ALL BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTS COPYRIGHT (C) 2003-2017 VOX DAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RIP Frank Deford

The last great American sportswriter is gone. We are fortunate that his words live on. My goodness, how the man could write.
THE boxer and the blonde are together, downstairs in the club cellar. At some point, club cellars went out, and they became family rooms instead. This is, however, very definitely a club cellar. Why, the grandchildren of the boxer and the blonde could sleep soundly upstairs, clear through the big Christmas party they gave, when everybody came and stayed late and loud down here. The boxer and the blonde are sitting next to each other, laughing about the old times, about when they fell hopelessly in love almost half a century ago in New Jersey, at the beach. Down the Jersey shore is the way everyone in Pennsylvania says it. This club cellar is in Pittsburgh.

The boxer is going on 67, except in The Ring record book, where he is going on 68. But he has all his marbles; and he has his looks (except for the fighter's mashed nose); and he has the blonde; and they have the same house, the one with the club cellar, that they bought in the summer of 1941. A great deal of this is about that bright ripe summer, the last one before the forlorn simplicity of a Depression was buried in the thick-braided rubble of blood and Spam. What a fight the boxer had that June! It might have been the best in the history of the ring. Certainly, it was the most dramatic, alltime, any way you look at it. The boxer lost, though. Probably he would have won, except for the blonde—whom he loved so much, and wanted so much to make proud of him. And later, it was the blonde's old man, the boxer's father-in-law (if you can believe this), who cost him a rematch for the heavyweight championship of the world. Those were some kind of times.

The boxer and the blonde laugh again, together, remembering how they fell in love. "Actually, you sort of forced me into it," she says.

"I did you a favor," he snaps back, smirking at his comeback. After a couple of belts, he has been known to confess that although he fought 21 times against world champions, he has never yet won a decision over the blonde—never yet, as they say in boxing, outpointed her. But you can sure see why he keeps on trying. He still has his looks? Hey, you should see her. The blonde is past 60 now, and she's still cute as a button. Not merely beautiful, you understand, but schoolgirl cute, just like she was when the boxer first flirted with her down the Jersey shore. There is a picture of them on the wall. Pictures cover the walls of the club cellar. This particular picture was featured in a magazine, the boxer and the blonde running, hand in hand, out of the surf.

Never in your life did you see two better-looking kids. She was Miss Ocean City, and Alfred Lunt called him "a Celtic god," and Hollywood had a part for him that Errol Flynn himself wound up with after the boxer said no thanks and went back to Pittsburgh.
It is said, and quite rightly, that America does not produce great writers or great literature. We waited in vain for the Great American Novel, and all of the various pretenders wound up falling well short. But I would say that there is a uniquely American literary form that reached its heights in the 20th century, of which Frank Deford was the last of his breed.

Labels: ,

50 Comments:

Blogger Josh (the gayest thing here) May 30, 2017 11:03 AM  

His Wednesday morning commentaries on NPR were always worth listening to.

Anonymous Found-It May 30, 2017 11:10 AM  

"The last great American sportswriter...."

Roger Engell ... Dan Jenkins

Blogger Dos Voltz May 30, 2017 11:21 AM  

What a charming photo. Can't fake that kind of delight with each other. Mr. Deford told their story expertly.

Blogger James Dixon May 30, 2017 11:24 AM  

Yeah, Frank Deford was something special. Of course, so was Gregg Allman. RIP, both of them.

Blogger Revelation Means Hope May 30, 2017 11:35 AM  

Miss Ocean City? That is one knock-out blonde. And it reminds me that many of the most beautiful women in the past never wound up in the Hollywood moral meat grinder, or out on the hypergamy soul-killing path of genetic fail. But instead they found the local alpha, and began doing the most important vocation in the world.

The way that Mr. Deford wrote brought you into the story, helped you see the dust, feel the crunch, taste the blood and sweat.

He has been replaced by the SJW no-talent, who can only write about themselves.

OpenID paworldandtimes May 30, 2017 11:43 AM  

Synchronicity: Frank Sinatra's "It was a very good year" was on when I scrolled down to see that photo of the running couple.

