Telling It Like It Is

Before there were blogs, sports talk radio, and ESPN there was one person who symbolized sports journalism. Howard Cosell told it like it is on ABC for over a quarter of century. He covered boxing at a time when the heavyweight division was at its peak. His interviews with Muhammad Ali on Wide World of Sports and coverage of his fights brought Cosell nationwide attention. However he was very critical of Ali when he was not in shape.

Monday Night Football gave Cosell a weekly stage to talk about the NFL, and his halftime highlights were a big part of the telecast. The highlights were done at the game site several hours before the telecast and were done without a script. During the shows heyday he would interview big time celebrities especially John Lennon, and told the nation that he was shot and killed on December 8, 1980 during a game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.

Howard Cosell was journalist at heart and had Sportsbeat, a magazine show that talked about the issues facing sports, which won two Emmys. He hated the “jockocracy”, a term used by author Robert Lipsyte to describe television networks use of hiring former athletes to cover games. Cosell had no problems of the networks hiring former athletes, but in his mind the jocks couldn’t bridge the gap between journalism and entertainment.

In his later years Cosell was bitter toward ABC and his book “I Never Played The Game” ripped on his former co workers on Monday Night Football. In the book he also talked about the Tex Cobb vs Larry Holmes heavyweight title fight that turned out to be the last professional  boxing match he ever covered on ABC. Before the 1985 World Series Cosell was let go by the network in order to avoid an on air scene with Al Michaels.  Cosell’s last event ever covered for ABC was a late season baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals. In 1995 he died of  pulmonary embolism, and was credited for bringing journalism into sportscasting.

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