Leave it to Frank Deford to land a cutting blow to fans of a major international sport on his way out of NPR.
For more than a generation, Deford has been a weekly fixture on NPR's Morning Edition, offering his unique take on the comings and goings of the sports world. But on Wednesday, Deford delivered his final Sweetness And Light segment for the network, bowing out with the same verbal gymnastics he has employed on air for the past 37 years.
"Yes, this is my swansong, my farewell, my last hurrah. Adieu, adios, arrivederci, auf wiedersehen," Deford said.
To say the writing was on the wall would be an understatement. Deford, 78, knew his time was coming to an end when NPR announced last year that it was cutting his weekly Wednesday commentaries to one appearance a month.
Deford was gracious, taking the opportunity to thank his talented colleagues and "broad and intelligent audience." But he also used his last radio appearance to once again hit a target that has been in his crosshairs for years: soccer.
"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," Deford said. "Well, someone had to stand up to the yakety-yak soccer cult."
It's far from the first time Deford has gone after American soccer and its supporters. Deford was criticized by soccer fans back in 2015 for saying that Americans don't care about Major League Soccer (MLS), noting that what fans really want to watch is European soccer, which is widely available on television.
"Our fans for football, basketball and hockey have fantasy leagues," Deford said. "The fantasy for our soccer fans is that Major League Soccer will somehow become major league, because that's all that exceptional Americans are bred to expect."
Deford also criticized the sport itself in a 2001 column:
"It is not only that soccer lacks scoring, either. It also has no small victories, no cumulative successes. Baseball teams build rallies. Football teams drive down the field, even if they have to settle for a field goal. Soccer is the coitus interruptus of sport."
Deford remains a contributing writer at Sports Illustrated, where he got his start as a researcher back in 1962. Sports Illustrated reporter Richard Deitsch recalled on Twitter on Wednesday morning the time he spent editing Deford.