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Frank Deford, NPR’s Longtime Philosopher Of Sports, Dies At 78

Frank Deford in 1984. He would go on to spend another 33 years as a commentator on Morning Edition.

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Frank Deford in 1984. He would go on to spend another 33 years as a commentator on Morning Edition.

Bob Child/AP

Updated during 3:04 p.m. ET

Through scarcely 4 decades, 5 presidential administrations and clearly large Super Bowls and World Series, NPR listeners could count on during slightest one thing in a ever-unpredictable universe of athletics: Frank Deford. A buttress on Morning Edition, a Hall of Fame sportswriter was open radio’s academician of sports for some 37 years before unresolved adult his cleats progressing this year.

Deford died Sunday during a age of 78 during his home in Key West, Fla., his mother reliable to NPR. He leaves behind an startling 1,656 commentaries for NPR.

“The smashing thing about delivering sports explanation on NPR was that since it has such a extended audience, we was means to strech people who differently had small or no seductiveness in competition — generally as an critical partial of a tellurian culture,” Deford pronounced on his retirement progressing this year.

“Nothing done me happier than to hear from literally hundreds of listeners who would tell me how most a commentaries suggested about a theme they differently had never cared most for. I’ll perpetually be beholden to NPR that they gave me such unusual freedom. … It was 37 years of a lustful relationship.”

As NPR’s Tom Goldman notes, that attribute didn’t accurately start as a long-term commitment. In fact, during a time he was recruited by a Morning Edition that was still in a infancy, Deford hadn’t approaching to minister his commentaries for some-more than a few months.

After all, behind in 1979, Deford was already one of a star writers during Sports Illustrated, carrying already been with a repository for about a decade and a half. He was an achieved sportswriter, producing pieces that would eventually acquire him a respect of U.S. Sportswriter of a year 6 times, according to SI. He had zero to prove.

Still, he embraced a opportunity.

“I am something of a ham,” he told Tom progressing this month. “Yeah, I’d always been a writer. But in high propagandize we acted in plays. So it wasn’t as if we had to drag a difference out of my outspoken chords.”

And so what began as a brief gig in 1980 became a low and durability attribute with NPR’s listeners. Each week, he would voice opinions both artistic and controversial, references to Shakespeare and sardonic takedowns — not only of commissioners though even spasmodic whole sports, as some ice hockey and soccer fans might still remind you.

President Obama presents a National Humanities Medal Frank Deford during a White House in 2013.

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President Obama presents a National Humanities Medal Frank Deford during a White House in 2013.

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

His physique of work on NPR — as good as in Sports Illustrated, HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and 20 books of his possess — warranted him not only listeners’ faithfulness though his profession’s and a nation’s top honors, too: an initiation into a National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame in 1998, and a National Humanities Medal in 2013.

He was a initial sportswriter to win that medal.

“A dedicated author and storyteller, Mr. Deford has offering a consistent, constrained voice in imitation and on radio, reaching over scores and statistics to exhibit a amiability woven into a games we love,” President Barack Obama pronounced of Deford in a matter during a time.

All a while, Deford remained an preacher for a games he desired — and for a essential purpose they continue to play in a lives.

“This is partial of your life — it’s a second tier,” he told Tom. “The initial tier is eating, celebration and procreation. The second tier is religion, a spirit, music, art and the physical. Sports. It deserves to have as most courtesy paid to it, seriously.”