The famed sports writer spoke to a capacity crowd at Macalester College. Many came from reading his articles. More came because of his voice. Deford speaks out to millions every Wednesday for three minutes on National Public Radio. GQ named him the "World's Best" sports writer. He's also tall, quick and charming, even when blasting soccer.
Within his talk, a conversation with MPR's Cathy Wurzer, he mentioned the difficulty of pulling quotes from media trained athletes. But this guy is a walking maxim machine. What follows are some of his best quotes from the night. They're not verbatim, but close enough.
On his NPR gig: My friend said I spent my life writing about people who couldn't read. Now, I'm talking to people who don't understand the subject of sports.
On sports writing: It's really the easiest form. Though, it's hard to talk to someone who is naked.
On subjects: I like to talk to the guys who've struggled.
On interviewing: I'm not good at making people talk. I'm good at making people feel comfortable.
On people: One subject people love is themselves.
On writing profiles: Look for the tick. Another writer said I made a good description about a basketball coach. I wrote he was a small man comfortable in the presence of giants.
On blogging: A lot of it is bloviating. It used to be two guys in a bar comparing athletes. That conversation moved to four guys on ESPN doing it.
On the current state of sports writing: They don't have the time to write as much. There are too many games and it overwhelms the craft.
On writing: One of my old editors said, "Franky, it doesn't matter what you write about... it's how you write it."
The question and answer session focused on college athletics, women in sports and one highlight. A man stood up to ask if Deford had any advice for his son, a cub reporter. Deford looked at him and honestly said, "I don't have any." He went on to talk about something journalists know too well: the death of print and an uncertain future.