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"If they check the upper deck, they might find Patty Hearst hiding out."
--Bobby Murcer, Giants outfielder on the small crowds at Candlestick Park

 
Howard Cosell (Broadcaster) Howard Cosell (Broadcaster)
Born March 25, 1918 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DiedApril 23, 1995 in New York, New York
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By Wikipedia

Howard William Cosell, born Howard William Cohen was a well-known and influential sports journalist on American television most closely associated with Monday Night Football and his interviews of Mohammed Ali. His abrasive personality and tendency to speak his mind, often in erudite terms unusual for a sportscaster, made him, according to one poll, both the most-liked and most-hated television reporter in the country.

Cosell was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His parents had wanted him to become a lawyer. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in English from New York University, he entered that institution's law school and earned a law degree. During this period, at the request of a father who had wanted restored the Kozel family name that had been changed at Ellis Island, he legally altered his surname to Cosell as of 1940.

The NYU product was admitted to the New York state bar in 1941, but when the US entered World War II, Cosell entered the United States Army Transportation Corps, where he was promoted to the rank of major. During his time in the service, he married Mary Abrams in 1944.

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 to 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 Cosell his entire broadcasting career.

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.

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: "I'm just telling it like it is."

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.

Perhaps his most famous call took place in the fight between Joe Frazier and George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica. When Foreman knocked Frazier to the mat, Cosell yelled out "Down Goes Frazier, Down Goes Frazier, Down Goes Frazier." This became one of the most famous lines in sports history.

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

Along with Monday Night Football, Cosell worked the Olympics for ABC. He played a key role on ABC's coverage of the terror attacks on the Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972, reporting from the Olympic village. In Montreal in 1976, Cosell was the main voice for boxing. He announced the gold medal victory of Sugar Ray Leonard.

Cosell's colorful personality and distinctive nasal voice were featured to fine comic effect in a sports-themed episode of the ABC TV series The Odd Couple, as well as in the Woody Allen film Bananas. Such was his renown that while he never appeared on the show, Cosell's name was frequently used as an all-purpose answer on the game show Match Game.

Cosell's national fame was further boosted in the fall of 1975 when Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell aired late Saturday nights on ABC. The show was similar in many ways to a show NBC had launched, NBC's Saturday Night, which would later become the far more well-known Saturday Night Live. Despite bringing a young comedian, Billy Crystal, to national prominence, the show was cancelled after three months.

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.

At 11:30 PM on December 8, 1980, Cosell stunned millions by announcing the murder of 40-year old former Beatles member John Lennon live while performing his regular commentating duties on Monday Night Football.

Cosell denounced professional boxing in 1982 after a brutal, one-sided fight between Larry Holmes and Randall "Tex" Cobb.

Cosell drew criticism during one Monday Night Football telecast in September 1983, for calling a wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, Alvin Garrett, a "little monkey." While some saw the term as having a racial connotation, many who knew Cosell were quick to point out that he used this term routinely in an approving way to describe quicker, smaller players of all ethnicities. Among the evidence to support this claim is video footage of a 1972 preseason game, between the New York Giants and the Kansas City Chiefs, that features Cosell referring to Mike Adamle, a 5-foot-9-inch, 197-pound Caucasian, as a "little monkey", though they certainly had to dig deep into the archives to find an example.

Perhaps due to the strain of this controversy, Cosell left Monday Night Football shortly before the start of the 1984 NFL season, claiming that the NFL had "become a stagnant bore." His duties were then reduced to only baseball, horse racing, and a sports news program called Sportsbeat.

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 and was released by ABC television shortly thereafter. In his latter 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.

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 from a heart embolism in 1995, possibly related to the cancer he had been battling in recent years, at the age of 77 at his home in New York City. He was survived by 2 daughters and 5 grandchildren.


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MNF

Catch John Tuturro's Emmy-worthy performance as Howard Cosell in Monday Night Mayhem.

Courtesy of TBS


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