PA

Blogger Gaiseric May 30, 2017 11:44 AM  

Revelation Means Hope wrote:And it reminds me that many of the most beautiful women in the past never wound up in the Hollywood moral meat grinder, or out on the hypergamy soul-killing path of genetic fail. But instead they found the local alpha, and began doing the most important vocation in the world.
Well said! But that's still true today. There are beautiful girls all over America, and many of them are still good girls in most respects. I've told my boys to be very careful, but not to give in to despair that Americans are a race of the past; or not even a valid race at all. National renewal happens one good marriage at a time.

Anonymous fop May 30, 2017 11:50 AM  

Jesus that was great. Thanks, VD.

Anonymous fop May 30, 2017 11:56 AM  

And coming up next, ESPN presents "Feminist Poetry Month" with your host, Assata Olugbala Shakur.

Blogger Mountain Man May 30, 2017 12:03 PM  

Having grown up in a nitty gritty pulp/paper mill town, his writings about the boxer bring back the memories of the sites, smells, stories and characters of an era gone by. It was a rougher and tougher time...but more civil and honest.

Anonymous VFM #6306 May 30, 2017 12:05 PM  

The Great American Novel was a short story.

The Fall of the House of Usher

Anonymous VFM #6306 May 30, 2017 12:18 PM  

Deford was such a genuine writer. He had distinct style, but it was unadorned. He just emphasized the truths he saw in sport. When he described action on the court, ring or field, the characters were pulp heroes. Outside of the game, he did his best to portray them as human individuals.

He had one on Pete Rose that is the only one that seemed to get to the truth, that the hustle that made him great was the engine that brought him down, but that his love for the hustle was his love of baseball, and no one should ever hope that he would submit to what he views as baseball's counterfeit.

I read Deford on Rose and saw the Fates at play.

OpenID dawndebris May 30, 2017 12:38 PM  

That was indeed beautiful. Truly moving

Blogger RobertT May 30, 2017 12:44 PM  

In college they told us the great American novel was MASH. Great read. Very funny. Laughed out loud at times.

Blogger Meistergedanken May 30, 2017 12:53 PM  

For years I endured listening to that smug, self-satisfied sports commentator pontificating on NPR, where his delivery indicated that he was clearly his own biggest fan. I'm thrilled he's gone - him and Daniel Schorr, another sanctimonious "elder statesman" twit on public radio.

Blogger Josh (the gayest thing here) May 30, 2017 1:14 PM  

For years I endured listening to that smug, self-satisfied sports commentator pontificating on NPR, where his delivery indicated that he was clearly his own biggest fan.

Did you ever think about changing the station?

Anonymous NPR fanboi May 30, 2017 1:48 PM  

Did you ever think about changing the station?

What?!?!? And miss "Fresh Air" with Terrie Gross and today's guest Rupi Kaur, a famous poet on Instagram, who's new book Milk and Honey, a collection of female empowerment poetry has made it to the New York Times bestseller list?!?!?

Blogger slarrow May 30, 2017 2:11 PM  

Damn. That had some good stuff in it. My two favorite sections were where he described the boxer's last meeting with his mother:

Billy nodded. He kept his hand wrapped around the bracelet. He couldn't stay much longer. Just these few minutes had tired Maggie so. He kissed her and got ready to leave. "Maggie," Billy said, "I gotta go now, but the next time you see me, I'll be the heavyweight champion of the world."

Maggie smiled one more time. "No, son," she said, "the next time I see you will be in Paradise."


And the closing paragraph:

Louis knocked out Conn at 2:58, just like always, but when the lights went on, Billy wasn't there. He had left when the 13th round started. He had gone into another room, to where the buffet was, after he had watched the 12 rounds when he was the heavyweight champeen of the world, back in that last indelible summer when America dared yet dream that it could run and hide from the world, when the handsomest boy loved the prettiest girl, when streetcars still clanged and fistfights were fun, and the smoke hung low when Maggie went off to Paradise.

