A deeply misunderstood sports legend, once the most hated and loved man in America, gets his due in this absorbing, revelatory biography.
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Howard Cosell was one of the most recognizable and controversial figures in American sports history. His colorful bombast, fearless reporting, and courageous stance on civil rights soon captured the attention of listeners everywhere. No mere jock turned “pretty-boy” broadcaster, the Brooklyn-born Cosell began as a lawyer before becoming a radio commentator. “Telling it like it is,” he covered nearly every major sports story for three decades, from the travails of Muhammad Ali to the tragedy at Munich. Featuring a sprawling cast of athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Sonny Liston, Don Meredith, and Joe Namath, Howard Cosell also re-creates the behind-the-scenes story of that American institution, Monday Night Football. With more than forty interviews, Mark Ribowsky presents Cosell’s life as part of an American panorama, examining racism, anti-Semitism, and alcoholism, among other sensitive themes. Cosell’s endless complexities are brilliantly explored in this haunting work that reveals as much about the explosive commercialization of sports as it does about a much-neglected media giant.
About Mark Ribowsky
Mark Ribowsky‘s books include the New York Times Notable Book Don’t Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball. He lives in Plainview, New York.
“Starred review. The definitive word on a loved, loathed, maddeningly complex broadcasting legend.” (Kirkus )
Book review: ‘Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports’
The Chicago Tribune Book Review – November 16, 2011 (Excerpt)
When ABC Sports guru Roone Arledge was suggesting Howard Cosell for “Monday Night Football,” NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle replied: “Cosell? Why don’t you just dig up Attila the Hun?”
Such was the reaction generated by modern broadcasting’s first Category 5 hurricane: How-wuuuud Co-sellll. The way he pronounced his own name dripped with chutzpah and self-promotion. In his day, Cosell may have been the most mocked man in America.
If the very memory of his nasal delivery is a form of aural torture, this book may not be for you. But if you remember Cosell as some sort of broadcasting pioneer, brave and occasionally brilliant, Mark Ribowsky’s new tome is worth your time. At 512 pages, it has the heft of a presidential biography, a fact that would not be lost on one of broadcasting’s early emperors. [Read the full article...]
Howard Cosell: Admired and Abhorred
The New York Times Book Review – December 2, 2011 (Excerpt)
Once upon a time, Howard Cosell roamed television draped in the canary-colored blazer of ABC Sports, smoking a cigar the length of a sequoia, covering his baldness with a toupee the size of a featherweight boxer and speaking of sports in a way no one ever had. He was loud, audacious, obnoxious, perspicacious, brilliant, narcissistic, provocative and haughty. He would doubtlessly agree with those descriptions — and add more if only to prove that he was, as he was wont to enunciate slowly, “HOW-id Cyo-SELL.”
His was the dominant voice of sports broadcasting for 20 years starting in the mid-1960s — defending the rights of black athletes like Muhammad Ali; calling boxing with a staccato delivery and know-it-all panache; playing the prolix agitator to Don Meredith’s white-hatted good ol’ boy on “Monday Night Football”; and producing some of the best sports journalism of his day. His pomposity also rose with his certitude.
Woody Allen was so drawn to Cosell’s style that he hired him to appear in his 1971 film “Bananas” as a broadcaster interviewing a Latin American dictator who had just been gunned down, a comic take on the way Cosell himself interviewed boxers. Cosell did not mind self-parody but refused Allen’s offer to play a pervert in “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.” He drew the line then, but not a few years later when he was persuaded that he alone was capable of reviving the moribund variety show format with his own ABC series, “Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell.” The venture was so ill conceived (singing a duet with Barbara Walters was the nadir or the highlight of the show) that it was quickly canceled, enabling NBC’s fledgling late-night comedy program, “Saturday Night,” to add “Live” to its name. [Read the full article...]
‘Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports,’ by Mark Ribowsky
The Washington Post Book Review – December 16, 2011 (Excerpt)
In Woody Allen’s 1973 movie, “Sleeper,” a time traveler watches a tape of Howard Cosellwhile a 22nd-century historian tries to explain its meaning. “We weren’t sure at first what to make of this,” he says, “but we developed a theory: We feel that when people committed great crimes against the state, they were forced to watch this.”
Allen could assume that most of his audience recognized the irritating loudmouth who helped create “Wide World of Sports” and “Monday Night Football” on ABC. As the moviemaker understood, the broadcaster also transcended athletics to become a celebrity, an entertainer, an actor playing a character named Howard Cosell. But his fame was based not on love but loathing, on animosity more than admiration. He received so many threats that armed guards followed him at games. As Mark Ribowsky recalls, “Millions wanted to yell at their screens for him to shut the hell up.” [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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