Howard Cosell

Howard Cosell

Infobox Person
name = Howard Cosell

birth_date = birth date|1918|3|25|mf=y
birth_place = Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States
death_date = death date and age|1995|4|23|1918|3|25|mf=y
death_place = New York City, United States
occupation = Journalist, Author, Radio personality, Columnist, Sports commentator, Lawyer, Television personality
yearsactive = 1954 - 1993
spouse = Mary Edith Abrams "Emmy" Cosell 1944-1990 (her death)
children =

Howard William Cosell (born Howard William Cohen; March 25, 1918 - April 23, 1995) was an American sports journalist.


Early life

Cosell was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina of Jewish heritage, [ [ Howard Cosell, Outspoken Sportscaster On Television and Radio, Is Dead at 77 - New York Times ] ] the son of Nellie and Isidore Cohen, who was an accountant. [ [ Howard Cosell Biography (1920-) ] ] He was raised in Brooklyn, New York. His parents had wanted him to become a lawyer. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from New York University, where he was a member of Pi Lambda Phi. He then went to the New York University School of Law where he earned his JD, and was a member of the NYU Law Review.


Infobox Military Person
name=Howard William Cosell
born= March 25, 1918
died= April 23, 1995
placeofbirth= Winston-Salem, North Carolina
placeofdeath= New York City, New York
allegiance= flag|United States
branch=United States Army
rank= Major
unit=United States Army Transportation Corps
battles=World War II
laterwork=Lawyer, sportscaster
Cosell was admitted to the New York state bar in 1941, but when the U.S. entered World War II, Cosell entered the United States Army Transportation Corps, where he was quickly promoted to the rank of major, becoming one of the youngest majors to serve at that time. During his time in the service, he married Mary Abrams in 1944, at Prospect Presbyterian Church in Maplewood, New Jersey.


After the war, Cosell began practicing law in Manhattan, primarily in union law. Some of his clients were actors, and some were athletes, including Willie Mays. Cosell's own hero in athletics was Jackie Robinson, who served as a personal and professional inspiration to him in his career. Cosell also represented the Little League of New York, when in 1953 an ABC Radio manager asked him to host a show on New York flagship WABC featuring Little League participants. Cosell hosted the show for three years without pay, and then decided to leave the law field to become a full-time broadcaster. The show marked the beginning of a relationship with WABC and ABC Radio that would last his entire broadcasting career.

Cosell took his "tell-it-like-it-is" approach when he teamed with the ex-Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher "Big "Numba" Thirteen" Ralph Branca on WABC-77's pre- and post-game radio shows of the New York Mets in their nascent years beginning in 1962. He pulled no punches in taking members of the hapless expansion team to task.

Otherwise on radio, Cosell did his show, "Speaking of Sports", as well as sports reports and updates for affiliated radio stations around the country; he continued his radio duties even after he became prominent on television. Cosell then became a sports anchor at WABC-TV in New York, where he served in that role from 1961 to 1974. He expanded his commentary beyond sports to a radio show entitled "Speaking of Everything".

Cosell rose to prominence covering boxer Muhammad Ali, starting when he still fought under his birth name, Cassius Clay. The two seemed to be friends despite their very different personalities, and complimented each other in broadcasts. In a time when many sports broadcasters avoided touching social, racial, or other controversial issues, and kept a certain level of collegiality towards the sports figures they commented on, Cosell did not, and indeed built a reputation around his catchphrase: cquote|I'm just telling it like it is.

Cosell's style of reporting very much transformed sports broadcasting. Whereas previous sportscasters had mostly been known for color commentary and lively play-by-play, Cosell had an intellectual approach. His use of analysis and context arguably brought television sports reporting very close to the kind of in-depth reporting one expected from "hard" news reporters. At the same time, however, his distinctive staccato voice, accent, syntax, and cadence were a form of color commentary all their own.

