Wham-O Summer: Back to the Backyard (via Sports Illustrated)

Children shrieked, Weber seethed, cicadas skree’d from the trees. Can you hear the hissing of summer lawns, circa 1975, when Joni Mitchell sang of suburban ennui, of a woman stuck at home in July? In a ranch house on a hill / She could see the valley barbecues from her windowsill / See the blue pools in the squinting sun / Hear the hissing of summer lawns.

After a terrible spring of pandemic, the stuck-inside season just past, the summer of 2020 is already looking lost, unrelieved by the small mercies of attending a big league baseball game or visiting a public pool or taking an epic car ride to a distant amusement park. If many of us are left to gaze across the fence at the neighbors, bereft in our own backyards, marooned on our own Maple Streets, it may help to remember that the backyard—and the suburban subdivision, the city block, the local playground—was once a world unto itself, a place of sport and diversion, of tragedy and ingenuity, of derring-do and derring-don’t, of fun and boredom and mortal danger. … Read More

(via Sports Illustrated)

Frank Deford’s final public words

Almost fifteen years ago, I attended a public lecture by Frank Deford, who applied his winding wit and signature vocal timbre to the athletic matters of the day: drugs, collegiate sports, and, of course, soccer culture, his great nemesis. At that time, in the fall of 2004, I probably was as far as I have been from the person who would later start a sports-focused website, but I knew well Deford’s voice through his NPR essays, which he began delivering in 1980, and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet one of the greats in person. Knowing him only from his radio work, Deford’s striking physical presence, upon seeing him for the first time, immediately both impressed and made exact sense; the vocal and corporeal likely never have been more perfectly combined.

His authority in the field was obvious, but it wasn’t until later that I would discover the source of that authority: his print work, including a trove of articles for Sports Illustrated, where he started after graduating from Princeton in 1962, and, arguably even more influentially, his role as editor-in-chief of The National Sports Daily, the forefather to the more recently revered Grantland. Deford also wrote for Vanity Fair and Newsweek, produced novels and screenplays, and contributed to CNN and HBO’s Real Sports.    Continue reading