March 25, 1918
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States
April 23, 1995
New York City, New York, United States
Sports announcer, TV commentator, Sports columnist, Sports writer, TV host, Attorney
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Born Howard William Cohen, sports journalist Howard Cosell was born in North Carolina before his family relocated to Brooklyn, NY. He graduated from New York University before attending NYU School of Law. After serving in WWII Cosell began to practice union law in New York City. One of his clients was the Little League of New York. An ABC Radio manager invited Cosell to host a show featuring Little League team members , which he did for three years, working for free. Cosell made the decision to leave law for broadcasting and through a sponsorship from a clothing company was able to get on the air on ABC with his program "Speaking of Sports." Cosell soon became a sports anchor at WABC-TV where he championed controversial athletes like Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Cosell had a no nonsense approach to sports reporting and was known as a blunt figure in broadcasting. His frequent catchphrase "I'm just telling it like it is" became the hallmark of his persona. His analytical approach to sports commentary changed the way broadcasts were conducted. With his distinctive voice and speech pattern, he made the medium his own. Cosell's most famous broadcast was when he called George Foreman's victory in his fight against Joe Frazier in Jamaica in 1973. Cosell was reputed to utter the sentence "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning" during a World Series game at Yankee Stadium 1977, although the release of the games on DVD in the decades since has proven that Cosell never said anything close to that phrase. Cosell did famously interrupt a Monday Night Football game on the night of December 8, 1980 to broadcast the news of John Lennon's murder. However, Cosell's off-the-cuff manner harmed his career irreparably in September 1983 when he referred to Alvin Garrett, a black player on the Washington Redskins, as a "little monkey" during a game. Cosell was removed from "Monday Night Football" at the end of that season and never had a national broadcasting position of that visibility again. A score-settling memoir, I Never Played the Game, effectively burned any bridges he had left, and by the time of his death on April 23, 1995 at the age of 77, he had been largely retired for years.