The good people at Sports Illustrated did us a major service last year when they launched the SI.Vault on-line. The entire SI archive–what a treasure chest of goodies, man. About the only trouble is that the site is still difficult to navigate–there is no author index for example.
But I’ve been poking around anyway, thoroughly enjoying getting to know some of the great SI contributors from the past–Curry Kirkpatrick, Roy Bount Jr, Dan Jenkins, Rick Reilly, and of course, Frank Deford. So I figure I’d share some the gems I’ve found with you.
First up is the late Myron Cope’s 1967 profile of Howard Cosell, Would You Let This Man Interview You?
“Oh, this horizontal ladder of mediocrity,” sighs Howard Cosell, ruminating on the people who make up the radio-television industry, which pays him roughly $175,000 a year. “There’s one thing about this business: There is no place in it for talent. That’s why I don’t belong. I lack sufficient mediocrity.”
Cosell fondles a martini at a table in the Warwick bar, across the street from the American Broadcasting Company headquarters. Anguish clouds his homely face. His long nose and pointed cars loom over his gin in the fashion of a dive bomber swooping in with lighter escort. “This is a terrible business,” he says. It being the cocktail hour, the darkened room is packed with theatrical and Madison Avenue types. A big blonde, made up like Harlow the day after a bender, dominates a nearby table, encircled by spindly, effete little men. Gentlemen in blue suits, with vests, jam the bar. A stocky young network man pauses at Cosell’s table and cheerfully asks if he might drop by Cosell’s office someday soon. Cosell says certainly, whereupon the network man joins a jovial crowd at the bar. “He just got fired,” Cosell whispers. “He doesn’t know that I already know.” The man, he is positive, wants his help, but what is Cosell to do when there are men getting fired every week?
“This is the roughest, toughest, crudest jungle in the world,” Cosell grieves. A waiter brings him a phone, and he orders a limousine and chauffeur from a rental agency. He cannot wait to retreat to his rustic fireside in Pound Ridge up in Westchester County. It is Monday evening, barely the beginning of another long week in which he, Howard W. Cosell, middle-aged and tiring, must stand against the tidal wave of mediocrity, armed only with his brilliance and integrity.
Never be another like Cosell.
Come to think of it, there will never be another like Myron Cope either.