Over Time: My Life As a Sportswriter

( 11 )


Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter is as unconventional and wide-ranging as Frank Deford?s remarkable career, in which he has chronicled the heroes and the characters of just about every sport in nearly every medium. Deford joined Sports Illustrated in 1962, fresh, and fresh out of Princeton. In 1990, he was Editor-in-Chief of The National Sports Daily, one of the most ambitious?and ill-fated?projects in the history of American print journalism. But then, he?s endured: writing ten novels, winning an Emmy (not ...

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Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter is as unconventional and wide-ranging as Frank Deford’s remarkable career, in which he has chronicled the heroes and the characters of just about every sport in nearly every medium. Deford joined Sports Illustrated in 1962, fresh, and fresh out of Princeton. In 1990, he was Editor-in-Chief of The National Sports Daily, one of the most ambitious—and ill-fated—projects in the history of American print journalism. But then, he’s endured: writing ten novels, winning an Emmy (not to mention being a fabled Lite Beer All-Star), and last week he read something like his fourteen-hundredth commentary on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

From the Mad Men-like days of SI in the ‘60s, and the “bush” years of the early NBA, to Deford’s visit to apartheid South Africa with Arthur Ashe, and his friend’s brave and tragic death, Over Time is packed with intriguing people and stories. Interwoven through his personal history, Deford lovingly traces the entire arc of American sportswriting from the lurid early days of the Police Gazette, through Grantland Rice and Red Smith and on up to ESPN. This is a wonderful, inspired book—equal parts funny and touching—a treasure for sports fans. Just like Frank Deford.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Frank Deford's fifty-year career has been nothing short of awesome. This apparently totally retentive Princeton grad has been a six-time National Sportswriter of the Year, an Emmy and Peabody winner, a Sports Illustrated senior writer, a HBO correspondent, and a longtime NPR Morning Edition commentator. This autobiography displays his writing talents, his memory, and his knack for being in the right place at the optimal time. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Publishers Weekly
Sportswriter (Sports Illustrated) and author (Everybody’s All-American) Deford tells the story of his rise from the comfortable and modest streets of Baltimore to the top of the sports journalism world. He discovered that he “had some facility for writing” when he was nine, even though he had not “suffered a miserable upbringing,” which helps “if you are to become a writer.” He was hired by Sports Illustrated in 1962, despite the personnel department classifying him as “not very bright.” “Sportswriting was still in something of a netherworld” when he began his career, “presented with own desk and... Royal typewriter.” Unfortunately, as a self-proclaimed “old and cranky” man, he opines, “Journalism, as we know it... with the internet.” The mixture of homage to sportswriters who came before him, such as Grantland Rice; sometimes wistful vignettes of sports figures like Arthur Ashe; and his own personal reflections on the evolution of sports journalism combine to offer a cultural perspective that transcends a mere job. (May)
From the Publisher

“Equal doses of self-deprecating humor and anecdotal history of American sports journalism are the essence of Frank Deford's entertaining new memoir.”—Chicago Tribune

“Deford is the Holy Grail. He's simply one of the greatest sportswriters of all time. ... [Over Time] has a little bit of everything -- great stories about interviewing everyone from Richard Nixon … to Jerry Jones. … Deford played with the Harlem Globetrotters, introduced the world to Bill Bradley, really disliked Rodney Dangerfield, edited the only national sports daily in our history (The National), and has great takes on the history and characters of Sports Illustrated in its formative years. . . . Deford's the best.”—Peter King, SI.com

"Deford's cred is incredible, his accolades deserved... 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... [Deford] has long been the genuine article." —Los Angeles Times

“He sketches insightful remembrances of stars like Wilt Chamberlain and Billie Jean King and lavishes affection and admiration on Sports Illustrated colleagues Andre Laguerre, Dan Jenkins, and the ‘tortured’ writer Mark Kram … [Deford is] sports writing's Sinatra.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Endearing... Over Time imparts a sense of a life well lived and fully enjoyed.”—The New York Times

"The mixture of homage to sportswriters who came before him, such as Grantland Rice; sometimes wistful vignettes of sports figures like Arthur Ashe; and his own personal reflections on the evolution of sports journalism combine to offer a cultural perspective that transcends a mere job." —Publishers Weekly (Top 10 in Sports)

“Frank Deford is the best there is. His memoir Over Time is beautiful, funny, poignant and poetic.” —Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and Father's Day

“A wonderful book. Over Time is both a treasure and a treasury.”—Sally Jenkins, Washington Post columnist and New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not About the Bike

“Frank Deford is the best sportswriter I’ve ever read. If there’s a Mount Rushmore of sportswriting, Deford is up there, purple ties and all.”—Tony Kornheiser

“Wonderful. … [Deford is] the gold standard for modern sportswriting.”—Frank Murtaugh, Memphis Flyer

