(Deletes typo from headline)
By Alex Dobuzinskis
May 29 Frank Deford, who as a journalist for
Sports Illustrated was known as a master of long-form
storytelling and as a regular commentator for National Public
Radio brought sports to life for many listeners with only a
passing interest in athletics, has died at age 78, his wife said
Deford died suddenly on Sunday at his home in Key West,
Florida, after an illness, his wife Carol Deford said by phone.
In 2012, then-President Barack Obama presented Deford a
medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which
honored him "for transforming how we think about sports." He
also was named to the National Association of Sportscasters and
Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Deford retired from NPR earlier this month after 37 years
with the broadcast network.
"Nothing has pleased me so much as when someone, usually a
woman, writes me or tells me that she's appreciated sports more
because NPR allowed me to treat sports seriously as another
branch on the tree of culture," Deford said in his final
A native of Maryland, Deford attended Princeton University
and began his career as a reporter and researcher for Sports
Illustrated magazine in 1962.
He excelled at long-form profiles of major sports figures,
such as tennis star Jimmy Connors, college basketball coach
Bobby Knight and the late professional football quarterback
Deford was known for musing philosophically about the role
of athletics in American life.
Writing in Sports Illustrated about his boyhood hero Johnny
Unitas, who played for Deford's hometown Baltimore Colts in the
1950s, Deford said he wondered how people "in olden times
connected back to their childhoods."
"After all, we have hooks with the past," Deford wrote.
"When most of us from the 20th century reminisce about growing
up, we right away remember the songs and the athletes of any
particular moment. Right?"
Deford wrote more than a dozen books, including several
novels such as "Bliss, Remembered" set during the 1936 Olympic
Games, and the football saga "Everybody's All-American" - made
into a 1988 movie starring Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange.
In "Alex: The Life of a Child," Deford described his
daughter who died at age 8 of cystic fibrosis.
Deford is survived by his wife Carol and two adult children,
Christian and Scarlet.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Grebler)