You might remember a post from a few weeks back that chronicled (TM) the tangents of one Dick Vitale during the telecast of the Louisville/Connecticut game. The post caused a bit of a stir online, and we here at CC Headquarters secretly wondered whether or not Dickie V himself had laid eyes on the bit of research.
Turns out he has.
About a week after the initial "For the Record" post, Travis Robinett, a sports columnist for the University of Kansas' daily newspaper The University Daily Kansan, was kind enough to invite us over for a virtual sit down to talk about the list for a piece he was doing on Vitale's inability to talk about the game in front of him. The column ran on Jan. 30 and one way or another ended up in the hands of its focus.
He wasn't thrilled.
Vitale, in town to call the Texas A&M/Kansas game on Feb. 3, called up Robinett and the two ended up sitting down (physically) for a face-to-face chat inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Before the question actually comes up, Vitale starts to defend himself:
Vitale: Well you know I've always tried to take it with an attitude that you educate and you entertain. We're in the entertainment business. That's my job and I try to have a lot of fun. I even try to give opinions about other sports at times. But I love people. I love being around these kids. They make me feel so young just being around them. I've always tried to be enthusiastic and I think that's been my key, and it's really helped me with my popularity on campus. The kids are just phenomenal to me.
And then a few questions later, it does come up:
Vitale: Am I guilty of that at times? Probably so, but first of all that game was not a good game. It was ugly in the first half, so what you try to do is keep people there. I mean, there are reasons you do some of the things you do. I've been doing this for 28 years and if I weren't doing it in a positive way, would I get the reaction I do from people? Plus, the coaches, players, they come to me all the time and say "Dickie V, we love your spirit, your enthusiasm." I mean, am I going to be perfect? Nobody's perfect. I make mistakes. I get upset at myself at times and ask myself, "Why did you say that?" or "Why did you do that?" I'm my biggest critic.
The thing is, Uconn and Louisville aren't exactly having tremendous seasons, meaning that the there were probably only three groups of people tuning in to the world wide leader on Jan. 22: 1) Louisville fans, 2) Connecticut fans and 3) college hoops junkies. None of these groups of people are going to be more inclined to stay tuned to an ugly basketball game because you're talking about your grandchildren.
Vitale does get a huge reaction wherever he goes, and he deserves it. If there is one face that's synonymous with college basketball, it's probably his. Kids want to get their picture with Dickie V, they want an autograph, they want to be on TV. That doesn't change the fact that his inability to provide insightful analysis pertaining to the game being played just feet away from him makes watching any contest he's calling extremely frustrating.
Now if I really want to make this thing more than it is, I should follow the guidelines for being a successful modern journalist and be really loud and/or a huge asshole (Skip, Stephen A., Doyel). I should attack Dickie V's character, make up something about him, and then get on TV and hurl obscenities (with my outside voice mind you) in his direction.
Truth is I like Vitale, I like him a lot. Everyone who knows him or has met him in passing speaks extremely highly of his character, I think his overall impact on college basketball has been positive, and his efforts with regards to Cancer research have been extremely noble. I actually still have an autographed Vitale mini-ball that I got as a gift many years ago.
I just hate that he's allowed himself to become this cartoon character. His excitement is fantastic when used appropriately, and when he was at his best years ago it merely served as the perfect accent to the wealth of intelligent insight he brought to the table. But he's let this thing get out of hand, and somewhere along the line he became nothing more than a parody of himself.
And now it's spreading.
Commentators and other TV personalities desperate to distinguish themselves are mimicking Vitale with the hopes that it will make them famous. I think it's a safe bet that the success of Vitale has played a large part in the evolution of the monster that has become Lee Corso. We seem to be about a decade away from having Gilbert Gottfried behind the CBS News Desk.
Eight years ago Vitale wrote a book subtitled Why the Game I Love is Breaking My Heart. Vitale himself is now the one breaking hearts by letting himself become something that is detrimental to the overall state of a game that myself, and many others around these parts, believe is the best in the world.