Blogger James Dixon May 30, 2017 2:12 PM  

> For years I endured listening to that smug, self-satisfied sports commentator pontificating on NPR

I have to admit that his writing was far better than his speaking. Hmm...

> It is said, and quite rightly, that America does not produce great writers or great literature. We waited in vain for the Great American Novel...

How can you have a single Great American Novel and the various regions have so little in common?

For the west, there's "Shane". For the south, there's "To Kill a Mockingbird". I can't think of any good equivalents for the Plains or Appalachia and I can't speak for the northeast at all.

Blogger Giraffe May 30, 2017 2:18 PM  

I've started my attempt to write the great American novel. What do you think:

A young woman with close-cropped hair, dark at the roots and bleached almost white at their tips, held with a band and a gold disk pendant amongst silver chains, dressed in black clothes under a white wool cardigan and midnight blue coat came out of the building. “Spies?” she said, momentarily puzzled and starry-eyed, pushing the door shut. Snow fell in flurries, the flakes were melting on our hair. “No matter,” she said, unsheathing a blade. She sighed, and ran after me, stopping and slashing. I blocked it with my pipe. “You don’t have your patron Cleisourarch to help you. He’s dead by Red hands, impaled with a stake and paraded naked and flayed open through the streets of Mediolanum and dumped in the river. You face me alone. Me, the greatest swordswoman in all of Carantania.”
“Marciana, can you support me?” Adrenaline warmed my body.
“I don’t know. I’ll try.”
“Good.”
“Stop! I know them,“ another woman cried.
“Anysia?” I asked.
“Yeah.”
“Uh, I’m terribly sorry,” the woman who attacked us said, her voice languid and melodic. The gold disk on her neck was inset with a large red stone with a carving of an eye at the center of a star and six cabochons of varying tones of green at the points, actually light-emitting diodes. A bead of amber with a fly, like Ava’s, hung from the side of the headband, wrapped in fine gold chains. A sardonyx brooch with a cameo was pinned to her coat. “I heard you walking around up there, and I couldn’t really see you. Thought you were Selinian, or worse, Pannonian agents. I’m Cantianilla, by the way. Cantianilla Vasilescu, if you were wondering. Veridiana told me to wear it with pride because it’s part of who we are, for better and worse. I’m not sure but for what it’s worth, there’s a lot of people with that kind of family name, Vasilescu and Gavrilescu and Stefanescu and a bunch of other people with -escu at the end. Mine reminds me of basilisks. Do you know what a basilisk is? There’s a folktale about a feathered lizard that can turn a man to stone with its gaze. But maybe I’m mixing them up with dinosaurs. Those were real, but they didn’t have a petrifying glare or anything. I see you know Anysia. So, what are your names, wayfarers?”
“I’m Marciana. And only Marciana.”
“I’m Nicasius Patrescu. Ava calls me Nica. It’s nice, but a little feminine. Marciana’s been my friend ever since we were small children. Are any of the others here?” I asked.
“Yes, I heard you say that. It was a bit comforting, since Pannonians think we’re idolators and don’t have names like yours and keep their women in the home as a mandate, but who knows? Nobody really knows who the Synod is. Rumors abound that the Synod members wander the streets of Vindobona as vagrants, that the Magisterium funding the Pannonian Revolutionary Front as a lure for potential traitors to the Church and Nation. Should I believe it? It seems more like an old story than reality, but you know what they say about stories and half-truths. I understand that there are Saugumas, I mean, agents of the Synod in the Pannonian Revolutionary Front, and thus they decentralized it, and everyone can name only the members of their cell. You must forgive me for not trusting you. Eight others are all with us,” Cantianilla said. “Veridiana’s heartbroken. She’s with Ava now. They’re in the basement.”
“What happened?” Marciana asked.
“Theopemptus happened,” Anysia said.
“Curse the house Daubresse until the sun goes bloated and rotten and the stars are shaken from the heavens. Mansuetus died in an attack on the Cleiousarch’s soldiers a day after you left. They had some kind of warmech with them, and I don’t know where they got it, maybe a blue-gray alliance of sorts. A mortar tore him apart. I witnessed it, oh, oh,” Cantianilla said. She seemed less brash once she knew we were friendly.

