Howard Cosell: Brilliant and Occasionally Rude
Cosell to Costas: “You’re the child who rhapsodizes over the infield fly rule”
Marv Albert – Defacto Voice of NBA -helped build the league’s popularity
Bob Costas – Encyclopedic, network broadcaster –never lost for the right word
David Falk – Pioneer sports agent
Al McCoy – Forever the Voice of the Phoenix Suns
Dick Stockton – Network veteran who’s called MLB, NFL, NBA and college sports
Warner Wolf – Seasoned broadcaster famous in New York for his “Let’s go to the video tape”
Al Michaels – After decades in-grade; the Voice of Primetime NFL and more
Tim Ryan – One of the most versatile network broadcasters ever
Tim Brando – Sepulchral voiced play-by-play announcer of network basketball and football
Charley Steiner – Ex-ESPNer and now the lead radio announcer for the Dodgers
Stan Fischler – Known as ‘The Maven,’ prolific author who goes back to Cosell’s formative broadcast years
Marty Glickman – (Via his autobiography) the late play-by-player extraordinaire and coach of the sports broadcast world
Mike Patrick – 19 year voice of Sunday Night Football on ESPN
Gary Thorne – Like Cosell – a schooled attorney, former network play-by-player and now television voice of the Orioles
Len Berman – Multi-talented broadcaster, now hosting mornings on WOR Radio after serving as the face of New York sports on WNBC-TV.
Please share some personal interaction you had with Howard Cosell.
My first interaction with him was when I was in 8th grade. I was on Howard’s radio show –All-League Clubhouse. I took the subway from our home in Brooklyn down to the studio in Manhattan. He would call my home to check if I left. My mother would answer the phone and say, “Yes, Mr. Cosell. Marv is on the subway and on his way.”
He would write the questions. There would be some great guests including Willie Mays and Floyd Patterson. He also had the Brooklyn Dodgers’ executive Fresco Thompson whom I got to know and it helped me nail down an internship with the team during the team’s final summer in Brooklyn.
In 1983, I did the baseball playoffs for NBC with Tony Kubek. I then took the train down to close by Baltimore to watch the first two games of the World Series. It was covered by ABC. Al Michaels invites me to drive with him from the hotel to old Memorial Stadium. Cosell went out separately. I had never met Howard. He was outside the booth brandishing a cigar half the size of a Louisville Slugger, dropping ashes here and there. I went up to him, extended my hand and him it’s a pleasure meeting him. He says, “I know who you are, you’re the child who rhapsodizes over the infield fly rule. I’m sure you’ll have a great career!” He then walks away. That was it.
I saw him at US Open and he says to me kiddingly, “Tell Arthur (Ashe, with whom I worked) –‘I’ll steal his wife (Jeanne).’”
Personally, I admired Howard, whom I got to know, because I was able to be amused, impressed, and sometimes appalled, all at the same time. I liked him and I always had the feeling he was putting people on.
When I got to NY in the Fall of ’75, I did a national college football scoreboard show from the ABC studios with Dave Dials. He walks in and says “Tell Roone – you’re too big for this (crap).”
Working with him from 1977-85, I learned what a charming, brilliant, bitter, confounding, complex and maddening figure he could be- sometimes- it seemed all at once.
I had met Howard at some sports event in New York and called him at ABC hoping he would remember who I was. I asked for some advice about how to get to the network level at ABC. He was very generous to give me some time and some thoughts—I was surprised that he even took the call.
Around the same time, he was calling a heavyweight fight at the Garden for ABC. I was there reporting for the late local news. At the end of the fight, Howard was in the ring doing his TV interviews. The crowd booed him throughout. A few minutes after the crowd had cleared, I was leaving the Garden—walking along a corridor behind the stands. Along comes Howard with his wife Emmy, nobody else around. He doesn’t recognize me in the low light. I hear him saying to Emmy “They weren’t booing me, were they Emmy?” She answered quickly, “Oh no Howard, they were booing the fighter.” I think that plays into the insecurity aspect.
What was his personality like?
A truly larger than life character that took advantage of the times with an incredible understanding of sports business, sports law, and perhaps his greatest asset, Recall!
Having been in his company on several occasions, I found his broadcasting style fit his personality, overbearing and obnoxious. BUT he got the story he was after and he did change the way sports is covered today. As we all know, Howard never felt he got the recognition he deserved. And unfortunately, his career and life ended on a sad and unhappy note.
Cosell and the powerful New York columnist Dick Young had a well publicized feud which I always thought was due to the fact that they were similar. Both were raised on the streets of New York, glib, opinionated and polarizing. They probably viewed one another as competitive.
When I was working as a Ranger publicist in 1954-55, Cosell was breaking in as a radio sportscaster. Once a week he would come up to the hockey office and demand I give him 10 good questions for whoever he was interviewing on his upcoming shows. He was demanding and arrogant but also a very compelling character whom I got to know well later on. The best thing I can say about him is that he made for ‘great television.’
When I started at WHN (1964), we had the Mets and I was involved in pre and post programming. I would be in the clubhouse and Howard would come in and take a jab or two at a player or press member and then walk away. His voice carried. It was almost like he was on the PA.
Howard Cosell, this seminal figure in sports television. He ascended to an extraordinary position but never felt the industry was exalted or revered enough for him.
Howard considered himself as a true journalist. Thoughts?
I always regarded Howard as a self-promoting blowhard until he risked everything to stand up for Ali while everyone else hid behind the flag and pretended intolerance was patriotic. Howard spoke out with courage and decency when the rest of the industry reacted with fear and silence.
I respected him. He was honest. I started doing radio at 15 and worked at a station in Bangor, Maine. We ran his national show and I couldn’t wait to hear what he would say. He blended preparation and entertainment- still kept it honest.
As an attorney which he of course was too, I can tell you that legal training educates you how to think. Laws change regularly. Law school teaches the process of thinking. A question has a beginning, middle and end. Cosell had a talented ability to make personal and forceful statements through his questions.
Cosell was the first sportscaster who really said something. I didn’t know if he was right or wrong—but he had opinions, and I liked it.
He was the pioneer of his day, a transcending figure, a real journalist who set table for guys to do in-depth coverage like Bob Costas and Bryant Gumbel.
I had a laugh about his boasting that he ‘tells it like it is.’ This is a guy who changed his name from Cohen to Cosell and who wore a toupee.
Unprecedented. He introduced true journalism through his daily radio sports reports and established himself initially with 5-minute radio shows each day on ABC. He touched on topics that were largely ignored by mainstream commentators.
On the morning of December 27, 1968, he began his 8:25am program by saying, “The real athletes this morning are named Borman, Lovell and Anders,” referring to their return to earth after orbiting the Moon on Apollo 8. That’s when I first heard him, putting the day’s happenings in a different perspective.
For more interviews on Cosell’s lasting influence, check out the rest of the series where even more broadcasters share their thoughts on the inimitable announcer.