Good morning. It's April 23, 2021, a Friday -- and you know what that means. This is Tom Kavanagh again, filling in for Carl, who will return next week. Today's quote comes from someone who loved to hear himself talk, and seemed to delight in how that often irritated others. The irritation was easy to understand, as this man's pronouncements reflected his high self-regard, self-certainty and utter immodesty, all delivered with his unmistakable cadence and inflections.
I'm talking, of course, about Howard Cosell, who died on this date in 1995.
For those too young to remember, Cosell transformed sports broadcasting. He had no use for the adulatory tones that had marked reporting on athletes on radio and television. Howard William Cosell (ne Cohen) was all about "telling it like it is." And indeed he did.
Howard Cosell's takes on athletic competition struck some as refreshing and others as grating. Still, they managed to impress the execs at ABC Radio enough to put this New York lawyer on the air in the 1950s. The program was called "Speaking of Sports," and Howard did just that, with directness and flair. It was a short hop from there to television, including ABC's signature Saturday afternoon program, "Wide World of Sports." What especially elevated Cosell in the public's awareness was his coverage of boxing, and interviews with Muhammad Ali. If ever there was a confluence of great egos, this was it. But their chemistry -- and fondness for each other -- clicked, making for memorable television.
With the advent of "Monday Night Football" in 1970, Howard joined Frank Gifford and "Dandy" Don Meredith in the broadcast booth. It was a color combination, and Howard's role as analyst and occasional thorn in Meredith's side catapulted him to true cultural stardom. There he was with Tony Randall on "The Odd Couple"; with Woody Allen in "Bananas" and "Sleeper" and "Broadway Danny Rose"; and hosting his own variety show (albeit a short-lived one) on ABC.
Cosell's stock in trade remained his bluntness, even if it was dressed in grandiloquent language. The effect could be caustic and the targets of his criticism included those within in his chosen profession. "There's one thing about this business. There is no place in it for talent," he told Sports Illustrated in 1976. "That's why I don't belong. I lack sufficient mediocrity."
Such sniping brought return fire. "This is a guy who changed his name, put on a toupee and tried to convince the world that he tells it like it is," sniped one New York sportswriter.
But Cosell, despite all his disdain for so many people and things, found inspiration in others. "I couldn't care less who wins what game," he once said. "To me it's the people, the way men react under pressure, the quality of courage."
Indeed, valor of another sort was what especially impressed this man, and sparked perhaps his most poignant comment. "There is a still higher type of courage," he wrote in his 1974 book, "Like It Is." "The courage to brave pain, to live with it, to never let others know of it, and to still find joy in life; to wake up in the morning with an enthusiasm for the day ahead."
And that's your quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.