Fungo and The Skinny
Deford said he tried to guide the newspaper in the way a moderate current might cause a cruise ship to reach port a little faster, but McKenzie was really the engine that drove The National. However, he did admit to putting his fingerprints on two sections of the paper: “Fungo” and “The Skinny.”
“There wasn’t much of an editorial stamp I put on things, I spent so much time running around playing public relations man and spokesman and all that sort of thing. I never really got as much chance to be ‘editor’ as I would have liked. But ‘Fungo’ was mine. I just always loved that word. Some of the original ones, I said: ‘This is what we want to do,’ and I gave them those ideas. God, I haven’t heard that in a long time. That’s a happy memory,” Deford said.
The first “Fungo,” named after the long, skinny bat that baseball coaches use to hit fly balls to outfielders, was called “Three of a Kind,” and listed Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Ken Stabler. The three of them were listed because they had been to the Super Bowl and down the aisle three times each. Another Fungo was Alex Karras, Paul Blair and Arizona State, and the answer was: “The devil made Fungo do it. (Father Karras, Linda Blair and the Sun Devils.) And finally, another trio was: David Stern, Gerald Riggs, Brett Hull, and the answer was: “Fungo sets sail on a boat with a stern, a hull and some rigging.” Sometimes they were cheesy, but they were always fun to think about.
The other phrase Deford takes credit for bringing back into the common parlance is “the skinny.” In The National, “the skinny” was a short note that editors would attach to each team in the standings. In that first issue, “the skinny” wasn’t used. The less colorful “comment” was in its place. But it was soon replaced.
“When I first suggested it, two or three guys would say: ‘What the heck does that mean?’ And they said: ‘Well, we can’t run that,’ and I said: ‘Sure we can, we’ll bring it back.’ And we did, and now the skinny is everywhere,” Deford said.
Some of the comments/skinnies that day were: “Tough to beat Sixers on Wednesdays (10-2) but much easier on Tuesdays (1-4),” and “Warriors on scoring binge, have averaged 120.2 in last 14 games.”