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

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  142 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews

A deeply misunderstood sports legend, once the most hated and loved man in America, gets his due in this absorbing, revelatory biography.

Howard Cosell was one of the most recognizable and controversial figures in American sports history. His colorful bombast, fearless reporting, and courageous stance on civil rights soon captured the attention of listeners everywhere. No

Hardcover, 496 pages
Published November 14th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Dec 22, 2011 Len rated it really liked it
For this review...well...I'm gonna tell it like it is!

I grew up in the 70s and 80s as a fanatical sports fan so Howard Cosell was a part of my life. Whether it was Monday Night Football, boxing or The Wide World of Sports,Cosell was ubiquitous on ABC and frankly if he wasn't involved it wasn't a major sporting event. Without question though there was no sports broadcasting figure more obnoxious, more arrogant, more in your face or more controversial than Cosell -- you either loved him or hated h
Aug 05, 2015 Doug rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-reading
To say Howard Cosell was a sportscaster is to say that Muhammad Ali was a prize fighter. Cosell was the 70's. From sportscasting to entertainment, he was everywhere, including a brief Ed Sullivan-esque variety show. He made Monday Night Football into a national institution, and when he left, it became just another football game. Yet the whole time Cosell never could enjoy his success. He saw enemies real and imagined everywhere. A deeply insecure man (despite his own bluster), he grew up seeing ...more
Apr 30, 2012 Adrian added it
A terrific and affecting read. Ribowsky changed my view of Cosell by showing how he was front and centre in dragging journalism into American sports tv. This is no hagiography. The author reveals the horrid side of Cosell's character- the backbiting, envy, cruelty and magalomania are all fully drawn out. Still Cosell's influence on big issues in sport in particular civil rights for blacks and getting rid of the reserve clause in baseball shows how far ahead of his contemporaries he was. Ribowsky ...more
Feb 05, 2012 Bill rated it it was amazing
This is a trip down memory lane. While he has largely faded from memory Cosell probably the most significant sports broadcaster in history. He was very instrumental in the growth of ABC, the entire network, not just its sports divison. The author makes this case as well as laying bare the many troubling character flaws that alienated him from most of his contempories and result in him spending the last years in lonely isolation. The book faithfully introduces the large cast of characters that ar ...more
Ben Vogel
Jan 15, 2017 Ben Vogel rated it really liked it
Aside from the first few chapters, this book did a good job of telling the story I wanted to hear. The transformative force Costello was on the broadcasting of American sports, his relationship with Ali, the creation of Monday a night Football, the people who admired him, and the many who did not.

The first few chapters weren't bad, in fact background is necessary in any biography, they just weren't as short and concise as they could have been for me. As far as the rest of the book, it progressed
Paul Miller
It was always soooo exciting as a little kid to hear that stirring music when Monday Night Football began at 9:00. It was also such a RIP to have to go to bed at 10 - the game had just started! A lot of the excitement came from the uniqueness of Howard Cosell - he actually had an opinion.... that he'd share!

If you want to reminisce about that period of time, Ali, Wide World of Sports, Olympics boxing... you'll enjoy this detailed read of the period... and how ABC Sports really transformed the w
May 13, 2012 Bob rated it liked it
I am glad I read this book. It took me back to some of the sporting events I watched on TV as I was growing up. I remember people not liking Howard Cosell, but I have forgotten how passionate people were. I enjoyed reading about the historical events revolving around sports such as Muhammed Ali's fight vs the US government and the terrorist attack at the Summer Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. However, the biggest impact the book had on me was negative feelings about Howard Cosell. He may have h ...more
I loved/hated Howard Cosell. I've missed his grating, obnoxious, arrogant voice enough that I jumped at the chance to read what might be the definitive book on him. Huge mistake. Although the author is a seasoned sports biographer, I found his book largely unreadable. I can only conclude that it's dangerous to spend too much time around Cosell, even if he's dead. I didn't even make it to the 100 page mark. The writing was completely overblown and littered with Cosell-like words that didn't seem ...more
Mickey Mantle
Mar 04, 2015 Mickey Mantle rated it it was amazing
I found this book spellbinding. Putting it down was difficult. I grew up with Howard Cosell truly being a larger than life TV Sports personality. From his coverage of Muhammad Ali and his firm defense of Ali's stand against the Viet Nam War and his refusal to be inducted in the military, to his becoming an everlasting piece of Americana on Monday Night Football, Cosell did what what he set out to do, re-invent sports journalism.

Cosell was going to lead sports journalism to the Television Age, an
Nov 19, 2011 Rodney rated it it was ok
While this book appears to have been researched and presented with a great deal of scholarly effort, it does not add anything new to the story of Mr Cosell. It turned into a ver long slog to complete and hammered the point of Mr Cosell was bombastic because of his personal and religious insecurities. Again, this has been theorized ever since Mr Cosell come on the scene.

