As a lifelong fan of sports I obviously have heard and watched myriad sports commentators, and it should come as no surprise that I have had my favorites throughout the years. The late Bill Stern, who hosted “The Colgate Sports Newsreel” from 1937 through 1956, was a master of painting profiles of sports stars on the radio. And although many people disliked him, I loved the late Howard Cosell, whose “let’s-tell-it-like-it-is” approach probably angered as many fans as it pleased, but I found him consistently refreshing and entertaining.
In more modern times, I really admired the late Dick Schaap, and when it comes to calling a game, nobody is better than Mike Tirico. As far as anchoring major sporting events and offering perceptive insights, Bob Costas is in a league by himself. And for sheer entertainment in delivering news from the world of sports, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic are tops.
But when I want sports commentary that combines unmitigated erudition, a wealth of knowledge, an often fresh perspective, and a throwback to Cosell’s fearlessness about “telling it like it is,” I tune into the only guy I know who can offer all that. He’s ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, and if you haven’t yet discovered him, you are missing out on a real treat. His daily radio show, appropriately titled “The Herd,” airs daily on ESPN radio from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it is simulcast on ESPNU. Cowherd’s delivery is uniquely entertaining, and every day he shares his original, incisive, and thought-provoking viewpoints about sports.
One day as I was listening to his show, he mentioned he had written a book scheduled for publication in the near future, and I immediately signed on to Amazon.com to reserve my copy. “You Herd Me” is a book every sports fan should enjoy, and the main thing I liked about it is that Cowherd writes exactly the way he talks his show. His conversational style makes the book very easy and enjoyable to read, and it’s packed with Cowherd’s unique take on various sports and athletes.
From its introduction, in which Cowherd relates an incident from his childhood that altered his outlook on sports for the rest of his life, until the final page, “You Herd Me” offers readers a marvelous combination of facts, figures, anecdotes, analyses, character sketches, and humor from the world of sports. The book is a treasure trove of information for every sports fan, and on the front cover just below the title is the following tagline serving as Cowherd’s motto: “I’ll say it if nobody else will.” Cosell would have loved him.
Here is a sampling of Cowherd’s pearls from the book:
- “USC and Alabama don’t have a story like ‘Rudy.’ They would never have anybody that slow on their roster.”
- “Two things make smart men stupid. Beautiful women and sports.”
- “An NFL team without a good quarterback is like a stripper without a good body.”
- “ESPN is similar to a big hospital. Journalists are the heart surgeons, and talk-show hosts are just the plastic surgeons.”
- “Is Hell really a supernatural place of fire and brimstone – or is it actually just another word for living in Tampa?”
Among the many issues Cowherd addresses in his book are whether or not Tiger Woods is a sex addict, alcohol sales at sporting venues, the ugly side of sports, children on airplanes, racism, the truth about sports salaries, and the SEC’s dominance of the college football world. And I defy readers to disagree with anything he says!
At one point in the book he is addressing fans of various teams, and he poses the following question: “Would you rather be the Packers or the remarkably well-funded and glitzy Dallas Cowboys, who have had as much playoff success over the past fifteen years as the National Enquirer has had on Pulitzer Prize day?” Nobody does sarcastic humor better than Cowherd.
And I hope to hell the insufferably pompous Rush Limbaugh (He’s mentioned in one part of the book.) reads this tome to see how Cowherd brilliantly compares Major League Baseball and the Republican Party.
“The GOP and MLB are both suffering from an arrogance that manifests itself through an inability to reach out to those who fall just outside the comfort zone. For baseball, it’s the African-American community; for the GOP, it’s any minority you can name.
“To put it bluntly, both institutions have become old and white in a world that is becoming less of both.”
The comparison continues with some concrete examples and concludes with valuable advice for both entities.
Although every page of this book is packed with superbly stated opinion, analysis, observation, and advice, I particularly enjoyed what Cowherd had to say about why attendance at NFL games is declining.
“Why? Why are more and more NFL fans staying home? You can run down the usual list of suspects: traffic hassles, ticket prices in a tough economy, high-definition television, and the Red Zone channel.
“But you have to leave room for one major reason: the behavior inside stadiums is appalling. From the language to the behavior to the sight of grown men peeing in bathroom sinks or garbage cans, NFL stadiums are quickly becoming places that are not in the least bit family-friendly.”
Not only is Cowherd consistently fearless about speaking his mind, but he also doesn’t hesitate to make a comment that many Penn State fans may consider sacrilegious.
“There’s just too much man worship in sports. Maybe it’s our Western religion where we look up for answers while Eastern religion asks you to look within yourself, not idolize or worship someone else.
“It’s what brought down Penn State football. People allowed a man in his eighties to run a $400 million football program. That’s not being an ageist – it’s being a realist. Joe Paterno was not only injured twice during his last few years, he was so generationally out of touch, he didn’t recognize how dangerous and inappropriate the Jerry Sandusky information was.”
Now that’s telling it like it is!
I simply cannot recommend “You Herd Me” for sports fans and for anyone else who would be interested in a refreshingly different, but always perceptive, informative, and entertaining look into the complex world of sports. In addition to providing me with a wealth of new information and insight into a subject about which I thought I knew a lot, the book reaffirmed my belief that Cowherd is absolutely the best at what he does.
Now here’s a scenario I can imagine. Somewhere in sports commentators’ heaven Howard Cosell has just finished reading “You Herd Me.” He reverently lays the book on the table beside his comfortable chair, takes a big puff of his newly lighted cigar, savors a generous sip of vodka from a tall glass, and says, “Amen, Colin. Amen!”