Saturday, July 30, 2011

Howard Cosell - Pete Rozelle Radio Television Award

"Turn out the lights, the party's over?  ... not quite yet!" 

Remember the team of three guys that helped make ABC "Monday Night Football" a mainstream phenomenon?  "Instant replay" and Howard Cosell became household words overnight.

Monday Night Football Broadcast Team
Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford and Don Meredith have received their Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Awards -- what about Howard Cosell?

          It's too bad that Howard Cosell was misunderstood by some fans, certain writers, and perhaps even by some of his colleagues.  If you were one of the ones that liked him then you witnessed quite a show.  A 1978 TV Guide poll found him the most liked and disliked announcer in sports.   To Cosell this poll simply meant that he had now garnered the attention of everybody.  Fans had a love-hate relationship with Cosell, and logically it follows that the ones that misunderstood him are the same ones that disliked him.  They disliked Cosell for things like not choosing their favorite team for review during his "Halftime Highlights" segment.  Friends who were close to him agree that he was a good man, an intelligent man, blemished only by his strong ego.  What's the matter with a strong ego?  That ego allowed Cosell to venture where few others in the sports media had the courage to go.  Cosell entertained his audience as part linguist and part word-smith with a distinctive staccato delivery that demanded the audience's attention.  People who speak out on issues of social (in)justice as Cosell did invariably pay a price for their courage.   Cosell had such courage whether its was a discussion of athletes of color in sports, free-agency, illegal drugs in sports, anti-trust laws, player strikes, owners unjustly moving teams, increasing fan violence, or parity in the NFL.  Despite pressures from a powerful NFL hierarchy, Cosell maintained his social sense of purpose, and his conservative belief in basic American rights, such as due process and freedom of speech.  One of his famous catchphrases was, "I'm just telling it like it is."  Seriously, were people expecting anything less?  He was after all, the one and only - Howard Cosell, an iconic legend of sports-broadcasting and sports-journalism. 

Football might not be what it is today without Howard Cosell

          Cosell was an iconic combination of pioneering sports journalist, color commentator and broadcast legend.  True sports enthusiasts remember Howard Cosell for many different reasons.  To some Cosell is remembered for his notable commentary reporting directly from the Olympic Village in Munich during the "Black September" murders in 1972, for others it was covering Muhammad Ali and the world of boxing at large, and still others for Cosell's interviewing John Lennon of the Beatles during a MNF game on December 9th, 1974, and almost exactly six years later, sadly announcing Lennon's death during another MNF game on December 8th, 1980.    The exciting manner with which Cosell delivered his weekly "Halftime Highlights" recap of Sunday's games from the day before is still viewed with reverence in the sports broadcasting industry today.  Cosell was adroit at infusing even the most mundane event with high drama. Hollywood actors and actresses, governors, and Presidents would seek out Cosell in the ABC broadcast booth just for an interview.   Who else but Cosell had interviews with the great NFL players and coaches like Roger Staubach, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Fran Tarkenton, Franco Harris, O.J. Simpson, Don Shula, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and many others. 

Now it's the NFL's Pro Football Hall of Fame turn
to "Tell it like it is..."

          The question is..... how can the Pro Football Hall of Fame write the history of the achievements and contributors of NFL without mentioning the iconic Howard Cosell?   Whether revered or reviled, remembered as a hero or villain, "Cosell was just as good at creating an audience as he was at alienating it, and THAT was just what sports needed."  It's time for the late Howard Cosell, devoted NFL football fans, (and surviving members of the Cosell family) to see him receive proper recognition in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in return for his contributions to the great game of professional football.   Director Chet Forte is quoted as saying, "Howard Cosell was Monday Night Football.  Without Howard Cosell, there was no Monday Night Football."  To devoted fans, a Hall of Fame without Cosell appears has gone on long enough.  Howard Cosell was inarguably the "soul" of Monday Night Football, part of the three men that brought the game of football into the cultural mainstream.  Huge TV contracts generated huge profits with advertisers, players salaries escalated, as did profits for the team owners as well as for the cites they hosted teams in.  The television rights to broadcast National Football League (NFL) games are now the most lucrative and expensive rights of any American sport.  All this, and yet Howard Cosell has yet to be officially recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his contributions.   The inclusion of Howard Cosell with a Pete Rozelle Radio Television Award is easily and fully justified.

Chris Berman - ESPN Classic

Chet Forte - Director, ABC Monday Night Football

Recognizing outstanding contributions is part of the Mission Statement of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Howard Cosell fits BOTH the Hall of Fame and Pete Rozelle Award selection criteria perfectly:
Hall of Fame Selection Criteria:
- To honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football
- To educate the public regarding the origin, development and growth of professional football as an important part of American culture
- To promote the positive values of the sport

Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award Criteria:
- For longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football

In the spotlight:

Reviews by sports broadcasting contemporaries:

American Sportscaster Association Hall of Fame (1993)
"When the complete book on sportscasting in the 20th Century is composed, Howard Cosell has earned the longest chapter.  His influence in sportscasting has been profound."
-- Dick Enberg, Sportscaster

"He's a seminal figure not only in sports, but all of television."
Dick Ebersol, former president of NBC Sports