Anonymous VFM #6306 May 30, 2017 2:33 PM  

Giraffe...trigger warning. Judeo Christ! It is the current year.

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener May 30, 2017 2:53 PM  

The great art form of the 20th century was the motion picture. The 21st century is the age of the weaponized meme.

Anonymous TLM May 30, 2017 3:00 PM  

OT- VD, apparently the folks at the Chicago Hyatt believe you to be more dangerous than Andrew Anglin. VP was blocked, but the Daily Stormer came up no problem.

Blogger Seal Of Lion May 30, 2017 3:06 PM  

Frank Deford also wrote a memoir about his daughter Alexandra who died from cystic fibrosis at age 8. "Alex: The Life of a Child".

Blogger James Dixon May 30, 2017 3:22 PM  

> ...apparently the folks at the Chicago Hyatt believe you to be more dangerous than Andrew Anglin. VP was blocked, but the Daily Stormer came up no problem.

Well, I can't fault their discernment. Their choice of sides, OTOH.

Anonymous The Worldwide Leader in Sports May 30, 2017 5:05 PM  

Yes, yes, yes, but would Frank have photoshopped Eldrick Tont Woods' mugshot?

Anonymous a deplorable rubberducky May 30, 2017 5:37 PM  

James Dixon wrote:

For the west, there's "Shane". For the south, there's "To Kill a Mockingbird". I can't think of any good equivalents for the Plains or Appalachia and I can't speak for the northeast at all.


Plains: The Grapes of Wrath
Appalachia: Cold Mountain
Northeast: Moby Dick

Anonymous Yankee May 30, 2017 5:52 PM  

For the south, there's "To Kill a Mockingbird".

So the great novel of the Southrons is about how a black man dindu nuthin

Anonymous Clay May 30, 2017 6:12 PM  

Yankee wrote: For the south, there's "To Kill a Mockingbird".

So the great novel of the Southrons is about how a black man dindu nuthin


Yes. You are a stinking Yankee POS.

Blogger Josh (the gayest thing here) May 30, 2017 6:48 PM  

Yes. You are a stinking Yankee POS.

Preach

Blogger VD May 30, 2017 6:53 PM  

What do you think

Brilliant. Reminds me of Poe, Hemingway, and Updike, with just a dash of Irving, and, dare I say, Borges?

Blogger rcocean May 30, 2017 7:10 PM  

It shows how far we've come that Frank DeFord is considered the great dean of Sports writing. I good stylist, but I couldn't get past the constant pushing of the liberal narrative. Yeah, maybe he had to, to keep his job, but it was still annoying.

And yeah, he was terrible on NPR. Some guys can talk, some guys can write. Deford should have stuck with writing.

Blogger rcocean May 30, 2017 7:11 PM  

Trying to think of the last Great Sportswriter who didn't interject his liberal politics into every piece...Murray?

Blogger James Dixon May 30, 2017 7:16 PM  

> So the great novel of the Southrons is about how a black man dindu nuthin

It was a suggestion. I'm open to correction by Josh, Nate, Clay and company.

Blogger Josh (the gayest thing here) May 30, 2017 7:21 PM  

Trying to think of the last Great Sportswriter who didn't interject his liberal politics into every piece...Murray?

Dr Z?

Blogger eharmonica May 30, 2017 7:59 PM  

Deford was a sportswriter who was reliably wrong and self-righteously so. But he was a great read. I remember him making the case for some low-level college football player who played both ways to be the Heisman winner. Basically did a mic-drop to my laughter. He edited that daily sports newspaper that died back in the day. Why did it die? I used to buy it but tired of being lectured all the damned time. He was was chief lecturer.

As for Jim Murray, at some point I had to give up on him when I'd get half-way through each article and still have no idea what he was talking about. Finally, I had a Gell-Mann Syndrome moment of clarity when who wrote about the scoring for the pole vault. He clearly had no idea what he was talking about. I refused to turn the page and move on as if nothing happened.

