albeit a saint when not turning tricks. But, just my luck: nothing of the sort.”
n “The last time I used a translator was to interview a hockey goalie for Real Sports on HBO. On the side, the goalie had robbed banks in Budapest, so we were in an Hungarian jail. I didn’t get much out of that either, but at least he wanted to talk. It kept him out of his cell for a while. I think he’s still in there in the pokey.”
Wednesday goodbye for Connie Kapak
Speed skating phenom Connie Kapak and her father, Pete, are moving to Calgary so Connie can train at the Olympic Oval as she strives to become an Olympian.
Businessman Akbal Mund, a friend of the family, has organized a fundraiser at Monashees Bar & Grill for Wednesday, 11 a.m. to close.
Kapak is a six-time B.C. champion in short track, was North Okanagan Athelete of the Year in 2012, and took the Western Canadian championship in short track in 2012, striking gold in all five events.
“This is a way for all her friends to come say good luck by having lunch, $8.95 specials for lunch, or dinner, 25 cents Wing Night,” said Mund.
“Ten per cent of all the gross sales will be donated to help Connie with her training, thanks to local sports supporter Steve Pauls from Monashees. Connie and myself will be there at lunch and dinner to say thanks and help out.”