"Howard Cosell was Monday Night Football.  Without Howard Cosell, there was no Monday Night Football."
Chet Forte, former Director of ABC Monday Night Football

"Howard Cosell was a colorful guy.  The broadcaster's death is a sad day for sports."
Washington Redskins receiver, Alvin Garrett

"Cosell is the franchise. He may also be the most valuable property in American sports.  There's no question that Howard Cosell was the most important sports journalist of our time, and because so much of what he did transcended sports, he was one of the most important journalists... period."
Sports Journalist, Robert Lipsyte

"I remember him as someone who was an important journalistic figure, and I think to deny that is to let your prejudices get in the way."
Author, Frank Deford

"Every person working in sports journalism today owes a tremendous debt to Howard Cosell. His greatest contribution was elevating sports reporting out of daily play-by-play and placing it in the larger context of society."Monday Night Football Creator, Roone Arledge

"Howard was a true original.  He rose like a screeching comet and left a trail that no modern broadcaster has ever dared to follow.  There will never be another like him."
NFL Films, Steve Sabol

''I used to look at Howard Cosell's 'Halftime Highlights' with reverence...'' 
-- Chris Berman (ESPN)

"...the most important game of my career than any game that I've ever played, and, the reason being was it was Monday Night Football, it was Howard Cosell, it was the Cowboys versus the Redskins."
Ken Houston - Washington Redskins, Pro Football Hall of Fame

"I think he'll be seen as the broadcasting pioneer who changed the way people listen to and watch sports"
-- Shelby Whitfield, former ABC radio sports director

 "Howard Cosell was a good man and he lived a good life. I have been interviewed by many people, but I enjoyed interviews with Howard the best. We always put on a good show.  I hope to meet him one day in the hereafter. I can hear Howard now saying, Muhammad, you're not the man you used to be.  I pray that he is in God's hands. I will miss him."
Former heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali

How can the Pro Football Hall of Fame continue to write the history of the NFL without mentioning Howard Cosell? 
Any fan can submit a free-form nomination for to the Hall of Fame consideration.
Send your nomination for Howard Cosell to:

Mr. Joe Horrigan
Pro Football Hall of Fame
2121 George Halas Dr. NW.
Canton, OH 44708

Past recipients of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award:
1989 - Bill MacPhail
1990 - Lindsey Nelson
1991 - Ed Sabol
1992 - Chris Schenkel
1993 - Curt Gowdy
1994 - Pat Summerall
1995 - Frank Gifford
1996 - Jack Buck
1997 - Charlie Jones
1998 - Val Pinchbeck
1999 - Dick Enberg
2000 - Ray Scott
2001 - Roone Arledge
2002 - John Madden
2003 - Don Criqui
2004 - Van Miller
2005 - Myron Cope
2006 - Lesley Visser
2007 - Don Meredith
2008 - Dan Dierdorf
2009 - Irv Cross
2010 - Chris Berman
2011 - Jim Nantz

Arizona                  - Kent Somers, Arizona Republic
Atlanta                   - Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange
Baltimore               - Scott Garceau, WMAR-TV
Buffalo                   - Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News
Carolina                 - Darin Gantt, Rock Hill Herald
Chicago                 - Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune*
Cincinnati              - Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer
Cleveland               - Tony Grossi, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Dallas                    - Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News*
Denver                   - Jeff Legwold, Denver Post
Detroit                   - Tom Kowalski, Booth Newspapers
Green Bay             - Cliff Christl, Green Bay Press-Gazette
Houston                 - John McClain, Houston Chronicle*
Indianapolis            - Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star
Jacksonville            - Sam Kouvaris, WJXT-TV
Kansas City           - Bob Gretz,
Miami                    - Edwin Pope, Miami Herald
Minnesota              - Sid Hartman, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
New England          - Ron Borges, Boston Herald*
New Orleans          - Pete Finney, Times-Picayune
NY (Giants)            - Bob Glauber, Newsday
NY (Jets)               - Gary Myers, New York Daily News
Oakland                 - Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
Philadelphia           - Paul Domowitch, Philadelphia Daily News
Pittsburgh              - Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
St. Louis               - Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch*
San Diego             - Nick Canepa, San Diego Union Tribune
San Francisco       - Nancy Gay,
Seattle                  - Mike Sando,
Tampa Bay            - Ira Kaufman, Tampa Tribune
Tennessee             - David Climer, The Tennessean
Washington           - David Elfin, AOL Fanhouse

PFWA   Darryl Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
At Large  Howard Balzer, The Sports Xchange
At Large  Jarrett Bell, USA Today
At Large  John Clayton, ESPN/ESPN Magazine
At Large  John Czarnecki,*
At Large  Dave Goldberg, AOL Sports/Fanhouse*
At Large  Peter King, Sports Illustrated
At Large  Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange*  
At Large  Len Shapiro, Miami Herald*  
At Large  Vito Stellino, Florida Times Union  
At Large  Jim Trotter, Sports Illustrated  
At Large  Charean Williams, Ft. Worth Star Telegram

* Also serves on the Senior Selection Committee

"What's popular isn't always right, and whats right isn't always popular." - Howard Cosell

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