Library Journal
In the past 50 years, sports have become big business, and athletes have become celebrities. Sportswriter Deford witnessed and contributed to the movement with his reporting for Sports Illustrated, in books, and on television and radio. His entertaining memoir is a testament of the times.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal
Some life. Joining Sports Illustrated in 1962, Deford quickly discovered fellow Princetonian Bill Bradley and Canadian Bobby Orr; he eventually won both a Peabody and an Emmy, wrote ten novels, and continues to star on NPR. Here, he revisits his personal and professional lives while interweaving the story of American sportswriting. Interesting stuff from a proven commodity.
Kirkus Reviews
The prolific sports commentator returns with an episodic, anecdotal memoir. Deford (Bliss, Remembered, 2010, etc.) is an amiable travel companion--sometimes sharp, witty, even irreverent (twice he slams big-time college sports for corruption and even for trivializing American education)--but for the most part here he's on cruise control. Although he takes us back to his school days (he knew in third grade he could write) and high-school sports career (he had one good season in basketball), and writes breezily about acquiring, fairly easily, his editing gig at Sports Illustrated, he offers no real detailed, sequential account of learning his craft. Deford is principally interested in telling stories, a few jokes and a few poignant recollections. He recalls, for example, his very close relationship with Arthur Ashe and how he, John Feinstein and some others covered up Ashe's AIDS battle until the story finally broke elsewhere. He also remembers a touching moment when Magic Johnson refused to let a press conference end until veteran journalist Jim Murray could ask his question. He relates some stories about sportswriters from earlier generations (Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner) and describes the shift in sportswriting from cheerleading to criticism. He also writes about the diminished state of print journalism (and his own failed paper, The National) and the adjustments he's had to make--from print to radio to TV to the Internet. Celebrities of all sorts populate the pages--Howard Cosell, Mickey Mantle, Dean Smith, Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, Carl Lewis, Jimmy Connors, Bobby Knight--but only rarely does Deford strip the bark to see what lies beneath. A throwback jersey of a book.
Dwight Garner
…cursory yet endearing…Over Time imparts a sense of a life well lived and fully enjoyed.
—The New York Times
The Barnes & Noble Review

"Soccer is the coitus interruptus of sports." Ah?Frank Deford, the justly celebrated sportswriter from whose keyboard drop sparkling aperçus like so much ripe fruit. Consider, too, that other game of football: "Football players love coaches who are mean to them, because, I suppose, you've got to be mean to play football."

Salty opinions — "Big-time college sports is, of course, a complete fraud, a fountain of deceit" — come by the bushel-load in Deford's memoir, Over Time, which captures his polished crustiness. He writes with brio, dash, and without pretension (he complains that nobody spells his name correctly, so he misspells it DeFord as a running joke throughout the book); when he harks back to a better time, he doesn't sound like a fogy or a snob, but beguilingly evocative.

His family had lost their sizable bankroll by the time Frank came along in 1938. It didn't matter; they were happy. He grew up in a Baltimore that was no longer a cosmopolitan jewel, the gateway to Dixie, but "a tentative place only a stream of two short of a backwater" that, still, left an important mark: "I was raised — infused — with a distaste for the smug and the high-hat." He found employment — he sought employment — at Time-Life's most déclassé, sweaty, financially calamitous ragamuffin: Sports Illustrated. Thus, excepting the bed of ivy he slept in at Princeton, Deford's home was in the bush. But this was good, for in the bush were stories worth telling. When he started in the sportswriting business, if it wasn't baseball, boxing, or horse racing, with a little golf, track and field, and the occasional Olympic blip, "all else was, well?bush," everything that didn't meet the standards of "the approved athletic ecclesiastical calendar/atlas. There were bush towns, of course, and bush events and bush promoters and bush leagues. If any American sportswriter had ever bothered to go to the World Cup, it would surely have been labeled as bush. So too the countries where it was played. Bush countries."

Deford country, then. "I looked for what was real and unusual, athletic quaint": soapbox derbies, thrill-car rodeos, big-truck racing, alligator wrestling, waterskiing, cheerleading contests. He wrote about pro basketball when it was bush yet boasted Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, and Deford's early find, Bill Bradley. He covered hockey and introduced us to Bobby Orr, "the Canadian Christ ice child," who lifted the bush Bruins to higher ground when "Boston was fed up with the Sawx?They were losahs. The Patriots were bush?and the Celtics had too many black guys." Ah, Boston...ah well. Tennis is one of Deford's favorite (then bush) sports, and his friendship with Arthur Ashe allowed him to elementally experience Ashe's breaking the color line in apartheid-era South Africa. Boston, are you paying attention.

As much as the bush had Deford in its gravitational field, he also felt the pull of difficult sports figures, people like Jimmy Connors, Bobby Knight, and Billy Martin. "These are the best characters to write about, largely because so many people flat out don't like them?so it's a challenge to surprise or even upset the reader with the unexpected." Spare him the young, preening bloviators — "the highest percentage, it seems, being wide receivers in football" — and point him toward the people with some mileage on them, the old coaches, say, "because they've lived longer, more complicated lives. They're simply better stories."

