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Morning Briefing

He's Just 'Telling It Like It Is'

September 25, 1985

Howard Cosell's new book, "I Never Played the Game," is excerpted in the Sept. 28-Oct. 4 issue of TV Guide.

Cosell on Frank Gifford: "There is nothing controversial about Frank. Like President Reagan, he is a Teflon man; no matter how many mistakes he makes during a telecast, no matter how glaring his weaknesses as a performer, nothing sticks to him. The television sports critics, wooed by his smooth off-camera personality, generally rave about him, rarely taking him to task on purely objective standards.

"For my money, Gifford is far from your classic play-by-play man. He is not in the same league with NBC's Dick Enberg or CBS' Pat Summerall, once his Giants teammate. His voice is thin and monotonic, and he is incapable of using it with rhythm and pace for dramatic effect. In addition, he stumbles over words and it's not uncommon for him to lose his train of thought."

Cosell prefaces his criticism of Gifford by writing: "I will forever have ambivalent feelings about Frank Gifford. Somewhere inside me, if you go deep enough, I consider him a friend."

Good thing Cosell doesn't consider Gifford an enemy.

More from Cosell: "I do not understand Don Meredith, and I never will. . . . Meredith rarely prepared for a telecast in the manner of a professional. He'd try to compensate for his lack of knowledgeability by singing a song or talking to his imaginary alter ego, Harley Smydlapp, and everyone would write about how funny and irrepressible he was.

"(Roone) Arledge (ABC Sports president) loved Meredith's act and felt he added immeasurably to the proper mixture of football savvy, humor and entertainment that was the essence of the package. I sometimes wondered if Arledge really knew what was going on in the booth, and how difficult it could be trying to keep Meredith on an even keel and aware of what was happening in a game. It got to the point where (director Chet) Forte used to tell the press that Meredith was at his best when he didn't even know who was playing. Easy for him to say."

Last add Cosell: On O.J. Simpson: "Thanks to all the commercials Juice was getting, I thought his speech was improving, and he could handle the assignment (on 'Monday Night Football'). I was wrong. Once again, except in rare instances, it was a mistake to take a jock and put him on the air, and I ended up feeling sorry for the man. . . . As it turned out, my biggest disappointment was not with Juice as a broadcaster--but as a friend. As you shall see, if it weren't for all the years we had known each other, I don't think our friendship could have survived."

Excerpts in the next TV Guide will offer more of Cosell's opinions about Simpson. Undoubtedly, O.J. can't wait.

Get 'em while they're young: The University of Tennessee at Martin, Tenn., is now recruiting young fans. Very young.

The Pacer Club, the school's booster organization, has new division--one for newborns.

"When a baby is born here in the Martin hospital," Athletic Director Ray Mears said, "we make sure the mother gets a little gold basketball, football or cheerleader's megaphone. And we send them a nice certificate enrolling the baby in the Pacer Club."

Mears said the idea isn't a new one. He said Paul Brown was giving little gold footballs to new mothers 45 years ago when he was coaching high school football in Massillon, Ohio.

Hot item: In Toronto, a lot of people have begun wearing a big pin-on badge that reads: "I love New York--in second place."

Quotebook

St. Louis Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog, on how he handles insomnia: "I read the rule book. After five minutes of obstruction and interference, I'm fast asleep."

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