If only the people on the industry's horizontal ladder of mediocrity would leave him alone, Cosell would remain at peace. As it is, he charged angrily from his office one recent morning, shouting over his shoulder at a nicely barbered blond man who trailed in his wake. (The man wanted Cosell to find no less than 24 sports events every weekend and assign network radio announcers to interview the stars of each event by phone.) Cosell flung himself into an elevator. "Do you think," he bellowed as the doors slammed closed in the blond man's face, "that a mass audience is going to be interested in barrel jumping!"
The next day Cosell sat at his cocktail-hour post in the Warwick bar, his shoulders slumping, his face a mask of agony. "I am tired," he said, "morally, mentally, emotionally, physically, I am tired." The forces of ignorance had struck again this very day. A radio station in an AFL city—Cosell would not say which one—had disliked his latest critique on AFL football and had notified ABC that it was dropping all Co-sell shows. (A couple of weeks later they were reinstated.)
"I have lived a lifetime with this kind of thing," Cosell said. "The impact of Howard Cosell on radio is enormous. People love him or hate him. Local yokels pressure the stations. The guy who runs the station in this AFL city said, 'You have destroyed the image of our city.' Our sales head was in a panic."
Cosell wondered what the world was coming to. "I'm in the toy department, sports!" heeded. "Are people so juvenile that you can't tell the truth in sports? This isn't Bill Manchester on Jackie Kennedy! This is Howard Cosell on sports! I don't take myself that seriously. Let's not make it Paul Revere on the horse. I'm no hero.
"The American Broadcasting Company has lived with me and permitted me," Cosell plowed on. "Tomorrow they may not. If so, there will be no sad songs for me. I'll go without a whimper. But ABC has been the only network to permit a Howard Cosell, and that's why Howard Cosell is important. That's why Howard Cosell is a story. If ever there was a trailblazer, if ever a broadcaster sought to bring sports out of the juvenile, out of the banal—this, you see, is my mission. I have been an electronic first," Cosell declared, "and I don't mean that egotistically."
The electronic first gazed at the ceiling, as if the magnificent trails that he had blazed were etched into the beams for him to see. "Yes," he at last decided. "When you get right down to it, I am a hero."