'Sports Illustrated' Writer Frank Deford's Final NPR Broadcast: Full Transcript

Sports journalist Frank Deford, far right, at the American Museum of Natural History Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Theater in New York City, August 11 2004.
Frank Deford is presented with a National Humanities Medal in 2013 by President Barack Obama. Deford, a giant of American sports broadcasting, died at 78 on May 28. Evan Agostini/Getty

Frank Deford, the longtime sports commentator for NPR and Sports Illustrated writer, died on May 28 at the age of 78.

Deford, six times National Sportswriter of the Year in the United States, was one of sports broadcasting's standout voices for 37 years. He was given a National Humanities Medal in 2013 by Barack Obama and wrote 20 books.

Deford made his last broadcast, transcribed in full below, on NPR's Morning Edition on May 3.

"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 be 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 & 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 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, arrivederci, auf wiedersehen.

I've been delivering these little homilies since 1980. That's 37 years, and altogether, NPR's 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.

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 has 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."