Cosell earned his greatest enmity from the public when he backed Ali after the boxer's championship title was stripped from him for refusing military service during the Vietnam War. Cosell found vindication several years later when he was the one able to inform Ali that the United States Supreme Court had unanimously ruled in favor of Ali.

In February 1970, he was calling a world heavyweight title bout involving Joe Frazier and Jimmy Ellis for "ABC's Wide World of Sports" when he made a call that would sound familiar to another boxer just three years later.

Perhaps his most famous call took place in the fight between Joe Frazier and George Foreman for the World Heavyweight Championship in Kingston, Jamaica in 1973. When Foreman knocked Frazier to the mat the first of six times, roughly two minutes into the first round, Cosell yelled out cquote|"Down Goes Frazier! Down Goes Frazier! Down Goes Frazier!" This became one of the most famous lines in American sports broadcasting history.

When Liston sat on his stool refusing to answer the bell at the start of the seventh round, Cosell started screaming, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Sonny Liston's not coming out! Sonny Liston's not coming out! He's out! The winner and new heavyweight champion of the world is Cassius Clay!"

During Cosell's tenure as a sportscaster, he maintained a feuding stance with legendary New York sports writer and columnist Dick Young, who rarely missed an opportunity to denigrate the broadcaster in print.

"Monday Night Football" / Later career

In 1970, ABC executive producer for sports Roone Arledge hired Cosell to be a commentator for "Monday Night Football", the first time in 15 years that American football was broadcast weekly in prime time. Cosell was accompanied most of the time by ex-football players Frank Gifford and "Dandy" Don Meredith.

Cosell was openly contemptuous of ex-athletes appointed to prominent sportscasting roles solely on account of their playing fame. He regularly clashed on-air with Meredith, whose laid-back style was in sharp contrast to Cosell's.

The Cosell-Meredith-Gifford dynamic helped make "Monday Night Football" a success; it frequently was the number one rated program in the Nielsen ratings. Cosell's inimitable style distinguished "Monday Night Football" from previous sports programming, and ushered in an era of more colorful broadcasters and 24/7 TV sports coverage.


Along with "Monday Night Football", Cosell worked the Olympics for ABC. He played a key role on ABC's coverage of the Palestinian terror group Black September's mass murder of Israeli athletes in Munich at 1972; providing reportage directly from the Olympic Village (his image can be seen and voice heard in Steven Spielberg's film about the terror attack). In 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, and the 1984 games in Los Angeles, Cosell was the main voice for boxing. He performed the sportscasting duties for Sugar Ray Leonard's victorious gold medal winning bout.

"The Bronx is Burning"

Game 2 of the 1977 World Series took place in blustery Yankee Stadium on October 12, 1977. An hour or so before game time, a fire started in Public School Number 3, an abandoned elementary school a few blocks from the ball park. By the time the game began at 8 p.m., the building was fully involved and the fire had gone to five alarms. A helicopter-mounted camera lingered on the scene for a few seconds and Cosell, who was calling the series for ABC, intoned in a weary voice, "There it is, ladies and gentlemen, The Bronx is burning."

Cosell misidentified the building as a tenement, many of which had indeed burned down in recent years as landlords fled the borough and burned their buildings for the insurance money. Cosell's comment seemed to capture the widespread sensibility that New York was on the skids and in a permanent state of decline. Author Jonathan Mahler abridged the quote and used it as the title for his 2005 book on New York in 1977, "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning". ESPN produced a 2007 mini-series based on the book called "The Bronx is Burning".

Lennon's death

On the night of December 8, 1980, during a game between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, Cosell stunned millions by announcing the murder of John Lennon live while performing his regular commentating duties on "Monday Night Football":

Lennon was actually shot four times. Facts on the shooting were not clear at the time.

Lennon had appeared on "Monday Night Football" during the December 9, 1974 telecast of a 23-17 Washington Redskins win over the Los Angeles Rams and was interviewed for a short breakaway segment by Cosell.

