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There You Have It

The Life, Legacy, and Legend of Howard Cosell

John Bloom

Publication Year: 2010

This is the first full-length biography of the lawyer-turned-sports 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 1970s-the bombastic, controversial, instantly recognizable sportscaster everyone "loved to hate." Raised in Brooklyn in a middle-class 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 prime-time 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.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xv

What is the significance of a man like Howard Cosell: a sportscaster, a media figure, a celebrity? In an unpublished oral history interview, Cosell once said that only a few years after his death, nobody would remember who he was, that celebrity is fleeting. In some ways he was right. Many reading this book might have no, or very little, idea who Howard Cosell was...

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pp. xvii-xviii

Like all authors, I have a lot of people to thank for helping me write this book. I began the process of preparing this project in 2004 and early 2005. Jeff Pearlman and Farley Chase were two of my earliest contacts and provided valuable suggestions and encouragement. Each steered me in the right direction for interviews. I also owe the title of the book to a suggestion from Farley...

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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...

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1. Poor, Jewish, and from Brooklyn

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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...

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2. From the Law Office to the Broadcast Booth

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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...

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3. On the Network “Blacklist”

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pp. 47-61

In Cosell, 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...

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4. Telling It Like It Was in the Civil Rights Era

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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...

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5. Bigger than the Game

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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...

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6. Essential Contradictions

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pp. 121-152

Most of Howard Cosell’s associates describe him as someone who, in person, was much like he was on television. A 1972 Washington Post profile 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...

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7. Balancing Accounts

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pp. 153-174

In the late summer of 1981, ABC presented an entirely new sports program called SportsBeat. 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...

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8. Public Trust

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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...


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pp. 189-208


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pp. 209-220

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760130
E-ISBN-10: 1613760132
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558498365
Print-ISBN-10: 1558498362

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 5 illus.
Publication Year: 2010