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There You Have It

There You Have It: The Life, Legacy, and Legend of Howard Cosell

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    There You Have It
    Book Description:

    This is the first fulllength biography of the lawyerturnedsports journalist whose brash style and penchant for social commentary changed the way American sporting events are reported. Perhaps best known for his close relationship with the world champion boxer Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell became a celebrity in his own right during the 1960s and 1970sthe bombastic, controversial, instantly recognizable sportscaster everyone "loved to hate." Raised in Brooklyn in a middleclass Jewish family, Cosell carried with him a deeply ingrained sense of social justice. Yet early on he abandoned plans for a legal career to become a pioneer in sports broadcasting, first in radio and then in television. The first white TV reporter to address the former Cassius Clay by his chosen Muslim name, Cosell was also the first sportscaster to conduct locker room interviews with professional athletes, using a tape recorder purchased with his own money. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, he not only defended the fisted "Black Power" salutes of American track medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith, but he publicly excoriated Olympic Committee chairman Avery Brundage for "hypocritical," racist policies. He was also instrumental in launching ABC's Monday Night Football, a primetime sports program that evolved into an American cultural institution. Yet while Cosell took courageous stands on behalf of civil rights and other causes, he could be remarkably blind to the inconsistencies in his own life. In this way, John Bloom argues, he embodied contradictions that still resonate widely in American society today.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-013-0
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    In 1976 Yale University refused to allow radical historian Herbert Aptheker to teach a seminar on his friend and colleague W. E. B. Du Bois as part of a one-semester student-organized program for undergraduates. The course would have paid Aptheker very little. It was a class that offered lecturers from outside the university an opportunity to teach, and gave students the chance to work with emeritus faculty and nonacademics who had built interesting careers. Aptheker was a historian whose work in the 1940s on the history of slavery in the United States had broken new ground. He seemed to be...

  7. 1 Poor, Jewish, and from Brooklyn
    (pp. 10-29)

    It should be no surprise to anybody who remembers Howard Cosell that even the date of his birth is a matter of controversy. In his first autobiography,Cosell,he writes that he was born on March 25, 1920.¹ Other biographical references, however, list the year of his birth as 1918.² A U.S. Census record taken in January 1920 only slightly clarifies the matter. Listed beneath Isadore M. and Nellie Cohen are sons Hilton and Howard. This is clearly the record for Cosell and his family, as the information corresponds with Cosell’s own published recollections—the names of his parents, the...

  8. 2 From the Law Office to the Broadcast Booth
    (pp. 30-46)

    Reflecting on the era in which he became a sportscaster, Cosell wrote: “Great changes in technology were coming; an increase of leisure time; the exodus to the suburbs to escape from the great cities. The whole pattern of society was changing, and sports would become even more important.” In these changes he saw an opportunity to inject himself into radio and television. Noting how the integration of African Americans into white-dominated sports had changed the way those sports would be experienced, he added: “A whole new set of smoldering problems would emerge. Could we keep giving the country line scores...

  9. 3 On the Network “Blacklist”
    (pp. 47-61)

    InCosell,the best-selling autobiography written by Howard Cosell, with editorial assistance from Mickey Herskowitz, during his rapid ascent to mega-fame in the early 1970s, Cosell refers to his failure to land a job on network television as being “blacklisted.” In his choice of that loaded term, he indirectly recalls the fear and insecurity that characterized work in broadcasting during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Yet Cosell actually claims that he was kept off network television not because he was thought to have been a communist, but because Tom Moore of ABC found him to be too abrasive, too...

  10. 4 Telling It Like It Was in the Civil Rights Era
    (pp. 62-88)

    In his dual biography of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell, sportswriter Dave Kindred tells the story of a meeting that took place in 1967, the day that the New York State Athletic Commission took away the boxer’s license to fight and stripped him of his heavyweight title. According to Kindred, the meeting included writer Norman Mailer,New York Daily Newscolumnist Pete Hamill, journalist/Paris Revieweditor/gadfly George Plimpton, andVillage Voicereporter Jack New-field. At a table in Greenwich Village’s fabled Lion’s Head bar, this group of self-described “left-wingers, alcoholics, and other bohemians” decided to take action in defense of...

  11. 5 Bigger than the Game
    (pp. 89-120)

    In June 1966 Roone Arledge wrote to congratulate National Football League commissioner Pete Rozelle for negotiating a merger with his league’s rival, the American Football League. Part of that merger was an agreement to hold an interleague championship game, an event that would someday come to be known as the Super Bowl. Ever adept at recognizing a programming opportunity, Arledge wrote Rozelle, “I assume it is too early for you to know what your plans are concerning television rights to the inter-league Championship game, but I would like you to know that we are very interested in being considered as...

  12. 6 Essential Contradictions
    (pp. 121-152)

    Most of Howard Cosell’s associates describe him as someone who, in person, was much like he was on television. A 1972Washington Postprofile called him a “most vulnerable man” who can “quote, endlessly, the shafts and needles hurled at him in print.” The article’s author, Lawrence Laurent, concludes, “Each must hurt, or Cosell wouldn’t recall each incident so vividly.”¹

    Indeed, Jim Spence remembers that throughout his career, and especially as the 1970s progressed, Cosell was a constant presence in the offices of ABC network executives, angrily waving an unflattering press clipping. In 1972 he vowed to Laurent that he...

  13. 7 Balancing Accounts
    (pp. 153-174)

    In the late summer of 1981, ABC presented an entirely new sports program calledSportsBeat.It was created by and starred Howard Cosell as a concession to him from the executives at ABC, who knew that he was getting tired of his role and his position within ABC Sports. In fact the hard feelings between Cosell and his employers seemed to be mutual by this time, if they had not been for some years.

    SportsBeatwas an in-depth interview and investigative journalism program. Those who worked on it recall it as being like the CBS newsmagazine60 Minutes,only focused...

  14. 8 Public Trust
    (pp. 175-188)

    In March 1985 a little-known company called Capital Cities—a media conglomerate that owned thirty-six weekly newspapers, ten daily newspapers, ninety radio stations, two hundred network-affiliated television stations, and several magazines—announced that it was purchasing the ABC broadcasting network. The $3.5 billion deal was at the time the largest merger in the history of the United States, apart from the oil industry. John Morton, a media analyst for the Washington, D.C., firm of Lynch, Jones and Ryan, told theNew York Times,“We’re a long way from the day when a handful of companies will control all of the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 189-208)
  16. Index
    (pp. 209-220)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-221)