The sports pages have been a nursery and a parish of terrific writing: Red Smith and Jimmy Cannon, yes, but also Ring Lardner, Westbrook Pegler, Damon Runyon, Paul Gallico, and James Reston, who all cut their teeth in the sports section. Deford sits comfortably in that company, summoning the poetry and rapture — if he never spoke of it as such — modern but also conversant with "before television and big money, when a great deal of sports meant hustling and scuffling, when there was a vagabond spirit."

"Of course, I'm old and cranky, so pay me no mind." Sorry, Frank: we're listening.

Peter Lewis is the director of the American Geographical Society in New York City. A selection of his work can be found at writesformoney.com.

Reviewer: Peter Lewis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802120151
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 194,504
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Deford

The author of eighteen books, Frank Deford has worked in virtually every medium. He is senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated, where his byline first appeared in 1962. A weekly commentator for NPR's "Morning Edition," he is also a regular correspondent on the HBO show "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel." As a journalist, Deford has won the National Magazine Award for profiles, and has been elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. Voted by his peers as U.S. Sportswriter of the Year six times, he was also cited by The American Journalism Review as the nation's finest sportswriter and was twice voted Magazine Writer of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review. He has been presented with a Christopher Award and awards for distinguished service to journalism from the University of Missouri and Northeastern University. Deford and Red Smith are the only authors with more than one piece in The Best American Sportswriting of the Century, edited by David Halberstam. For his radio and TV work, Deford has won both an Emmy and a George Foster Peabody Award.
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Table of Contents

1 A Not Very Bright Boy 1

2 Something of a Vote of Confidence 7

3 In Which I First Encounter Faster Guns 10

4 Roamer 16

5 Granny 20

6 Walking in Place 27

7 Old-Timers 30

8 The Vietnam War Is Finally Over 40

9 Push On 48

10 The Best Advice I Ever Got in My Whole Life 58

11 Scribes for the Cranks and the Fancy 61

12 El Tigre 68

13 In Which I Finally Discover the Difference Between Winning and Losing 83

14 Bawlmer, Merlin, My Hametown 91

15 Gee Whiz 101

16 Beauty and the Beasts 114

17 This Just In: Writing Can Be Fun 125

18 In Which I Happen Upon an Eye-Opener 135

19 Kingsley 141

20 My Damn Name 145

21 It Happens to the Best of Us 152

22 The Way It Was. Really 155

23 The Kid 160

24 Andre 170

25 Mr. King Will See You Now 178

26 Hobey and Danny and Bill 180

27 The Most Amazing Feat in Sport in the Twentieth Century 194

28 Hub Tales 205

29 My Man 211

30 Anglophile 219

31 Remember "Consciousness-Raising"? 227

32 Fun in the Sun 232

33 Summer Songs 239

34 Roadie 249

35 With Ease or Angst 256

36 Lost in Translation 267

37 The Anchor Leg 279

38 The Sweetest Thing I Ever Saw an Athlete Do for a Member of the Fourth Estate 287

39 You Won't Believe This 289

40 The Most Amazing Thing I Ever Saw an Athlete Do 301

41 Red 311

42 The Amateur Voice 318

43 The Best I Ever Was Fired 328

44 Naked Slept the Commissioner 332

45 Taboo 344

46 Last Call 350

Acknowledgments 353

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 5, 2012

    Very good. The best history of sports journalism I've read

    I was expecting a collection of sports stories from Frank Deford's career, of which there were plenty, but I also got a schooling on the history of sports writing. Sometimes I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of names, places, and events that seem to be grouped by topic, not by time. There can be multiple paragraphs, sometimes even pages, of side stories between the start of a thought and the finish. Which makes me wonder, since he went to Princeton (brought up many times in the book), am I just dumb, or is this the way a good book is written?

    I think it might be me, there are at least 10 words I had to look up on my nook. The writing, to me, exudes quality and it was refreshing to escape the PC crap that's impossible to avoid nowadays. Sometimes I would literally laugh out loud. Other times I was sucked in by the interesting history. To be truthful though, I did zone out during his family histories and some droning about past sports writers.

    I know a couple people in my life that would really enjoy his unique view of sports history. So I will be buying a couple more as gifts.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2014

    Melanie Shadow

    Go Cater. Whatever this is for. :D

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    Posted September 8, 2014



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  • Posted July 30, 2012

    Loved it!

    As an avid NPR listener, as well as a sports fan, this book definitely was great reading. Frank DeFord( Deford)writes like you speak, he is just so easy to read. His recollections stirred old memories that really hit home. One of the best books I have read in a long time. I immediately looked for more of his works.

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