Sports Journalism
10:48 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Sports Reporting: The Way It Was ... And Is

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 10:08 am

When I was a young, cocksure lad in this business, one thing I hated was for anyone in the Old Guard to preface an observation about sports by saying, "It used to be ... "

Invariably, the point was that it used to be better.

I promised myself that I'd never become a "used-to-be" guy. But for the benefit of today's young, cocksure lads in the business, here I go:

It used to be that people always asked me if athletes weren't making too much money. Nobody ever asks me that anymore. The only money issue I hear now is, "Why aren't college athletes paid?"

It used to be that people always complained to me about how television was taking over sports, with TV timeouts and different starting times. All they complain about now is when they can't get a game they want to see on TV.

It used to be that people asked me how many games were really fixed, because they'd heard it was lots. As if I knew. Instead people ask me how many athletes are doping, because they heard, for sure, that its lots more.

It used to be that people would ask me why Americans didn't like soccer. Now people ask me why the American media won't give soccer its proper due.

It used to be people wanted to know if athletes actually cheated on their wives that much on the road. Nobody ever asks me that anymore. Instead, they ask me if I think sports contribute to misogyny, because so many athletes are involved in brutal sexual assaults on women.

It used to be people always asked me who I thought the greatest boxer was, as if I knew. They stopped asking that, and then it used to be they'd ask me if boxing was ever going to come back. Now, nobody ever asks me anything about boxing.

It used to be that people would tell me all the time how sports build character. Now that athletes are regularly arrested for violent crimes, and that so many college athletes are participating in a giant fraud that the academic community supports, people don't tell me that anymore. Instead, they ask me, dubiously, "Do you really think sports build character?"

It used to be that people would always ask me who I thought was going to win the game. As if I knew. Now people always ask me who I think is going to win the game. As if I know.

Well, some things never change.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

As our listeners know, commentator Frank Deford has been covering sports for a long time. And he's seen many changes in the sports world, Including the questions he gets from fans.

FRANK DEFORD: When I was a young, cocksure lad in this business, one thing I hated was for anyone in the old guard to preface an observation about sports by saying: It used to be. Invariably, the point was that it used to be better. I promised myself that I'd never become a used-to-be guy, but for the benefit of today's young, cocksure lads, here I go anyway.

It used to be that people always asked me if these athletes weren't making too much money. Nobody ever asks me that anymore. Never. The only money issue I hear now is why aren't college athletes paid? It used to be nobody ever asked me that. Never.

It used to be that people always complained to me about how television was taking over sports, with TV timeouts and different starting times. Nobody ever complains to me about that anymore. Never. All they complain to me about is when they can't get a game they want to see on TV.

It used to be that people asked me how many games were really fixed, because they'd heard it was lots. As if I knew. They don't ask me about fixes anymore. Never. Instead, people ask me how many athletes are doping because they heard, for sure, that its lots more.

It used to be that people would ask me why Americans didn't like soccer. Now people ask me why the American media won't give soccer its proper due because Americans really, really do like soccer.

It used to be people wanted to know if athletes actually cheated on their wives that much on the road. Nobody ever asks me that anymore. Instead, they ask me if I think sports contributes to misogyny because so many athletes are involved in brutal, sexual assaults on women.

It used to be people always asked me who I thought the greatest boxer was.

(LAUGHTER)

DEFORD: As if I knew. They stopped asking that, and then it used to be they'd ask me if boxing was ever going to come back. Nobody ever asks me about boxing anymore. Anything. Ever.

It used to be that people would tell me how sports builds character. Now that athletes are regularly arrested for violent crimes, and that so many college athletes are participating in a giant fraud - that the academic community supports - people don't tell me that anymore. Instead, they ask me, dubiously: Do you really think sports builds character?

It used to be that people would tell me they were going out to play golf. I don't hear that much anymore, except from old folks. Now people tell me they can't play golf because they have to work longer hours and it takes too long.

It used to be that people would always ask me who I thought was going to win the game.

(LAUGHTER)

DEFORD: As if I knew. Now people always ask me who I think is going to win the game. As if I know. Well, some things never change.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Yes, it used to be. Commentator Frank Deford joins us each week here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News, and he still does.

I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.