Frank Deford

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Yogi Berra died last night at the age of 90. In remembrance of his passing, let's go back 10 years and listen to a commentary Frank Deford delivered in honor of a man who was both a baseball legend and one of the game's truly great characters.

In the famous Disney movie, a carpenter named Geppetto longed to have a son. He carved a puppet of a boy, and, wouldn't you know it, the wooden Pinocchio magically became a real child. Fantasy games are the Pinocchio of sport, for all who play them become Geppettos. Isn't it the dream of every fan to construct his or her own team, as Geppetto wanted to carve out a son?

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life from the NBA after he made racist comments.

Sports bans aren't new.

In 1990, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was banned from day-to-day management of the club by Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.

Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993.

Sterling is 80. He comes from another time and is not only the senior NBA owner –– since 1981 –– but also, although probably this won't surprise you, historically the very worst owner in all of sport.

You know those commercials for prescription medicines on television when they devote the first 15 seconds to the benefits of the drug and then take the next 45 telling you all the bad things that could happen if you use it? Vladimir Putin's Olympics remind me of that. For all the happiness his Winter Games are supposed to bring us, you need considerably more time to hear about all the things that could go wrong.

Football fandom simply overwhelms all other sports in America, growing not just merely super, but superior, from high school right on up to this Sunday's quasi-religious festival — which celebrates our adoration of the sport as much as the sport itself.

It's difficult to understand why certain athletes are harshly singled out by the media, but one of the most baffling examples has to be the criticism displayed toward figure skater Nancy Kerrigan after she was clubbed in the leg at a practice session just weeks before the 1994 Olympics.

The ex-husband of another member of the U.S. women's team, Tonya Harding, was convicted of arranging the attack. Harding herself was fined and banned from the sport.

Two recent sporting disappointments underscore the state of interest in women in sports. The first: Lindsey Vonn, sadly acknowledging that her injuries were too serious, announced that she would not be able to compete in the Olympics next month. The second: The owners of the Los Angeles Sparks, acknowledging that they were overwhelmed by debt, just gave up the franchise.

The Grammy nominations are in, and the talk now is of what actors will be chosen for the Academy Awards, but not once have I heard anyone suggest that any of the singers or actors may not be nominated because of some character deficiency.

Likewise, when it comes to awards in theater or television or dance or literature, I don't ever recall any candidate losing out because of a personal flaw.

The Sunday pregame shows feature interchangeable ex-players and ex-coaches saying the same banal things, one after another.

"They've got to cut down on turnovers."

"They've got to convert more third-down situations."

And so on. There's no human interaction, just mirthless recitations. But on female-centered shows like The View and The Talk, the hosts actually discuss, argue, hash things out, laugh for real and behave like flesh-and-blood human beings. And they dare do it all without a net, before a live audience.

This is a Thanksgiving story about a horse. Actually, a horse artist. I don't mean an artist who paints horses, like Degas or Remington, but a horse who paints — and thereby also raises money for less fortunate horses.

Really.

Not surprisingly, in the explosive revelations about the Miami Dolphins team turmoil, most attention has been paid to the fact that, in the midst of a locker room predominately composed of African-American players, a white, Richie Incognito, slurred a black teammate, Jonathan Martin, with the ugliest racial epithet –– and was actually publicly supported by some blacks on the team. Incognito's sadistic employment of the word has not only sickened but also astounded most of us.

Does a citizen of any country, not just the good ole U.S. of A., have an obligation to support its national teams? For goodness sake, it's just a game, not Horatius at the Bridge standing between us and national defeat.

As the NASCAR season climaxes, America's prime motor sport continues to see its popularity in decline. For several years now, revenues and sponsorship have plummeted, leaving an audience that increasingly resembles the stereotype NASCAR so desperately thought it could grow beyond: older white Dixie working class.

Both ESPN and the Turner Broadcasting Co., longtime NASCAR networks, took a look at the down graphs and the down-scale demographics and didn't even bother to bid on the new TV contract.

As a child, your heart is broken when you learn that your grandfather really can't pull real quarters out of your ear. And if you're a baseball fan, that disillusionment happens once more to you in life when you first hear the numbers mavens tell you that there is no clutch hitter. None. No such thing.

Oh my, but if you have any romance in your soul, you do so want to believe that there are people in all walks of life whom we can count on to rise to the occasion. Don't you want that?

As a commentator, Frank Deford gets a lot of suggestions about prominent subjects that he should take to task. Usually, he has already sounded off on these suggested topics, and most of them are cut and dried, with nothing new to add. But here, Deford takes on 12 of these familiar issues — this time with brief updates.

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