Cosell Entertains Law School Audience
American professional sport has never suffered from a lack of carping criticism over the years. There was Babe Ruth's drinking and girl-chasing to explain; the basketball fixing scandals of the Fifties; Dave Megessey's memoirs; and other-indelicacies which couldn't be covered up.
Through trial after trial, the institution has survived and prospered. Whether it will be able to withstand the acerbic tongue of one Howard Cosell remains to be seen.
To the delight and consternation of an enthusiastic crowd at Lowell Lecture Hall last Friday night, Cosell vented his fury, lashing out at everyone and everything connected with sport, leaving idols and myths strewn in the wake of his irrepressible verbiage.
Speaking as part of a Harvard Law School Forum on American sport, Cosell took Casey Stengel on for openers. "Casey Stengel was an obsolete, senile old man when he took over the Mets in 1962," he said. "This is the cold truth of the matter."
While most of the crowd blanched at Cosell's frankness, the chain-smoking sports broadcaster proceeded to demolish the benevolent image of the professional sports media.
"The American sports writer is the biggest hypocrite in the world today," Cosell said. "It was a disgrace the way the New York sports people abandoned the Yankees when the Mets came to town. Their job was to support quality, not rave over futility," he charged.
Asked about the recent Ali-Frazier fight, Cosell pointed out that Ali had lost the skills that had made him unbeatable. "The man's legs are gone," he said. "I hope they don't stage a rematch; Ali will be in store for a horrible beating."
Cosell also ripped into the World Boxing Association's handling of the Ali draft controversy of four years ago, calling it "illegal and unjust."
"They took a man's title away from him without due process of law being concluded, no fair hearing, and without the benefit of a jury trial," he noted. "It was outrageous."
Cosell concluded the evening by lamenting the plight of the black athlete. "After twenty-five years, there are still no black baseball managers," he said. "How can that be ... at times I thought to be a manager you only had to be two things: be white and a drunk ..."