Howard Cosell

Howard William Cosell (1918 –1995) was an American sports journalist widely known for his blustery, cocksure personality. Cosell said of himself, “Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff. There’s no question that I’m all of those things.”

His New York Times obituary stated, “He entered sports broadcasting in the mid-1950s, when the predominant style was unabashed adulation, and offered a brassy counterpoint that was first ridiculed, then copied until it became the dominant note of sports broadcasting.”

An attorney by trade, in 1941 Cosell enlisted in the Army, and served in the Transportation Corp, becoming one of the youngest to earn the rank of major during the war. There is little information in his military record or online which details his actual military duties.

Medic has obtained the Official Military Personnel File of Howard Cosell from the National Archives.  The files are broken down as follows: NARA Document, Orders I, Orders II, Pay I, Pay II, Pay III, Discharge, Correspondence.

After the war, Cosell practised law in Manhattan. Some of his clients were actors, and some were athletes, including Willie Mays. In 1953 Cosell hosted a radio show featuring Little League participants. This began a relationship with WABC and ABC Radio that would last his entire broadcasting career.

Cosell rose to prominence covering boxer Muhammad Ali, starting when he still fought under his birth name, Cassius Clay. The two seemed to have an affinity despite their different personalities, and complemented each other in TV broadcasts.

Cosell’s style transformed sports broadcasting. His use of analysis and context arguably brought television sports coverage close to the depth of factual news reporters. His distinctive staccato voice, accent, syntax, and cadence were a form of commentary all their own.

The public took exceptional note of Cosell when he backed Ali after the boxer’s championship title was stripped from him for refusing military service during the Vietnam War. Cosell found vindication several years later when he was the one able to inform Ali that the United States Supreme Court had unanimously ruled in favor of Ali in Clay v. United States.

Cosell called most of Ali’s fights immediately before and after Ali returned from his three year exile from boxing in 1970.

Perhaps his most famous boxing call occurred in the fight between Joe Frazier and George Foreman for the World Heavyweight Championship in Kingston, Jamaica in 1973. When Foreman knocked Frazier to the mat the first of six times, roughly two minutes into the first round, Cosell exclaimed: “Down goes Fraizer! Down goes Fraizer! Down goes Fraizer!”
This became one of the most quoted phrases in sports broadcasting history.

Cosell provided blow-by-blow commentary for some of boxing’s biggest matches during the 1970s and the early 1980s. His signature toupee was unceremoniously knocked off in front of cameras when a scuffle broke out after a broadcast match between Scott LeDoux and Johnny Boudreaux.Cosell quickly retrieved his hairpiece and replaced it.

During interviews in studio with Ali, the champion would often tease and threaten to remove the hairpiece with Cosell playing along but never allowing it to be touched. On one of these occasions, Ali quipped, “Cosell, you’re a phony, and that thing on your head comes from the tail of a pony.”

Howard Cosell abruptly ended his broadcast association with boxing after the heavyweight championship bout between Larry Holmes and Randall “Tex” Cobb on November 26, 1982. Halfway through the bout and with Cobb absorbing a beating, Cosell said little more than necessary, and periodically expressed disgust. Shortly afterward he told a national television audience that he had broadcast his last professional boxing match.  He died on 23 April 1995 at the age of 77.


Wikipedia/Howard Cosell

New York Times Obiturary