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Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriterby Frank Deford
Synopses & Reviews
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 out of Princeton. They called him "the Kid," and he made his reputation with dumb luck discovering fellow Princetonian Bill Bradley and a Canadian teenager named Bobby Orr. These were the Mad Men
"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Is there anyone who writes about sports with more elegance? Is there anyone who writes about sports with more humor, insight, and a style all his own? Nope. Frank Deford is the best there is. His memoir Over Time is beautiful, funny, poignant and poetic. It is a privilege to say these words about him." Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and Father's Day
"A wonderful book. Over Time is both a treasure and a treasury. Deford give us a charming memoir and a wonderful tour of great American sports literature — the best of which he himself has written." Sally Jenkins, Washington Post columnist and New York Times bestselling author of It's Not About the Bike
"Glowing with intelligence, warmth, wit and charm, Frank Deford's Over Time is an irresistible account of the life and times of one of our best-loved and most gifted writers. Like all of Deford's work, it is distinguished by startlingly original insights and keen reporting — and, above all else, imbued with its author's profound sense of humanity. Here is a master storyteller finally sharing all of his best stories." Jeremy Schaap, author of Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History and Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics
"Of all the magazine writers of the last half-century, Frank Deford holds a special place at the top. His memoir Over Time, like hundreds of his stories, is fluid, graceful, deeply reported, insightful and whimsical all at the same time. Not very bright, someone said of him long ago at Princeton, and it was true — he has been brilliant, instead." David Maraniss
"Frank Deford is the best sportswriter I've ever read. His profiles at Sports illustrated were magic. 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." Tony Kornheiser
"[Deford's] candid, often self-deprecating memoir...has the flavor of a congenial evening spent hanging out at one of the Manhattan watering holes he frequented with his SI colleagues in the '60s and '70s....As free of illusion as it is rich with wit and insight, Frank Deford's memoir reveals the life of a man whose talent is every bit the equal of the great athletes whose stories he's revealed to us." Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
"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....Just as he can zing a heart string with a shared experience...[Deford] has long been the genuine article." Los Angeles Times
"For half a century, Frank Deford has been writing and talking about sports, and this chatty book, a memoir of his early and later years, recounts a life of pleasure and accomplishment....He writes with warmth and wit about the world of sports....On occasion, it is a laugh-out-loud book...enlivened by stories about some of his favorite athletes — Bill Russell and Bobby Orr, Bill Bradley and Larry Bird." Lincoln Journal Star
"Guys like Deford need to be read....Some of the best of Over Time is inside baseball from the heyday of the magazine trade, characterized by long lunches, longer cocktail hours and much admirable creative writing when it comes to accounting for expenses." Washington Independent Review of Books
"Endearing...Over Time imparts a sense of a life well lived and fully enjoyed." Dwight Garner, The New York Times
Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter is as unconventional and wide-ranging as Frank Deford's remarkable career. For nearly fifty years, Deford has been dissecting American and international sports like no other, using his novelist's skill for detail, story, and extraordinarily expressive prose. He has covered just about every sport, in every medium, and he touches on it all in Over Time.
As a kid, Deford was a copy boy at the Baltimore Evening Sun. As an undergraduate, he was at the top of the The Daily Princetonian and talked his way into an interview at Sports Illustrated. They hired him before he could graduate, and thanks to a few great scoops — he "discovered" fellow Princetonian Bill Bradley and a Canadian kid named Bobby Orr — he earned the cherished nickname "The Kid." Deford wrote widely for the magazine, covering many sports, including the early "bush" days of the NBA. Players made so little in those days, Deford could count on them coming out with him after games to drink on his expense account. The league didn't get much press, either. With no national television contract, one of the networks would cherry-pick the finals on the cheap. Deford writes that one year after the Celtics beat the Lakers once again, a TV production assistant rushed down to get Red Auerbach up to the booth for an interview. Red waved him off with his cigar and asked "Where were f@#k were you in February?" then threw an arm around Frank, declared "I'm going with my writers," and together they marched off the court.
By 1988, Deford had risen to a great position at SI, but nearing his fiftieth birthday, he wanted a change. A yearlong sabbatical in London seemed like just the ticket, but then a more compelling offer came along. A Mexican billionaire named Emilio Azcarraga — known as "El Tigre" he owned Univision and Televisa — wanted to start a sports newspaper, a nationwide daily. The format had worked well around the world for decades, but it hadn't been done here. Azcarraga said hed spend an unheard of $50 million. As editor-in-chief of The National Sports Daily, Deford put together an incredible dream team of writers and editors. It was a tremendous undertaking, one of the greatest gambles in the history of sports journalism. But there were problems from the start. With four time zones where games ended late at night, a fledgling satellite data system that took many minutes to send a single page, and customers spread throughout the suburbs of America, the paper was doomed. Deford knew they were in trouble when he — the guy who ran the thing — couldnt get reliable delivery at home in Westport, Connecticut. El Tigre lost $150 million.
It should come as no surprise that Deford does a phenomenal job bringing these moments to life. He shows what it was like to be on the road with players in an age before teams had private jets. His descriptions of the staff, drinking habits, and racial and sexual politics of SI in the Mad Men 1960s are absolutely fantastic. He even captures his brief moment of stardom in high school basketball. Here are brushes with a huge cast of characters, including Muhammad Ali, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Pete Rose, Howard Cosell, Colonel Sanders, Billie Jean King, Jimmy the Greek, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Don Budge, Spiro Agnew, Barry Levinson, Jimmy Cannon, The Lite Beer All-Stars, Gloria Steinem, Graydon Carter, Kingsley Amis, and many many others.
Over Time is far from a conventional, chronological memoir. It reads rather more like the most engaging, story-packed fishing weekend ever. Deford mixes things about, moving around in his career and family history with ease. There's a lot to write about. Deford covers his wealthy and fascinating ancestors, his parents and his upbringing, and touches on the big moments of his adult life, including the death of his daughter from cystic fibrosis (the subject of his book Alex: The Life of a Child"). Over Time never loses your interest. It's funny, irreverent, touching, and insightful.
This makes it easier to incorporate the other major element of this wonderful book: the history of sportswriting. Deford essentially tells the entire arc, from Grantland Rice to today's Grantland.com. He draws on a lifetime of reading and working: who he read as a kid, and who was still writing when he was coming up, his contemporaries at SI and elsewhere. The characters are fantastic, especially Grantland Rice, who wrote an estimated 67 million words and was "sort of the benevolent godfather of athletics." Another favorite is Bernard Darwin, Charles's Grandson, a snob who peppered his writing with Dickens quotations. Deford covers not just the changing type of figures who covered the game, but the way the relationships switched, and the way the resulting writing changed. In particular, we get the rise of the vapid locker room interview, and the demise of poetry. No more "Casey at the Bat." Definitely no more of Rice's "When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,/ He marks — not that you won or lost — but how you played the Game." Instead we had "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
As can be seen from this description, Over Time is a wide-ranging book, stuffed to the endpapers. It is long and it is deeply satisfying, a real treasure for sports fans and all those who love to listen to Deford on NPR.
Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter is as unconventional and wide-ranging as Frank Defords 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, hes 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 NPRs Morning Edition.”
From the Mad Men-like days of SI in the 60s, and the bush” years of the early NBA, to Defords visit to apartheid South Africa with Arthur Ashe, and his friends 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.
About the Author
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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