Distracted by Distractions From the U.S. Open to the Super Bowl, distractions — or the possibility of distractions — often get the blame for poor performance. Frank Deford has had enough of all the talk about distraction.
NPR logo

Distracted by Distractions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/14327469/14341889" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Distracted by Distractions

Distracted by Distractions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/14327469/14341889" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Our sports commentator Frank Deford has been thinking about the signals that some people send when they get in trouble.

FRANK DEFORD: When Senator Larry Craig - I know, I know. You don't want to hear any more about Senator Craig, especially when I'm supposed to provide a pleasant respite from people like Senator Craig. But bear with me.

So, whereas I could not accurately predict the outcome of any game in any sport, when Senator Craig was preparing to give his intent-to-resign speech, I could confidently predict — and be absolutely right — that the reason he would give was that he had become a distraction.

Whenever politicians, who always call themselves public servants - and boy, does that curdle my milk. Why can politicians alone humbly call themselves servants? Please. I might just as well call athletes fans' servants, or myself a listeners' servant. Whenever public servants get caught with their hand in the cookie jar or their feet where they are not supposed to be, they depart public service not with apology, but by selflessly claiming that they have become a distraction.

Senator John McCain recently said politics is all sports metaphors. It's sickening, almost. But that works both ways. Now sports is all about distraction. And this is the high season for distraction rhetoric, because it is football time, and football is all business. It brooks no distraction.

Distraction will rear its ugly head, though. Recently, the former running back of the New York Giants created a huge distraction for the current Giants by criticizing the quarterback. The quarterback snapped that the running back had himself been a distraction last season. That is the ultimate gridiron insult, to be called distractable.

And the sporting press is always on the prowl for distraction. Invariably, for example, the only issue during the first week before the Super Bowl is which team will be less distracted. Actually, the greatest distraction at the Super Bowl is being asked distracting questions about the grim possibility of being distracted.

But it is not only football. Every year, on schedule, there is always great manufactured anguish at the U.S. Open tennis that the poor European players will be distracted by all the New York cacophony. This summer, too, distraction speculation ran rife that Tiger Woods' impending fatherhood would distract him from sinking easy putts. Good grief, so distraction-prone was he supposed to be, that after awhile I thought Tiger himself must be carrying the baby. And there are certain players, notably Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, who are, allegedly, serial distractionists.

Hey, it's a multitask world. Lets all of us, public servants and fans' servants alike, learn to work through distraction. I make this heartfelt plea as someone who has devoted so much of my life to listeners' service.

INSKEEP: Frank Deford's latest novel is "The Entitled" a story of baseball, celebrity, and scandal, and other distractions. He stage focus each Wednesday for member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

You hear him on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.