The honors keep piling up for senior writer Frank Deford. His SI profile of Angel Cordero (April 23, 1984) earned him his second Eclipse Award (the first came in 1975 for a story on another jockey, Tony DeSpirito), and last March the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named him sportswriter of the year for 1984, an honor Deford also won for '82. But the award conferred on Deford in Boston last Friday by Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sports in Society was especially gratifying. In giving Deford its inaugural award for excellence in print sports journalism, the Center was recognizing career achievement. "This one means more than any of the others, especially since it's the first time it has been given," says Deford. "I don't mean to slight the others, but that this award is given for a lifetime body of work, rather than a single story or a year's work, suggests it's special."
"We were looking for someone who sees sports as something more than entertainment," said Robert Lipsyte, a senior fellow at the Northeastern Center and the chairman of the nominating committee. "We wanted someone who sees sports as an aspect of American culture. Someone who offers a window into the larger culture."
To the sociologists, psychologists and historians who are associated with the Center, sports is something more than a list of scores or arrangements of Xs and Os on a blackboard. The Center is primarily concerned with athletes and what happens to them off the field or outside the arena. So is Deford. He has reported his share of games, but he won the award for the stories he has written on the people who play or coach the games—like Marquette basketball coach Al McGuire (SI, Nov. 29, 1976), football coach Bob (Bull) (Cyclone) Sullivan (SI, April 30, 1984) and boxer Billy Conn (SI, June 17, 1985).
Deford isn't the Center's only honoree. It also gave an award for electronic journalism to Howard Cosell, who, co-incidentally, was the subject of an SI cover story (Aug. 8, 1983) written by Deford. "I'm very pleased to win the award with Howard," says Deford. "I've admired him as a journalist for a long time. Also, it shows that the award obviously isn't a popularity contest."
November 18, 1985
Other prizes for SI's people: Staff writer William Taaffe won a National Headliner Award in the "consistently outstanding magazine column" category for his TV/Radio columns. Special contributor Bill Brubaker and contributing photographer Brian Lanker won Page One Awards from the Newspaper Guild of New York. Brubaker's, in the "sports reporting, magazine" category, was for his Nov. 26, 1984 story on the recruiting of high school basketball star Chris Washburn. Lanker's, in the "feature and personality photos" category, was for his pictures of gold-medal winners from the 1932 Olympics in last year's special Olympic preview issue. The same photo act also earned Lanker the Holland Foundation's World Press Photo Award for a "portrait series."