David Remnick proves that in addition to his manifold other literary and journalistic skills he is an ace book reviewer (The New Yorker, November 28, 2011, pp.75-78). He has explained that in media parlance the sports section of a paper is the "toy department." After mentioning Dave Kindred's book on Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, Remnick sums up in a single sentence the significance, the character, and the value of the book under review, the book whose publication is the pretext for the article:
A new book, "Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports" (Norton; $29.95), by Mark Ribowsky, is a far less distinguished sepcimen of the biographical art -- full of familiar tales and florid prose -- though its appearance at least succeeds in reminding us of Cosell's singularity in the toy department.
Perfect. I happen to share Remnick's opinion of Cosell as a cultural phenomenon; I associate him with the 1962 NY Mets (he did the postgame show on the radio with "big Ralph Number Thirteen Branca"), the meteoric rise of Sandy Koufax, the whole Ali saga, Monday Night Football, Foreman knocking down Frazier, Sinatra's comeback concert in the Garden, the intelligence, the vanity, the chutzpah, and the voice of melodrama. As Remnick writes, "With Cosell, there was the faintest of lines between self and self-parody, and yet through all the outlandish blowhardery there was a pilot light of sane judgment." He was pure entertainment -- but with layers of intelligence and irony you seldom get in the coverage of sports. "If you could laugh with him, if you got him, Cosell was irresistible, a singular American figure. In television's toy department, he has never been replaced." -- DL