Howard William Cosell (March 25, 1918 – April 23, 1995) was an American sports journalist….who was widely known for his blustery, cocksure personality….as Cosell said of himself, “Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff. There’s no question that I’m all of those things.” In its obituary for Cosell, The New York Times described Cosell’s effect on American sports coverage by writing “He entered sports broadcasting in the mid-1950s, when the predominant style was unabashed adulation, [and] offered a brassy counterpoint that was first ridiculed, then copied until it became the dominant note of sports broadcasting.”
In 1970, ABC executive producer for sports Roone Arledge hired Cosell to be a commentator for Monday Night Football….which was the first time in 15 years that American football was broadcast weekly in prime time….as Cosell was accompanied most of the time by ex-football players Frank Gifford and “Dandy” Don Meredith….as Cosell was openly contemptuous of ex-athletes appointed to prominent sportscasting roles solely on account of their playing fame. He regularly clashed on-air with Meredith….whose laid-back style was in sharp contrast to Cosell’s more critical approach to the games. The Cosell-Meredith-Gifford dynamic helped make Monday Night Football a success….as it was frequently rated the number one program in the Nielsen ratings….while Cosell’s inimitable style distinguished Monday Night Football from previous sports programming….and ushered in an era of more colorful broadcasters and 24/7 TV sports coverage.
It was during his MNF run that Cosell coined a phrase that came to be so identified with football that other announcers and spectators….especially by legendary ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman….when he began to repeat it. An ordinary kickoff return began with Cosell giving commentary about a player’s difficult life. It became extraordinary when he suddenly observed, “He could go all the way!”….as evidenced by the thousands of websites that cite Cosell’s quote….whereas many sports commentators consider this to be one of the most famous sports quips of all time.