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Come Back, Howard
Leigh Montville
June 14, 1999
Amid the legions of cookie-cutter sportscasters and clowning clones, we miss the guy we all loved to hate
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June 14, 1999

Come Back, Howard

Amid the legions of cookie-cutter sportscasters and clowning clones, we miss the guy we all loved to hate

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The words hit instantly, landing in the darkest, most hidden parts of my soul. There are secrets that no one wishes to divulge, wants and desires, perverted thoughts that surely no other person on the planet could share. To hear someone put them into words, the exact same words, is to have a beast released, allowed at last to walk free.

"I've been thinking about Howard Cosell...," a friend said recently.

Yes?

"I always hated Howard Cosell...."

Yes?

"But you know what? Lately I've been thinking that I really miss Howard Cosell."

Yes!

I reel in recognition. I cannot count how many times this exact dialogue has been played out in my head over the past year or two, so often that I questioned my own sanity. (Me? Miss Howard Cosell? What am I, nuts?) I hated Cosell as much as any man ever did, his nasal voice a scratch across the blackboard, his arrogant manner repulsive beyond belief, his condescension disgusting, his toupee a hoot. I grieved not at all when he died four years ago, his passing no more than an incidental headline on the obituary page.

I find now that I think about him all the time. What would Howard say about this? What would he say about SportsCenter and those round-the-clock comedians, highlights and lowlights of the sports day packaged together as fodder for ain't-I-cute exhibitionism? What would he say about color commentary based on shouts and clich�s, the breathless words "He's got to call a timeout here" serving as insight and opinion? What would he say about... Monday Night Football?

I don't have the actual numbers in front of me, but I don't believe there has been one five-syllable word spoken on any sports broadcast since Howard left. I don't think there has been mention made of any book that's been read, movie that's been seen, song that's been heard or anything else—unless, of course, "it's coming up next, on Must-See TV." Current events? I can hear the words " William Jefferson Clinton, a troubled man, his presidency in peril" coming out of Howard's mouth. I can't think of one sports broadcaster today who would say anything like that. Kosovo. Columbine High School. Abner Louima. What would Howard say?

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