Frank Deford, whose by-line has appeared on all manner of stories in this magazine, is too valuable a man to allow to be idle. Our editors agree, however, that he can use a rest every now and then, so on those rare moments when Frank is not out watching a basketball game or spying on Boston sports fans or following a frozen whale across the country, they have urged that he come home and sit down in a comfortable armchair. But they have also urged that he place the armchair in front of a television set, tune the latter into a sports event and keep a typewriter handy in case he feels a TV TALK coming on. An example of the result appears on page 13.
Frank is usually happy to oblige, providing we let him do his viewing in good company. "If you start watching games by yourself," he says, "you're bound to get the wrong feel. Even if you are getting paid to watch it, a ball game should be enjoyed in the raucous company of friends and other hangers-on."
Outside of the fellowship provided during the commercials, one advantage of watching TV with friends—according to Frank—is that their passing comments frequently provide good copy ("which I am not above stealing"). Another is that they keep you alert.
One of Frank's most valued co-viewers is his wife Carol. "Among her more admirable qualities," says Frank, "is that she is totally ignorant of most sports." She watches them all, therefore, with an unprejudiced eye. "It is valuable to have somebody like Carol around," says Frank. "She is my canary in the coal mine."
December 14, 1970
How does this work?
"Well," says Frank, "on Saturday a week or two ago, I was sitting there conscientiously engrossed in a game and making all the right responses when my wife came in to check up on my mental processes. Chris Schenkel was just saying, There's a good picture of Plunkett now.' I nodded like any good TV fan.
" 'It is?' said my wife.
" 'What is?' I said.
" 'Is that a good picture of whoever-he-is?' Carol asked.
"Sure enough, the picture in question consisted of a splendid view of the back of the Heisman winner's helmet, but Schenkel, who probably hadn't really looked at it either, said it was a good picture, so millions of viewers accepted his verdict without protest."
Deford believes that the best thing about sports he has seen on TV of late was a bit by Comedian David Frye doing an imitation of Howard Cosell interviewing Truman Capote.
"Sports telecasting has become so stylized, so conventional, that it practically begs for mimicry," says Frank. "We can expect to see much more of this in the future. So far Bob and Ray have been about the only ones to mine the field, and now they're on Broadway with it. They can use the same sports-broadcasting bits for years, because the scene never changes.
"That's another reason to have friends around when you watch TV," says Frank in conclusion. "The stuff is sometimes too depressing to be left alone with."