Howard Cosell, North Carolinian: Like Him or Lump Him

Howard Cossell and Muhammad Ali

On March 25, 1918, television sportscaster Howard Cosell was born Howard William Cohen in Winston-Salem. Before Cosell turned three, his family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he later changed his surname from Cohen to Cossell to reflect his Polish roots. Cosell studied law at New York University, passed the state bar in 1941 and served in the U.S. Army in World War II.

After the war, Cosell practiced law in Manhattan and hosted a Saturday-morning ABC radio show featuring Little Leaguers interviewing major leaguers. He became a full-time ABC sportscaster in 1956, first gaining fame as a boxing announcer.  He went on to co-anchor Monday Night Football, for which he is now best known.  

With his staccato style of speech and trademark “tell-it-like-it-is” approach, Cosell transformed sports broadcasting, winning fans and detractors alike. He wrote four best-selling books, made several movie cameos, and was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

Diagnosed with cancer in 1991, Cosell died of a heart embolism in 1995, at 77. The next year, he was posthumously awarded an Emmy for lifetime achievement in sports.

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