The World's Tallest Midget By: Frank Deford

The World's Tallest Midget
There has never been a writer who has the changed the perception of sports writing more than Frank Deford. In the introduction of The World's Tallest Midget; The Best of Frank Deford, Deford likens sports writers to the midgets of society working, no playing, in what Jimmy Cannon called toy shops.

If this is the case, then Deford is the tallest midget of them all. Deford defends the "label" society imposes on sports writers as being men and women who refuse to grow up.

"Finally I resolved the issue with myself: that I am a writer, and incidentally I write mostly about sports, and what is important is to write well, the topic be damned (Deford, p.6)."

In this collection of pieces written for Sports Illustrated, Deford shuns the analytical facts of his subjects and digs deeper, by presenting soul and heart and meaning in his writing. This element is presented best in his closing paragraph of The Anglo Meets the Indian, when Deford seeks to divulge purpose in the insane event of boxing.

"What a shame it was that the two boys, the Anglo and the Indian, never knew each other except for two minutes and fifty-seven seconds one night in a boxing ring, pummeling each other's faces in the haze, for the roaring of the crowd and something dark in all our souls (Deford p, 104).

In it is this passage that Deford's greatest gift as a writer is presented. He shows the ability to liken sport, the most intense form of competition, to life, the most important act of competition. Deford proves to have the magical ability to pace his stories to a grand finale which lends his readers to a deeper understanding of the subject, as well as themselves.

According to Charles Fountain of the Christian Science Monitor, to read Deford is to have cynicism allayed, to realize that is the struggle and not the triumph that we celebrate.

Deford doesn't have the wit of Hunter S. Thompson, he doesn't use analogies as well as Blackie Sherrod, but what he accomplishes in these 14-stories is the exemplification of the struggle every human faces on a day to day basis. The stories are like therapy for the reader, as Deford digs deeper and drives harder than any other sports writer. His piece titled Raised by Women to Conquer Men, angered Jimmy Connors immensely to the point that Connors punished Deford by refusing to speak to the press during the 1978 U.S Open.

It is strange that as powerful as the love is that consumes the Connorses, Jimbo has always depended on hate in order to win. And all along that must have been the hard way (Deford, p.87).

The passage digs deeper than sport, and according to Michael Thomas of The Washington Post, this terrific book is about sports about as much as the Bleak House is about torts. And this may best describe Deford's writing.

Deford may be working in the toy shop, but he is teaching lessons on life.

Deford has become one of, if not the greatest sports writer to date, hence the phrase "Tallest Midget" in the title. The proof is evident, as his peers have voted him Best Sportswriter of the Year six times.

The latest book he is working on is about Pearl Harbor; it will be his 12th book. He continues to work as a contributing writer for Sport Illustrated, and he also works as a correspondent for HBO's Real Sports, hosted by Bryant Gumbel.

Frank Deford speaks frankly on Michael Jordan's possible comeback to the NBA.

As for the peerless Mr. Jordan, it would be both an artistic and romantic tragedy were he to return to the NBA as a member of the Washington Wizards, a woeful franchise he partially owns and occasionally operates (Deford, 04/16/01).

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