cover image H Howard Cosell: The Man, 
the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports

H Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports

Mark Ribowsky. Norton, $29.95 (512p) ISBN : 978-0-393-08017-9

Both loved and loathed for his nasal, staccato delivery and polysyllabic self-importance—a TV Guide poll ranked Cosell the nation’s most popular and unpopular sportscaster—Howard Cosell is the braying voice of America’s conscience in this engrossing, bombastic biography. Ribowsky (Don’t Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball) replays Cosell’s towering neuroses and insufferable personality; his hammy come-ons to people he could use and his cruelty to those he couldn’t; his paranoid feuding with Monday Night Football colleagues; his on-air drunkenness, horrible lewd repartee and desperate, sweaty craving for approval. Ribowsky also credits him with delivering classic play-by-plays of milestone sporting events, bringing tough, outspoken journalism to the mannerly sports casting arena, and offering semi-gutsy support to everything from the Equal Rights Amendment to free-agency and Muhammad Ali’s defiance of the draft. (He pegs Cosell’s long relationship with the boxer as a counterpoint between genuine respect and mutual exploitation.) The author is well-nigh Cosellian in his grandiloquence (“he was, in the parlance of mythology—a realm where he actually belongs—Icarus flying into the sun”) and determination to wring melodrama from mere sport. Still, Ribowsky’s shrewd, evocative color commentary makes Cosell live up to his billing. Photos. (Nov.)