One of the reasons I named this blog “The Roving Historian” is that not only do I like to travel and live in different areas of the country, but I have an eclectic mix of historical interests as well. I enjoy military history from any era and usually buy books along those lines, but occasionally I “rove on over” to business, social, and political history as well. Though I have to admit that other than watching Ken Burns’ documentary on baseball; I have never ventured into the area of sports history before. This week that changed a little bit when I read “There You Have It: the life, legacy, and legend of Howard Cosell” by John Bloom.
I took a couple of classes from Dr. John Bloom going on five years ago, when I was going through the masters program at Shippensburg University. When I saw that he was the author of this book about sportscaster Howard Cosell, I wanted to give it a try even though I'm not a fan of sports history. I'm glad that I did. Stepping out of the comfort zone once in a while is not a bad thing. It was a really good read.
I grew up with Howard Cosell, Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports, and Muhammed Ali. However I was not aware that behind the scenes of what, until I read this book, I considered to be simply sports entertainment programming, was a demonstration of social change at work. I was unaware that Howard Cosell was the first broadcaster to acknowledge Muhammed Ali's name change from Cassius Clay, nor did I ever stop to recognize Cosell's further support of civil rights. I was also unaware of the prejudices against Mr. Cosell's ethnicity that had to be overcome for him to rise to his position in sports broadcasting. Quite frankly, it never occurred to me that Howard Cosell was Jewish, or that it mattered. Things have certainly changed in the last forty years, and some credit can be given to Mr. Cosell.
For this work the author went to the source and interviewed members of Howard Cosell's family, and legends in the field of sportscasting like Frank Deford, Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, and others. John Bloom has expertly weaved together a work of popular sports history with academic social analysis. The best evidence I can provide is that the book lead to a lively discussion about 70's sports around my house. If it makes you talk about it, it must be a good book.