Non-sports related appearances

Cosell's colorful personality and distinctive nasal voice were featured to fine comedic effect in a sports-themed episode of the ABC TV series "The Odd Couple", as well as in the Woody Allen films "Bananas" and (in a brief cameo) "Sleeper". Such was his celebrity that while he never appeared on the show, Cosell's name was frequently used as an all-purpose answer on the popular 1970s game show "Match Game". Cosell also had a cameo in the 1988 movie "Johnny Be Good" featuring Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall and Uma Thurman.

Cosell's national fame was further boosted in the fall of 1975 when "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell" aired on Saturday evenings on ABC. This was an hour-long variety show, broadcast live and hosted by Cosell, which is not to be confused with the NBC series 'Saturday Night Live' (which coincidentally also premiered in 1975 under its original title of 'NBC's Saturday Night'). Despite bringing a young comedian, Billy Crystal, to national prominence and for showcasing the American TV debut of the Bay City Rollers, Cosell's show was canceled after three months. Cosell later hosted the 1984-1985 season finale of "Saturday Night Live".

Beginning in 1976, Cosell hosted the series of specials known as "Battle of the Network Stars". The two-hour specials pitted stars from each of the three broadcast networks against each other in various physical and mental competitions. Cosell hosted all but one of the nineteen specials, including the final one airing in 1988.


Criticism of boxing

Cosell denounced professional boxing in a November 26, 1982 bout between Larry Holmes and a clearly out-matched Randall "Tex" Cobb at the Astrodome. The fight was held two weeks after the fatal fight between Ray Mancini and Duk Koo Kim, and Cosell famously asked the rhetorical question, cquote|"I wonder if that referee (Steve Crosson) is [conducting] an advertisement for the abolition of the very sport that he is a part of?" Richard Green, who officiated the fatal Mancini-Kim fight two weeks earlier and was the reason for Cosell's concern, committed suicide less than a year after Cosell's remark on July 1, 1983.

Major boxing reforms were implemented, the most important of which allows referees to stop clearly one-sided fights early in order to protect the health of the fighters, while in amateur boxing, one-sided fights automatically stopped when one fighter had a score considerably higher than his opponent. Hitherto, only the "ring" physician had had such authority. Another change was the reduction of championship bouts from 15 rounds (the fatal blows to Kim were in Rounds 13 and 14) to 12 rounds by the WBC. The WBA and WBO did the same quickly, and the IBF did so in 1988.

Cosell did not cut off ties with the United States Amateur Boxing Federation, and continued calling in 1984 the Olympic Trials, Box-Offs, and the 1984 Summer Olympics boxing tournament, with the professional debuts of these boxers being his last professional call of the sport.

The "little monkey" incident

Cosell drew criticism during one "Monday Night Football" telecast in September 1982, for stating "look at that little monkey go", when he referred to a play by black wide receiver Alvin Garrett of the Washington Redskins. While some saw "little monkey" as a racial slur, others were quick to point out that he used this term routinely in an approving way to describe quicker, smaller players of all ethnicities.

Cosell left "Monday Night Football" shortly before the start of the 1984 NFL season. Afterwards, his duties were then reduced to only baseball, horse racing, and a sports news program called "Sportsbeat". Howard Cosell never got a chance to commentate a Super Bowl, as by the time ABC finally got into the Super Bowl rotation with Super Bowl XIX, Cosell was already gone from "Monday Night Football".

"I Never Played the Game" and reaction

After writing the book "I Never Played the Game", which chronicled his disenchantment with fellow commentators on "Monday Night Football", among other things, he was taken off scheduled announcing duties for the 1985 World Series (Tim McCarver subsequently took his spot alongside Al Michaels and Jim Palmer) and was released by ABC television shortly thereafter. In "I Never Played the Game", Cosell coined the word "jockocracy" to describe how athletes were given announcing jobs that they had not earned.

In his later years, Cosell briefly hosted his own television talk show, "Speaking of Everything", authored his last book "What's Wrong With Sports", and continued to appear on radio and television, becoming more outspoken about his criticisms of sports in general.

