Dick Vitale returned to the podium last night for a Gonzaga-UCLA game, and if you caught the video live or on Twitter, you should be pretty stone cold so as not to get a salty spill from your tear ducts to the man currently fighting cancer. If you did not know, Vitale had a melanoma removed earlier in the year before he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He has been undergoing chemotherapy for several months and was given permission by doctors to return to the microphone.
I have not seen college sports regularly for almost two decades. I think they are strange and those who really care about them are even stranger. They’re part of the solitaire. And although Vitale has clearly found a niche that made him very famous and very rich, it has always seemed genuine and from the heart. He just loves the game, and even though he has his catchphrases and his action, his enthusiasm during a good game or talking about the tournament never felt forced. It was and is who he is.
Vitale sided with the players as the discussion over whether they should be paid finally boiled over. You always worry about getting too far beyond your skis when talking about a celebrity, but it’s hard not to do with someone like Vitale who has had his heart on his sleeve from the moment you first saw him. Yes, maybe the slogans got annoying at times, maybe there were moments where it felt like he was trying a little too hard. But he did what he covered and broadcast, better. Whatever was forced was only five percent on top of his genuine enthusiasm.
And when you watch this video, you can see what it has meant to him and that he really appreciates what he has and what he means to the fans and those to him. Even though he only gets this game, this evening, you can not help but rejoice on his behalf, to enjoy and appreciate what he has made his life for in a way that few of us get to.
Maybe I’m biased. I happened to be sitting a row behind him in Wrigley years and years ago when he simply took his family there because he wanted to enjoy a game in the park. We ended up talking about Preakness that took place later in the day. We both had Louis Quatorze to win, which he did. Vitale could not have been nicer and was genuinely interested in talking to me. He could not have been more accommodating with someone who came by to talk to him even though he was there with his grandchildren.
Most of all, Vitale seems like a guy who still can not believe he has gotten so much out of just doing what he would do anyway, talking about basketball. From what I saw that day and everything I have heard about him from others, he is happy to share that joy and surprise with anyone who wants to join him. It’s like if he does not share that joy, then he might wake up from the dream.
Hope you get made a few more, Dickie V. Sports is just a better place with you.