In my opinion, the only new ground that can be covered when studying Cosell is to look into how he viewed the games he was cover
Chip Rickard
Oct 02, 2014 Chip Rickard rated it really liked it
I thought this was a good biography on someone whose public life story has only been written about by himself. It was interesting to read about the years before he was famous and his last years. For some reason the author tended to use a lot of big and obscure words. Perhaps it was a parody of Cosell since he had the tendency to do the same. I suspect, though, that the author had studied so much about Cosell that he had subconsciously picked up that trait.

There were a couple of glaring errors in
Aug 03, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
Truly an impressive if overly overstuffed measure of the life of a man whose influence and impact on 20th century popular culture in the toy department of human affairs can not be understated. Ribowsky does a masterful job of highlighting the highs and lows of Cosell, while also framing him indelibly in the context of the times he lived in and helped to shape. Well recommended for readers who wonder about how sports, and sports commentators, have come to so deeply speak for this country, or thos ...more
Nov 23, 2011 Pat rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a very comprehensive, balanced look at a true original in the world of sports journalism. The man was full of contradictions, which may in part explain why I could never quite decide whether I loved him or loathed him. Contrary to many of the reviews posted on this site, I thought the book was of proper length and well-paced. I would have wished for a happier ending for both Howard in particular and sports journalism in general. Unfortunately, so much of sports reporting today ...more
Feb 16, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok
I was really disappointed in this book. I felt the bias against Howard Cosell was very apparent. More time was spent telling what a terrible guy Howard was, then telling about Howard. There were several facts I ran across that were incorrect, that made me question how truthful the book was. They were silly facts (Reference to USFL losing lawsuit to NFL. They actually won the lawsuit, but were only awarded $1. Reference to Mad Men being on HBO, when it is actually on AMC) not relevant to the stor ...more
Chris Dean
Nov 17, 2014 Chris Dean rated it really liked it
Ribowsky does an excellent job of storytelling for a figure that has faded into the past despite his cultural dominance. This book put him into perspective and shows his proper place in his time. I particularly enjoyed the author's selection of vocabulary for the book; as often times it felt it was written by Cosell himself - well done. The book often "felt loud" as there was so much going on in Cosell's life, especially during his prime... and he probably would have had it no other way.
Oct 03, 2012 Goatville9 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography

Given my age I realize I only personally saw the late career Cosell who was a caricature of himself. I give Cosell credit, who is bored being a middle aged lawyer, for somehow working into a show biz star. One also has to be critical of his many personal flaws. The author wrote an excellent book but the three star reflects more how I wanted the book to end because I the ugliness of Cosell's last years.
Dale Stonehouse
Feb 11, 2012 Dale Stonehouse rated it liked it
As the author said, this was a book that needed to be written. From Muhammad Ali to Dandy Don Meredith, all of Cosell's famous moments are here, but I found the pace to be rather slow, and the events seemed bigger when they happened than they are in retrospect. Personally I liked him best in Woody Allen's movie Bananas, in which he played himself - and did a great job.
Steve Peifer
Oct 21, 2013 Steve Peifer rated it really liked it
Never could stand the guy, but this book makes a compelling case for Cosell without blinking at his many many issues. I was embarrassed that I picked it up at the library but I don't regret reading the book.
Len Knighton
Jun 02, 2013 Len Knighton rated it liked it
The author seeks to get inside Cosell's head. Ribowsky looks for the inner meaning behind Cosell's writings and broadcasts. Yes, Howard was a complex man who drove away most of his friends and supporters, but his contributions to sports broadcast journalism cannot be overestimated.
Matthew Stetz
May 04, 2015 Matthew Stetz rated it really liked it
Cosell had a way with words.....Oh and he used to drink straight Vodkas, no mixers, during Monday Night Football broadcasts. Had quit the ego too.
Oct 12, 2015 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and well-researched bio on the unique love him or hate him 'talking head' of ABC Sports.
Feb 26, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
A comprehensive, impressively sourced account of a fascinating figure who transcended sports, even though he "never played the game."
Apr 17, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
Good Book-We need a Howard Cosell today. Can you imagine what he would say about "The lowly state of Professional Football with bounties being offered to ruin a competitors career" Go Howard
Sep 10, 2012 John rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Ribowsky's take on Cosell....yeah, he was pompous ass, but he was really good at what he did and does not get enough credit for all the great things he did for sportscasting.
Chris rated it liked it
Dec 28, 2011
Jesse rated it liked it
Apr 10, 2013
Bryan rated it it was ok
May 04, 2012
Kurishin rated it liked it
Feb 11, 2013
Corey rated it liked it
Aug 07, 2012
Tkutz rated it it was amazing
May 08, 2014
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Goodreads 1 3 Sep 30, 2012 10:36AM  
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Mark Ribowsky is the author of seven books, including the New York Times Notable Book Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball. He lives in Plainview, New York.
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