In the most recent biography of the controversial broadcaster, Howard Cosell, Mark Ribowsky presents the story of the Brooklyn-born lawyer turned sports announcer. Cosell, who covered nearly every major sports story for three decades, is known for his colorful arrogance and in-your-face reporting. In, Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports, with the help of over 40 interviews and an extensive collection of photographs, Ribowsky presents Cosell’s endless complexities and the behind-the-scenes details of his illustrious career.
Howard Cosell was a grating presence. At times he unapologetically acknowledged that he regarded himself as bigger than the events he was broadcasting. On the air he could be incisive and challenging. He could also be pretentiously wordy. He could be pompous. And, of course, sometimes he could be drunk.
Certainly Howard Cosell was a large and influential presence when he was co-hosting Monday Night Football and providing half of the traveling Ali and Howard Show. Dandy Don Meredith snickered at his vocabulary, Muhammad Ali flicked his toupee, and Howard Cosell laughed all the way to the bank.
But Mark Ribowsky argues that there was much more to Cosell than that. He maintains that no other TV sportscaster or reporter had challenged the athletes, the team owners, the reporters covering the games, and the TV networks the way Cosell did, and that none has done so since. Cosell was “an arrogance addict,” writes Ribowsky, but he was also “a speaker of truth, unafraid to offend those who might take offense.” Whether you regard that contention as “telling it like it is”…or was…probably depends on how you felt about Howard Cosell when he was still on the air. In any case, if you wish to be reminded of the influence, arrogance, and sad end of Howard Cosell, this is the book for you.