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A letter to Dick Vitale, clown prince of college basketball

Dick Vitale, in all his Dukie glory

Dear Dick,

Let me just say that at one time I was a big fan.  I loved your excitement.  I loved the exuberance you brought to broadcasting.  I loved the “Better get a TO, baby.”  I loved it when you shouted “Slam bam jam!”  But somewhere along the way, you went from being a broadcaster into a character.  I’m not sure when it happened, but you went from being a sincerely excited fan of college basketball that just happened to have a mic, and turned into a caricature of yourself.  You and John Madden actually have a lot in common in this regard.  Maybe it was the fame.  Maybe it was when ESPN and CBS turned March Madness into a billion dollar extravaganza.  I can’t pinpoint the moment you jumped the shark, but in my mind it coincides with the moment you became Duke’s press agent.

Everyone knows it.  You are a Duke shill.  Your devotion to all things ACC, and Duke in particular is nauseating.  I used to love Duke too.  I became a college basketball fan watching Johnny Dawkins against Pervis Ellison in the Final Four.  I remember watching Laettner’s shot in my basement.  I loved watching Bobby Hurley upset UNLV (though looking back now I believe a lot of the Duke love at the time was as much about race and culture as it was about basketball).  Duke is a great program.  There are a lot of Duke haters out there, and much of it is jealousy.  They have won a lot of games, been to a lot of Final Fours, and they seem to do it with class.  But your devotion to all things Coach K has reached its limit, and it became so clear in the last couple of weeks.

A few weeks ago Illinois upset Michigan State on their home floor.  The Spartans are the class of the Big Ten.  At the time they were ranked No. 5 in the nation.  Illinois was unranked, facing a difficult stretch of their schedule, and in desperate need of a signature win to help their NCAA tournament resume.  In addition to this, it was College Game Day’s game of the week. The Game Day crew had been there all day.  It was the first time that Game Day had been to Champaign.  So you and Digger and two other ACC guys had worked the students and fans into a lather since 9 a.m.  When the Illini won, the student section stormed the court to celebrate.

Was it necesarry?  Who cares?  It was fun.  It was exciting.  It was a big win for the Illini, and storming the court is something unique to college basketball.  It is a part of what makes college basketball special.  Yet you, the clown prince of college basketball, got on your high horse and admonished the Illini fans for celebrating too much.  Aren’t you the guy that has become a millionaire for over-the-top celebrations?  Your point was that the Illini were too good to celebrate beating Michigan State.  They should act like it was no big deal – even though your network was saying all day and all week that it was a huge deal.  The Illini fans should have shown more restraint.  OK, fine.  Illinois should expect to win at home.  I’ll give you that, Dickie V.

But then a couple of nights ago Maryland beat Duke.  Duke was ranked No. 4.  Maryland was ranked No. 23.  After the win, the student section stormed the court (they then went outside and rioted, literally).  Where was your admonishment?  Where was your righteous indignation?  Why shouldn’t Maryland show some restraint?  I didn’t watch the game, but I’m pretty sure you weren’t ripping the Terrapin fans – for doing the same thing as the Illini fans just a couple of weeks before.  What was the difference?  It was because in your eyes, beating Duke is something special. 

Apparantly, rushing the court is always justified when beating the great and mighty Blue Devils.  They have, after all, been to one Final Four and won one national championship since 2000.  But wait, that is the exact same resume Maryland has, and Maryland did it more recently then Duke.  And Michigan State has won one national championship and been to four Final Fours since 2000.  Yet somehow Maryland, a ranked team and probably a lock for the NCAA tournament, beating No. 4 Duke is cause for riotous celebration.  But when Illinois, an unranked bubble team,  rushes the court after beating No. 5 Michigan State, they should show restraint.

Come on, Dick.  We all know you are on Duke’s payroll.  We know that ESPN coddles the Big East and ACC, but this is ridiculous.  Next time you are about to start screaming about how great the Dukies are, maybe you should get a T.O., baby.


The Fat Pastor


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