March 21, 2008


WOULD YOU LET THIS MAN INTERVIEW YOU?: If the answer is yes, you might wind up feeling like the defendant at a murder trial. The man is Howard Cosell, a nasal-voiced ex-lawyer who is quick to let you know he is the best sportscaster around (Myron Cope, 3/13/67, Sports Illustrated)

"You've got to treat Howard the way he treats you," says Columnist Dick Young of the New York Daily News. "You've got to throw his flamboyant junk back in his face. He asks better questions than the other radio and TV interviewers, but he hokes up his questions so that actually they sound better than they are. 'Now, truthfully'—it's always 'truthfully,' as if it's a question the guy on the other end has been ducking—'people insist that you'—people don't say it, they insist it—'that you cannot take a punch, Muhammad Ali. Now, truthfully, can you take a punch?' " The Cosell manner, observes Larry Merchant of the New York Post, manages "to make the world of fun and games sound like the Nuremberg trials."

Meanwhile, brimming with editorial comment, Cosell has gone after Casey Stengel and George Weiss, the New York Giants and NCAA football, Floyd Patterson and the sporting press, and all varieties of commissioners and leagues. Though ABC's New York radio outlet carries the Jets' games, he campaigned vigorously last fall against Jet Coach Weeb Ewbank, whom he dismisses as "passé." In short, Cosell has traveled a course hardly calculated to take him to the goal that practically all sportscasters covet: a play-by-play assignment. He could not care less. "I'm a personality," he specifies. "With rare exceptions, they don't make them that way in the sports business anymore."

Weeb got the last laugh there, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2008 7:23 PM

And then the Jets sank quickly back into mediocrity.

Been there ever since...

Posted by: Bartman at March 22, 2008 8:39 AM

The last word on Howard Cosell was said by Red Barber: "Here's a man who changed his name from Cohen to Cosell, wears a toupee, and tells it like it is."

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at March 22, 2008 3:55 PM

That line's also been attributed to Jimmy Cannon.

Cosell's ultimate ambition was to host the nightly news, but Roone Aldredge had the sense to keep him in the candy store, as Howard often described sports reporting. Had he made it to an anchor chair Cosell would have had most of the views and all of the charm of Keith Olberman,

Posted by: George at March 22, 2008 4:18 PM