What did you think of Howard Cosell?

Sorry, but either all the kids I knew in junior high in the late 60’s had tremendous courage, or it didn’t take tremendous courage to call Ali “Ali.” And you have only to turn on the TV to see that any jackass can deliver scripted remarks that make him seem nice.

I never met Cosell, and I have no inside knowledge of him, so for all I know he was very nice off-camera. But he was an ass on-camera most of the time, and that’s what I’m going by. It just seems far more likely to me that he was (low bar) smart enough to recognize that Ali was the most important athlete in the world, and sucked up to him, than that he was a great guy who, for no good reason, played an asshole on TV.

Awful voice, terrible cadence. Couldn’t stand to listen to him. Certainly he knew nothing about baseball (but thought he did, which made it worse). Can’t speak for the other sports, but I had no use for him.


Nobody else saw that HOWIE SUCKS sign at that MNF game, but me? It was over in an instant, but it vas very clear.

Still grouchy, perhaps. Marvin Miller, one of the most important men in the history of baseball, still can’t get elected to the Hall of Fame.

I thought he was a refreshing contrast to the usual jock-sniffers in the booth. He told things the way he thought they were, not the way the leagues, teams, or players wanted him to tell it. He was the best boxing announcer of all time. Who can ever forget or resist imitating “DOWN GOES FRAZIER!”

True that! He repeated it several times. Thanks for this, I just had to hear (watch) it again.

20 second video, Down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier!!! - YouTube

But he still sucked on MNF. :slight_smile:

I remember one time on MNF, when the Giants were playing the Cowboys, Cosell addressed Frank Gifford and Don Meredith, trying to stir up a rivalry between the two ex pros. “Gentlemen, neither of your respective teams is showing me much tonight.” Meredith responded, “Well Howard, at least we do have respective teams.”

Touché, Dandy Don.

I can’t be the only one who read that in Cosell’s voice.

And Cosell would have said, “Of course, I am all of those,” with some pride in his voice.

I am 65, so I was a young adult during his glory years. I was also a sports enthusiast then. I always thought he was a pompous ass.

Siding with Ali was not a sure way to mainstream popularity in that era. Cosell got lots of ugly hate mail calling him an N-loving J-bastard. I respected Cosell for his stance, but I found him as annoying as most did.

Johnny Carson told a joke about an announcement that scientists would someday be able to clone humans. “The bad news”, elaborated Johnny, “there could be two Howard Cosells”.

In the Ali-Foreman biopic “When We Were Kings”, Ali responded to Cosell’s prediction that he would lose to Foreman by referring to Cosell’s toupee: “That thing on your head is a phony, and it comes from the tail of a pony!”

Nitpick: “Indubitably, I am all of those,” with a great deal of pride in his voice.

Like I said, the man could both make and take a joke about himself.

Loved to hate him.

I’m a little late to the discussion and I was a little too young to really understand/appreciate/dislike anything about his style when we was at his apex. I was aware of him and remember well all the coverage of his retirement and death.

In retrospect, his best quality was his ability to sense and amplify any moment. Cosell probably overused his schtick a bit and that seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, I can understand how he’d be best in small doses. But when you were watching a huge fight and the drama built, Cosell made sure you knew it. He was great at setting the tone and could really punctuate a big play or moment. Things did feel important when he was involved.

Too many announcers today seem jaded by the game, they’ve seen it all before. Or else they are way too immersed in explaining the minutiae of each play and somehow underplay when something huge happens. There’s a time and place for that, but during the critical moment of a major event I want the announcer to give it sparkle. Cosell could do that. “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazer!”, “Dead on Arrival”…yeah, he definitely could put a point on it when needed.

Experienced him mostly in boxing. Did not care for him at all. Mostly for the reasons TonySinclair mentions - he was not an accurate or insightful observer of an actual boxing match, at all.

I did enjoy watching Scott Ledoux kick off his hairpiece, but that is for unworthy reasons.


I found him somewhat entertaining during the early days of MNF, when a Prime Time Sports Event with three announcers was an innovation, and Cosell and Dandy Don were part of the show. He was awful on baseball. I never followed boxing so can’t speak to that aspect of his work.

However I found his reputation as a maverick who spoke truth to power and Told It Like It Was to be grossly overblown. He offered few if any controversial insights on MNF. At the time in Chicago we had Harry Caray announcing the White Sox, and after hearing Harry routinely ream out Sox players and management, I was not impressed with Cosell. (For those of you who remember Harry from his neutered funny-old-man days with the Cubs, trust me, he was very very different with the White Sox.)

Probably because I was a kid while he was in his heyday, so I didn’t really know you could have a negative take on him, but I found him to be everywhere, and a reliably colorful character.

However, thinking back on it, probably partly because he was overexposed, I think he suffers from being bigger than the events he was covering. And IMHO that should never be the case with a sports commentator. But, maybe his presence gave a boost to ratings, and that’s what it’s all about.

They may seem jaded today, but Cosell wasn’t unique about that during his time. For example, this baseball call from 1951.