A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 27, 2012
“Sports is the toy department of life”

"Sports is the toy department of (human) life” was first said by New York City sportswriter Jimmy Cannon (1909-1973). It’s not known when he first said it, however. The saying means that sports is just a game, like a child plays with a toy.

Sports journalist Howard Cosell (1918-1995) used the line as early as 1968. Cosell credited Jimmy Cannon for the line in Cosell’s book I Never Played the Game (1985) and Cosell also had a change of heart about it:

“Once I bought the Jimmy Cannon dictum that ‘Sports is the Toy Department of life.’ I don’t now and never will again.”


Wikipedia: Jimmy Cannon
Jimmy Cannon (April 10, 1909 - December 5, 1973) was a sports journalist inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for his coverage of the sport.

Early career
Born in New York City, Cannon started at the New York Daily News when he was 17. He later wrote for the New York Post, New York Journal-American and King Features Syndicate. He was a war correspondent for Stars and Stripes during World War II. He also wrote a column for Newsday during the 1950s.

8 November 1968, The News (Van Nuys, CA), “A Closer Look at Television” by Ernie Kreiling, pg. 26, col. 3:
Cosell refers to sports as the toy department of life. It’s only fun and games for grown-ups, so hardly worthy of the reverence you suggest. On a more basic level, his kind of colorful reporting makes for better listening I find.

20 October 1973, Leader-Times (Kittanning, PA), TV section, pg. 6, col. 1:
“Sports is life’s toy department, and, to a certain degree, I’m becoming weary of it,” he claims. “You have to if you’re educated and intelligent.”
(Spoken by Howard Cosell—ed.)

26 April 1974, Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “Sports Expansion Mania” by Richard L. Worsnop, pg. 23A, col. 6:
It all goes to show that Howard Cosell was right, after all: Sports is the toy department of life.

18 May 1975, Boston (MA) Globe, “A variety show for Cosell‎” by Lee Winfrey, TV Week, pg. D21:
“Sport Is the toy department of life,” Cosell concluded years ago.

Google News Archive
11 May 1976, Ellensburg (WA) Daily Record, “Joe Garagiola aims to entertain” (UPI), pg. 7, col. 5:
“Jimmy Cannon, the columnist, wrote that ‘sports is the toy department of life,” Garagiola said. “We have to guard against turning the toy department into the Vatican.”

Google Books
The Diabetic’s Sports and Exercise Book:
How to Play Your Way to Better Health

By June Biermann and Barbara Toohey
Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott
1977
Pg. 52:
Someone once aptly called sports “the toy department of life.” A diabetic definitely should not deprive himself of the joys of this department.

Google Books
I Never Played the Game
By Howard Cosell with Peter Bonventre
New York, NY: Morrow
1985
Pg. 16:
The essential point is that sports are no longer fun and games, that they are everywhere—in people’s minds, in conversation, in the importance we attach to it—and that they can affect the basics of our lives (to wit, the part of our taxes that may be directed to supporting a sports franchise, without our ever knowing it). Once I bought the Jimmy Cannon dictum that “Sports is the Toy Department of life.” I don’t now and never will again.

The task then, as I see it, is to get a fix on sports and put it in its place, in balance with the mainstream of life, and to dispel romantic ideas about sports—ideas that exist only in a fantasy world.

New York (NY) Times
Sports of The Times; The Toy Department Of Life
By WILLIAM C. RHODEN
Published: September 14, 2001
(...)
Edwards took pains to point out the place of sports in the grand scheme of things, saying: ‘’In life, sports is in the toy department. Sports is the toy store of life.’’

Sports Illustrated
December 19, 2011
Get Ready For A Fiesta
The bowls are upon us, and what’s the most exciting matchup of the postseason? (Hint: not the BCS title game.) It’s the Fiesta Bowl, in which prolific Brandon Weeden and the unstoppable offense of Oklahoma State meet the sublime skills of Andrew Luck and Stanford

AUSTIN MURPHY
(...)
Like so many offensive linemen, Brooks is wise. He reminds us that as worked up as people may get over the slights and injustices perpetrated by the BCS system, it all takes place in the toy department of life. Sometimes you’ve just got to set your anger aside, pull on your Superman socks and enjoy the games.

Google Books
Sport Management:
Principles and Applications

By Russell Hoye, Aaron C. T. Smith, Matthew Nicholson, Bob Stewart and Hans Westerbeek
New York, NY: Routledge
2012
Pg. 14:
Sport was summarized by the 1960s USA sport broadcaster Howard Cossell as the ‘toy department of life’ (Lipsky 1981: 46–47). Be that as it may, millions of people around the world use sport to satisfy a number of drives and motives.

Google Books
The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said
By Robert Byrne
New York, NY: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
2012
1,746
Sports are the toy department of life. —Howard Cosell (1918–1995)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (0) Comments • Saturday, October 27, 2012 • Permalink