Night Line: A Reminder That Dickie V Represents the Good of the GamePosted by EJacoby on December 6th, 2011
Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.
Few people in the history of college basketball will ever be as memorable and beloved as the man that was honored on Monday night in Detroit. Detroit Mercy honored its former coach, one Richard Vitale, by naming its basketball floor in his honor. Before he became the color broadcasting legend we all know today as Dickie V, the honored Vitale coached for four seasons at the school in the mid-1970s. He remains college basketball’s most devoted and entertaining commentator, but many fans don’t realize the full gamut of contributions he’s made to the game in his Hall of Fame career. Tonight’s appearance in Detroit was a reminder of why Vitale is truly one of the game’s all-time greatest ambassadors.
Younger generations may only know Dick Vitale for his passionate broadcasting work, full of unique analysis and outrageous calls such as this one. But Vitale also coached the Titans to the Sweet Sixteen in 1977 before suffering a narrow defeat to Michigan. That season,Vitale also led his team to a road win during the regular season over Marquette and Al McGuire, the eventual national champion. He then spent a year as Detroit’s athletic director before taking the head coaching job with the Pistons in 1978. He only lasted a little over a season in the professional ranks, but he was a respected coach with an unmistakable passion for the game that led to a quick ‘temporary’ hire at ESPN when he was looking for work in the winter of 1979.
Monday night marked the 32d anniversary of Dickie V’s first game as an announcer, when he provided color commentary for a DePaul-Wisconsin game in 1979, ESPN’s very first college basketball broadcast. Over three decades later, Vitale is still the lead color man for the Worldwide Leader. At 72 years old, he may not do as many games as he once did, but he still brings an undeniable intensity to the announcer’s booth, providing a palpable energy to every broadcast of which he’s involved. He exudes positivity almost to a fault, using every available moment he can on the air to praise the hard work of the players and coaches around the game.
A golden rule of sports broadcasting is to not make oneself bigger than the event; the focus rightfully should be on the players, the coaches, and the game. But there’s always an exception to any rule, and the colorful but industrious Vitale represents that one exception. Perhaps no announcer has brought more of a spectacle to college athletics on television than Vitale, and the result is the usual mixed bag of feelings that comes with any entertainer. For every Vitale hater out there, there are many others who quietly appreciate the purity of emotion that he has brought to the game of college basketball for nearly a third of a century.
People will say what they want about different entertainers, but nobody can question the character and contributions to the game of a man like Dick Vitale. His charitable contributions on behalf of and in support of the V Foundation are not only well-documented but perhaps his greatest legacy. There’s no telling how many more years of dipsy-doo dunkaroos, awesome, baby!! and M&Mers Vitale has left in him, but the next time you hear him calling a game and you feel your blood pressure rising when he starts talking about Coach K and Duke, remember that he’s doing it not out of hatred or bitterness; he’s doing it because he truly loves the game. Monday night’s celebration was a fitting tribute to one of the best.