Thursday, March 21, 2013

He Went All the Way

When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor Frankl

Howard Cosell would have been 95 today.

Most memorable as the voice of Monday Night Football and professional boxing with "He could go all the way." and "Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!".

He should be better recognized for transforming the profession of sports broadcasting and, in turn, changing sports. Prior to Cosell, the standard broadcaster showed unabashed flattery of the players, coaches and sport. Using the "tell it like it is" approach, he created controversy, which meant more people were talking about the sport and in turn watching it.

But it is Cosell's actions during and after the Holmes-Cobb fight for which he should be most celebrated. By the sixth round, it was clear that Cobb was no match for Holmes. If you have a strong stomach read Cosell's call below in italics - if not, imagine the Rocky movie with Apollo Creed never being hit and skip the italics.

Round 6: Tex Cobb’s left eye is half-closed. His head must have been carved out of Mount Rushmore and he certainly has a granite chin, but is this a palatable match?
Round 7: Imagine the number of combinations against this man’s head; the punishment he’s been taking.
Round 8: Cobb is heavy-legged, ponderous with a bravery about him. However, we are not in the age of the Roman Coliseum and the lions. You can see Cobb’s face all bruised and swollen.
Round 9: This is a strong decent man, Randy Tex Cobb, and I hate to see anybody take this kind of punishment. This is brutalization. The referee should think about stopping this fight fast. This is not right. You can’t measure the aftermath of a fight like this, with this kind of punishment. He won’t do down; the courage of a lion; but why?
Round 10: Why don’t they stop it? The punishment inflicted is simply enormous. This is just terrible.
Round 11: Look at that head snap back from the Holmes left, again and again. Lord knows, maybe this man can stand up and take this for fifteen round. What does that prove? Who knows what the aftereffects will be?
Round 12: This kind of savagery doesn’t deserve commentation. I’ll tell you something; this is as brutal a mismatch as I think I’ve ever seen.
Round 13: This fellow, the referee Steve Crosson. I don’t understand his judgment or thinking. What is achieved by letting this man take this kind of beating? From the point of view of boxing, which is under fire and deservedly so, this fight could not have come at a worse time
Round 14: Obviously this referee has no intention of stopping this fight. The blood is all over Cobb’s face now. I wonder if that referee understands that he’s constructing an advertisement for the abolition of the very sport that he’s a part of
Round 15: Look at how swollen the poor man’s face is. I can’t believe this referee. It’s outrageous.

Cosell was so disgusted he vowed during the fight to never call another boxing match if the referee didn't stop the fight. It went fifteen rounds and Cosell never called another pro fight.

Here's his explanation "Boxing once had appeal to me. It was the romantic appeal of a way out of the ghetto, and I’ve always had great unwavering respect for men who fight for a living....But, professional boxing is no longer worthy of civilized society. It’s run by self-serving crooks, who are called promoters. They are buttressed with the look of nicety about them by the television networks, which are in fact corrupt and unprincipled in putting up the front money that continues boxing in its present form. Quite frankly, I now find the whole subject of professional boxing disgusting. Except for the fighters, you’re  talking about human scum, nothing more. Professional boxing is immoral. It’s not capable of reformation. I now favor the abolition of professional boxing. You’ll never clean it up. Mud can never be clean."

Happy Birthday to the sportscaster who knew it could BE different.

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