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Sweetness And Light

Deford Says Thanks For A Good Game, Drops Mic

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Frank Deford on June 12, 1991, holding a dummy version of the final edition of <em>The National</em>.
Susan Ragan, AP
Frank Deford on June 12, 1991, holding a dummy version of the final edition of The National.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages!

I always wanted to use that in a commentary, that wonderful circus introduction ballyhooed by the splendid ringmaster, but I could just never find the ideal spot.

Of course, had I, there would've been some people who'd say that a circus doesn't belong in with sports. But, hey, just because there's clowns around doesn't disqualify certain daredevils from being certified athletes ­­-- equestrians, tightrope walkers and those who fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

That's why I was so upset to learn that the grandest big top ever — Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey — was going out of business later this month. The Greatest Show on Earth — and it probably was exactly that once upon a time.

Well, by coincidence, this particular tiny show on earth that consists entirely of me talking about sports on NPR is also folding its tent flaps this May of 2017. Yes, this is my swansong, my farewell, my last hurrah. Adieu, adios, arrividerci, auf widersehn.

I've been delivering these little homilies since 1980 — that's 37 years — and altogether, NPR statisticians tell me, my bloviation total is 1,656 commentaries — and I trust you've hung onto every word.

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.

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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.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for abiding me.

And now, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I bid you goodbye, and take my leave.

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