Later life

Cosell was the 1995 recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. After his wife of 46 years, Mary Edith Abrams Cosell, known as "Emmy", died in the fall of 1990, Cosell appeared in public less and less until his passing away in 1995 from a heart embolism at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

Cultural references

* Cosell appeared on the Carpenters' Very First TV Special in 1976 as a sports reporter reporting a car race that Richard Carpenter participated in, and ultimately, won.
* In "The Simpsons" episode "Mother Simpson", Cosell is shown as the play-by-play announcer for Super Bowl III. However, in real life the game was shown on NBC, and Cosell never worked any Super Bowl broadcasts. In another "Simpsons" episode, "Lisa's First Word", Cosell was accurately portrayed as a boxing announcer at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
*"The Muppets" and the cartoon "" featured characters who were based on Cosell.
* The video game "Crash Tag Team Racing" features two anthropomorphic chicken sports commentators named Chick Gizzard Lips and Stew, who serve as comic relief. Chick Gizzard Lips seems to have the voice and personality of Cosell, while Stew puns George Foreman.
* The song "Boxing" by Ben Folds Five from their eponymous details an imaginary interview between Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell at the end of the boxer's career.
* In the 1985 movie "Better Off Dead", protagonist Lane Meyer, played by John Cusack, often races against two Asian brothers, one of whom speaks in the style of Cosell, having learned English from watching the sportscaster on television. Meyer remarks, cquote|Two brothers... One speaks no English, the other learned English from watching "Wide World of Sports". So you tell me... Which is better, speaking no English at all, or speaking Howard Cosell?
* Cosell's voice was parodied by legendary impressionist Rich Little. Little would later appear as himself on the episode "Raging Bender" of the animated series "Futurama" as a wrestling announcer, modeling his speaking style on Cosell's.
* Cosell plays himself in two episodes of the television series "The Odd Couple" starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. Always seen battling with Klugman's character Oscar Madison, he once referred to Felix Unger (Randall's character) as an "inane drone." Translation according to Felix: "a dull bee."
* Cosell was the butt of many jokes on mid-1970s game show hit, "Match Game".
* In an episode of the Warner Bros./Fox Kids Network 1991 weekday "Beetlejuice" cartoon, the pilot weekday episode featured a bodybuilding contest with "Howard Grossnell" as the commentator.
* The feature film "Ali" features Jon Voight as Howard Cosell to a very close degree, enough to earn him an Academy Award nomination.
* Cosell appears as himself in the 1971 film "Bananas" with Woody Allen. He played a sportscaster covering the assassination of a foreign leader at the start of the film and the consummation of Allen's character's marriage at the end. (He was said to be uneasy about doing that role, fearing it would be distasteful, but Allen was persuasive).
* Cosell was offered the role of a mad scientist in Allen's 1972 film "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)". He turned it down due to the subject matter and the role was played by John Carradine.
* Cosell had a cameo of sorts in Allen's 1973 film "Sleeper". Awakening 200 years in the future, Allen's character is shown a clip of a Cosell commentary, and asked to confirm whether watching clips like these were a form of punishment for wrongdoers. He confirms it.
* The TNT feature film "Monday Night Mayhem" is about Cosell and the genesis of "Monday Night Football" on ABC in 1970. Cosell is portrayed by John Turturro.
* Through the use of body doubles and old sound clips Cosell was able to help "call" the three fictitious games produced by NFL Films for their 1999 "Matchup of the Millennium" series.


*"Sports is human life in microcosm."
* [ Howard Cosell Quotations]

ee also


External links

* [ Howard Cosell Dies at 77]
*findagrave|7960 Retrieved on 2008-01-25
*imdb name|0181763 Retrieved on 2008-01-25

NAME=Cosell, Howard William
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Cohen, Howard William
SHORT DESCRIPTION=American sportscaster
DATE OF BIRTH=March 25, 1918
PLACE OF BIRTH=Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DATE OF DEATH=April 23, 1995

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