Anonymous Looking Glass May 30, 2017 8:09 PM  

The 20th Century America produced a lot more good essayists than it did novelists. One can spin a roving argument it's down to the mobility of the population during the time period, with great waves of movement, but I'd simply submit that the skill set to produce a great, long-form written piece is rare. Whatever that entire skill set that is needed might simply have run into cultural forces within the States and thus we've yet to see one.

And, going forward, it's probably unlikely we'll see one in the future. Much in the way we've yet to get the great Canadian Novel.

Anonymous Jack May 30, 2017 8:35 PM  

That is indeed a great piece of writing from Frank Deford.

I would argue that there are some great American novels from the 20th century. John Steinbeck's East of Eden and F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby come to mind. If any one book deserves the title of The Great American Novel, it's probably Gatsby, because the title character is a metaphor for America itself. Idealistic and ambitious youngster wants to surpass all the big boys, allies himself with (((crooks))) in order to do so, ends badly. But at least it was for love.

Anonymous Clay May 30, 2017 8:39 PM  

I have no things to correct you with.

Simply, my only retarded sense of life.

I was living...and witnessed the "dream" of Integration.

Blogger weka May 30, 2017 8:59 PM  

And the few good parts of a game of thrones

Blogger Skyler the Weird May 30, 2017 9:12 PM  

The South would be 'The Reivers' or 'The Unvanquished' Appalachia would be 'Spencer's Mountain'.

Blogger Kiwi the Geek May 30, 2017 10:58 PM  

Great American writers - what about Mark Twain? Jack London? I'm no expert, but I like them just as much as any Brits I've read.

Anonymous a deplorable rubberducky May 30, 2017 11:29 PM  

Kiwi the Geek wrote:Great American writers - what about Mark Twain? Jack London? I'm no expert, but I like them just as much as any Brits I've read.

Mark Twain's _The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_ is considered the one (and only) Great American Novel on the stage of world literature in the field of literary criticism.

Two problems: the Dread Ilk, VFM, and all assorted people here have NO USE AT ALL for the field of literary criticism. And I can't say I blame them about that one bit.

The other problem: the SJWs HATE Huckleberry Finn. Of course. They construe it as a racist text, even though it is the exact opposite in every way imaginable and masterfully so. Twain used the n-word, so full stop.

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim May 31, 2017 12:12 AM  

If we're throwing around Great Southern Novels... do not neglect the worth of Flannery O'Connor at her best, nor Walker Percy.

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim May 31, 2017 12:13 AM  

O'Connor's Wise Blood, with it's main character's "Gospel of Jesus Christ without Christ" is a preview to "Churchianism" discussed here frequently.

Blogger Revelation Means Hope May 31, 2017 1:14 AM  

What's sad is putting Mark Twain up for a great 20th Century novel

Anonymous They dead May 31, 2017 3:23 AM  

It is said, and quite rightly, that America does not produce great writers or great literature. We waited in vain for the Great American Novel, and all of the various pretenders wound up falling well short...
But I would say that there is a uniquely American literary form that reached its heights in the 20th century, of which Frank Deford was the last of his breed.


David Foster Wallace would disagree, but he died in 2008.

Blogger VD May 31, 2017 5:46 AM  

David Foster Wallace would disagree, but he died in 2008.

David Foster Wallace was not a great writer and his books were mediocre, try-hard pretenders.

Anonymous They dead May 31, 2017 6:46 AM  

David Foster Wallace was a terrible novelist, but he wrote achingly good prose, in similar form to Deford.

Blogger James June 01, 2017 11:25 AM  

"We waited in vain for the Great American Novel"

I'm curious: What is THE Great English Novel? Or THE Great French Novel? Or THE Great Italian Novel? Or the Great German Novel? Or the Great Russian Novel? Or THE Great Spanish Novel....well, probably Don Quixote. But, did these other countries produce so many selecting one is impossible? Is it a matter of Great Novels?

Post a Comment

Rules of the blog
Please do not comment as "Anonymous". Comments by "Anonymous" will be spammed.

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts