December 09, 1985 12:00 PM

by Howard Cosell

The sad irony of course is that Cosell did play the game; who has ever shilled for TV sports as shamelessly as he? Has he forgotten how he announced the half-time highlights films on Monday Night Football in the tone of someone describing battles in World War II, or the fact that he hosted Battle of the Network Stars, a travesty in eight directions at once? Nonetheless this memoir is so full of paranoia, condescension and hypocrisy that it would have to be ignored as the pathetic ranting of an old man were it not for the gratuitous attacks that Cosell mounts on, for example, his old broadcasting partners, Frank Gifford and Don Meredith, and on NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Cosell scoffs that Monday Night Football is now “a matter of monumental indifference” to him, yet he spends pages analyzing Gifford’s supposed inability to cope with details or Meredith’s lack of organization. Cosell harks back, with justifiable if overwrought pride, to his defense of Muhammad Ali in Ali’s controversial days (although Cosell doesn’t note how he has milked that relationship ever since). He also congratulates himself for nobly having quit broadcasting pro boxing. By far the most involving aspect of this book is his insider’s view of Sugar Ray Leonard’s career, including an admiring recounting of manager Angelo Dundee’s method of choosing Leonard’s opponents to make sure that none had a real chance to win. Those book sections in which Cosell isn’t praising himself or vilifying sportswriters for criticizing him are tedious in other ways; he devotes 50 pages to an analysis of the Oakland Raiders’ move to Los Angeles. Even someone agreeing with Cosell about the banality of most TV sportscasts or the greed of pro sports owners is likely to find this apologia barren of information as well as grace. At one point, complaining about having to work with both Gifford and Meredith, he writes: “You don’t need three people in the damn booth. It’s sometimes confusing and often cluttering. It’s restrictive. It’s absurd. If [Roone] Arledge had paired one of the ex-jocks with me—preferably Gifford—we’d still have scaled new heights of popularity.” What reaction can anyone have to someone who would write that, other than pity? (Morrow, $18.95)

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