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The definitive word on a loved, loathed, maddeningly complex broadcasting legend.

You could make a case that Howard Cosell (1918–1995) was the single most important sports broadcaster ever. You would be right.

In a 1978 poll designed to identify TV’s most and least popular personality, Cosell won both categories, a perfect measure of his ubiquity and the controversy he aroused. Today, with more sports competing for attention in a fractured media environment, it’s difficult to imagine a commentator dominating the landscape as Cosell did during the ’60s and ’70s. Though he’d made tentative forays into radio, Cosell was 38 before he abandoned his law practice to attempt a career in sports. This ferociously ambitious reporter, analyst, interviewer and play-by-play man, with his near photographic memory, nasal voice, staccato delivery and large and frequently preposterous vocabulary, prided himself on “telling it like it is.” At his peak, Cosell was everywhere on radio and TV, covering baseball, boxing and the Olympics, producing documentaries, penetrating deeper into the popular culture with sitcom appearances and movie roles. He announced to the world the assassination of John Lennon, presided over signal ’70s events like the tennis “Battle of the Sexes,” briefly hosted a prime-time variety show and even flirted with running for the Senate. From two platforms, especially, his ringside and reportorial coverage—and courageous defense—of the career of Muhammad Ali and his perch in the tumultuous Monday Night Football booth, Cosell colorfully demonstrated his capacity to hype and eventually overpower the events he covered. Contemptuous of sportswriters (they returned the hate), dismissive of colleagues and bosses—mediocrities, he called them—he attributed every slight to anti-Semitism or jealousy and ended up alienating even his stoutest friends and defenders, with the exception of his devoted and long-suffering wife. Ribowsky (Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations, 2010, etc.) attributes Cosell’s arrogance to a deep insecurity and an insatiable desire for acclaim. As he aged, “Humble Howard” descended into drink, cruelty and caricature, bitter at having wasted his talents in the “intellectual thimble” of sports.

The definitive word on a loved, loathed, maddeningly complex broadcasting legend.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-08017-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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