Tuesday, May 30, 2017

R.I.P. Frank Deford

Where have all of the great sports journalists gone?

The death of Frank Deford is yet one more indicator that the era of great sports journalism practiced by the likes of Deford, Dan Jenkins, Curry Kirkpatrick, Roy Blount, Jr., Roger Angell, Dave Anderson and others has long since gone.

The loss of Deford hits close to home as his writing and presence in Sports Illustrated was why Thursday was always a great day - that's the day the magazine would show up in my mailbox each week. When he started The National, a daily sports tabloid newspaper, in 1990 I made sure that I went out of my way to find that publication.

What set Deford apart is that he was a storyteller - he had the uncanny ability to find "the story" and give it to us, his readers, in a way that held our attention through every word.

Deford was concerned about the loss of storytelling and had this to say in a 2008 interview: "I think there are more good sportswriters doing more good sportswriting than ever before. But I also believe that the one thing that's largely gone out is what made sport such fertile literary territory - the characters, the tales, the humor, the pain, what Hollywood calls 'the arc.' That is: stories. We have, all by ourselves, ceded that one neat thing about sport that we owned."

In 2013, Deford won the National Citation from the William Allen White Foundation at the University of Kansas School of Journalism & Mass Communications, the only sportswriter to win this prestigious award. At the acceptance ceremony, Deford said, "The wonderful thing about sports writing is that it's a great subject to write about. Sports is drama, sports is glamour, interesting characters. It gives you so much as a writer."

R.I.P Mr. Deford - we will miss you.

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