Opinion: Dick Vitale continues to breathe life into college basketball

Dick Vitale Toni Bennett stripper
Dick Vitale isn’t slowing down despite being 74-years-old. Credit: Getty Images

What comes to mind when you think about college basketball? I suspect most people would respond with answers like the Duke Blue Devils, or March Madness, or maybe even vivid imagery of the late, revered Jimmy Valvano running around in disbelief after his NC State team slayed Hakeem, Clyde and Phi Slama Jama in the 1983 National Championship game.

Dick Vitale is on that list, too. The enigmatic ESPN announcer doesn’t just call college basketball games for a living; he is the unquestioned ambassador for the sport. This makes sense. His existence kind of epitomizes the whole thing.

While Vitale calls a game, you almost feel like he’s advertising the sport. “YEAH, BAAYY-BEEE!” and “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” aren’t catch phrases, they are slogans. He’s a hype man, on stage, joyously imploring us to revel in the glory of what’s happening, because “IT’S AWESOME BAYY-BEEEEEE!” And when he taunts a coach while advising to “GET A T.O., BAYYY-BEEE! GET A TIMEOUT!” it’s reminiscent of that one pal in college who’d goad you to come out “just for one drink.”

The allure of college basketball – and of college life itself – is the idea of unpredictable madness. In college, anything goes; the only commitment you have is figuring out oneself (whatever that means). Conversely, an underdog pulling off an upset is a normal occurrence college basketball; in fact, a truly shocking result would be if the seeds played out accordingly, and there were no upsets during March Madness. But that’s not the case, and the notion that any team can fall at any time is exciting, because chaos is a compelling possibility in sports.


Dickie V.’s personality is tailored to meet this madness. An incredibly endearing figure, the 74-year-old willingly spent the last few decades touring the country, perched atop legions of mosh pits containing delirious 18-year-olds. Vitale is over-the-top, excessive, and prone to bouts of hysteria – so, really, he’s college … personified.

He’s the perfect punching bag – loud, brash, and slightly obnoxious – but on last Sunday, something amazing happened. Vitale tweeted out his bracket using the hashtag #DicksPicks, and the Internet gave him a pass (in part because he was born in freakin’ 1939, but mostly because he’s full of charm and spirit). How amazing is this? Ask poor Brent Musburger and Katherine Webb’s agent – there are NEVER free passes on the Internet. Not in 2014.

This begs the question, “Will we ever see another Dick Vitale again?”

John Madden, Dickie V., and Howard Cosell were all guys who were beloved – by young fans and older generations – to the point that they were bigger than the game they covered. The younger crop of announcers don’t have that luxury; even a personality like Bob Costas gets made fun of for coming down with pink eye during the Olympics.

As he nears retirement, I’ve come to a realization: Dick Vitale was not only one of a kind, but, quite possibly, the last of his kind.

Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…