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Cosell, Howard

(HOWARD WILLIAM COHEN), U.S. sportscaster (b. March 25, 1918, Winston-Salem, N.C.--d. April 23, 1995, New York, N.Y.), reached the pinnacle of his career as the audacious commentator on television's "Monday Night Football" (1970-83) and was simultaneously crowned the nation's most loved and most hated sports broadcaster. Cosell's foray into broadcasting in 1956 followed a legal career representing sports and entertainment figures. Before he moved to television with his twangy Brooklyn monotone, he became the host of a radio show that featured Little League players questioning major league baseball stars. His determination to "tell it like it is" often created controversy or criticism, but he reveled in the attention his trenchant observations drew. Cosell, who sported a trademark toupee and, by his own admission, had been variously described as "arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, and a show-off," willingly embraced those characterizations as a form of homage. He was remembered as the first to defend Muhammad Ali when the boxer was stripped of his heavyweight title after refusing to be drafted into the army because of religious reasons, and he voiced his approval of the black-power salutes made by sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 summer Olympic Games. In 1982 he refused to cover boxing matches after viewing a particularly brutal bout between Larry Holmes and Tex Cobb, and the following year he left his chair at "Monday Night Football," complaining that pro football had become "a stagnant bore." After the publication of his 1985 book, I Never Played the Game, which featured uncomplimentary portraits of his former colleagues at ABC, the network dropped his "Sportsbeat" program, ending his presence on television. He returned to radio until he retired from broadcasting in 1992, six months after surgery to remove a cancerous chest tumour. Cosell was posthumously awarded a Sports Emmy for lifetime achievement.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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