From Publishers Weekly
Veteran sportswriter Kindred seeks to "recover Muhammad Ali from mythology and Howard Cosell from caricature" with interlocking portraits that trace the rising careers of the boxer and the sportscaster to their first meeting in the early 1960s and then through the creation of one of television's most popular bantering couples. Their on-air playfulness didn't necessarily translate into full friendship. Kindred carefully notes that while Cosell supported the heavyweight champion's right to refuse induction into the army during Vietnam, he never expressed support for Ali's actual position. Likewise, Ali knew exactly how the relationship benefited them, once telling Cosell, "You know you need me more than I need you." Kindred's close relationships with both men inform the story without overwhelming it, and he depicts the moments at which he was not present—Cosell's early battles with anti-Semitism in the broadcast industry, Ali's fear that the Nation of Islam would kill him the way they did Malcolm X—with the same immediacy he brings to his eyewitness perspective. There are already many books on Ali, but few independent considerations of Cosell, and none that show so effectively how each man helped create the legend surrounding the other. (Mar.)
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Their differences are glaring: Muslim and Jew, black and white, pretty and ugly. But look deeper, and their odd friendship makes sense: Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali shared loud mouths, humble beginnings, relentless ambition, and healthy egos. Although Ali's life has been biographied to death, his relationship with Cosell has never received its due until now. Kindred, who knew both Ali and Cosell well, has written a book that is at once well researched, pleasantly anecdotal, and remarkably insightful. For example, rarely before has Ali's struggle over whether to serve in the army been portrayed so well. And Cosell's life story is absolutely gripping, particularly his remarkable midlife career move from lawyer to broadcaster. But the best thing about the book is the friendship itself. Cosell, who knew nothing about boxing until he was nearly 40, quickly recognized Ali's brilliance inside and outside of the ring. And Ali teased Cosell but respected him in a way that most of Cosell's ridiculers didn't. Even if the shelves are sagging with books about Ali, room should be made for this approachable, touching, and altogether fascinating buddy comedy. John GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved