Frank Deford bows out as NPR sports commentator after 37 years

He had a keen eye for detail, ability to craft you-are-there stories and unwillingness to worship the athletes and coaches he covered.

Frank Deford has offered up sports commentary on National Public Radio since 1980, speaking hundreds of times on myriad topics spanning multiple generations.

Wednesday, he called it quits, bidding farewell in his 1,656th NPR commentary.

In his final edition, the 78-year-old thanked his colleagues and his listeners:

"I have survived so long because I've been blessed with talented and gracious colleagues, and with a top brass who let me choose my topics every week and then allowed me to express opinions that were not always popular. Well, someone had to stand up to the yackety-yak soccer cult.

"And perhaps just as important, I've been blessed with you, with a broad and intelligent audience — even if large portions thereof haven't necessarily given a hoot about sports. 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 gained renown as a writer at Sports Illustrated beginning in the 1960s and continues to contribute to the magazine, along with HBO's "Real Sports" franchise.

He also has written numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction, and was the editor in chief of the beloved but short-lived daily sports newspaper The National in the early 1990s.

Deford was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 2013 by President Barack Obama.

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