8. Howard Cosell and Monday Night Football
RCS: The day after Howard Cosell died, April 24, 1995, you wrote a column titled "He Told It Like It Was, Like Only He Could," in which you recognized the influence Cosell had on sports, Americans and yourself. You wrote, "It was Cosell, through Monday Night Football, who took sports from lazy weekend afternoons into the white light of primetime, and in doing so fastened sports on the cultural map forever." You also described Cosell as a "Brooklyn Gothic puss" with an "unsinkable ego" who was often considered "the most liked and disliked sportscaster," all things that could easily describe you.
Kornheiser: Oh, no, no, no… I would never be the most liked.
RCS: Given the work you're doing for Monday Night Football and PTI, although it's hard to compare yourself to a legend, do you ever think about the parallels between your life and Cosell's?
Kornheiser: I knew him pretty well and I liked him very much. And I was one of the few sportswriters who he liked, ‘cause he always had such enmity for sportswriters because he felt that they put him down in the early years, and he never got past that. He never really did, and I think that was a failing on his part.
He was a guy I admired enormously. His talent was overwhelming. His literacy, his articulation, his intellect were overwhelming. And to be fair, he knew it. And he acted on it.
Were I to be compared with him: I’m not as smart as him, I’m not as gifted as him, I don’t have the drive that he did, I don’t see the world with the incredible peripheral vision that he did. I may be as egotistical as him, but I’m not as talented. But if someone were to compare me even unfavorably with Cosell I would be tremendously flattered. And it’s such an irony that I’m on TV, because Howard said this of me himself, he said “I can’t believe he’s on TV. Doesn’t he realize he’s unsightly?”
I always loved that coming from Howard.
And you know those comparisons, even if they’re unfavorable, are incredibly flattering to me. And if there's one thing that, down the road, would please me about my tenure on MNF, it's that I would hopefully be replaced by someone who’s not a former coach or player. But someone who is in what we widely refer to as the fourth estate. I don’t see why there’s a constitutional guarantee that some jock gets in the booth. In a three-man booth, there shouldn’t be two jocks.