Ex-ABC Executive Says Cosell’s Drinking Was a Problem on Air

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Associated Press

Sportscaster Howard Cosell drank “before, during and after telecasts” and once threw up on Don Meredith’s cowboy boots during “Monday Night Football” after too much vodka, according to a new book by a former ABC executive.

In “Up Close & Personal: The Inside Story of Network Television Sports,” Jim Spence also calls Cosell “one of the unhappiest human beings on this planet.”

Spence, who worked at ABC for 26 years, was senior vice president of ABC Sports from 1978 until 1986. He is now president of Sports Television International, a production and marketing company.


Spence devotes the first chapter to Cosell, whom he describes as an insecure, overbearing man who became impossible to work with late in his career.

Cosell, 70, could not be reached Wednesday. A woman answering the phone at his home said he was visiting his wife at a New York hospital, where she is recovering from surgery.

Spence said that during a Monday Night Football telecast from Philadelphia in 1970, Cosell “got so drunk he couldn’t pronounce the name of the city he was in without slurring.”

Cosell left the booth after throwing up on Meredith, one of his broadcasting partners.

Spence said Cosell “again got out of control” during ABC’s telecast of the 1984 American League playoffs when he kept kept interrupting colleague Al Michaels.

The next day, Spence got a call from Michaels’ agent, Barry Frank.

“Al had told him that Cosell was drinking heavily and was impossibly argumentative, and that Al could no longer tolerate it,” Spence said.