"Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter" (Atlantic Monthly Press) 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 Menlike 1960s, and Deford recounts not just the expense-account shenanigans and the antiquated racial and sexual mores, but the professional camaraderie and the friendships with athletes and coaches during the "bush" years of the early NBA and the twilight of "shamateur tennis."
In 1990, Deford was editor in chief of The National Sports Daily, one of the most ambitious projects in the history of American print journalism. Backed by eccentric Mexican billionaire Emilio "El Tigre" Azcarraga, The National made history and lost $150 million in less than two years.
Yet Deford endured: writing ten novels, winning a Peabody, an Emmy (not to mention his stint as a fabled Lite Beer All-Star), and recently he read his fifteenth-hundred commentary on NPR's Morning Edition, which reaches millions of listeners.
"Over Time" is packed with people and stories, from the insightful and hilarious to the poignant and moving, especially the chapters on Deford's visit to apartheid South Africa with Arthur Ashe, and his friend's brave and tragic death.
Interwoven through his personal history, Deford lovingly traces the entire arc of American sportswriting, from the lurid early days of the Police Gazette, through sportswriters 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.