- With notecards, naps, and a constant focus on entertaining, Dick Vitale and Lee Corso have stayed on top of their games. Here’s how you can too.
Dick Vitale turned 80 years old last week. For his birthday, ESPN gave him a new contract stretching into 2022, along with a renewed promise to continue extending his deal as long as he’d like. Here are eight things I learned from Vitale and 83-year-old College GameDay host Lee Corso on how to keep at it for the long run. (The following guidance has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
1. Remember to entertain.
Vitale: I learned years ago when I started that you have to educate and entertain. I think we’re now in a situation where we forget that word entertain. People are watching TV, it’s not trying to find a cure for cancer. I watch baseball games sometimes and every pitch is dissected to the point that you’re zzzzzzz. You want to hear stories!
Corso: We’re in the entertainment business, so I just hope I’m doing everything I can to entertain people. I’m the only guy I know that makes a living by putting on someone else’s head. Therefore that’s all I’ve got to do; as long as I can raise that mascot head and put it on, I’m in business.
2. Take care of yourself.
Corso: I nap every day. It’s in my schedule. I nap from 2 to 3, and I work out 3 to 5 every day at the local gym, except on Sundays.
Vitale: The guys at ESPN call me Mr. Cranberry Juice. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I regularly play tennis—singles—workout everyday, and I try to eat intelligently.
3. Seek stability.
Vitale: If I like something, I’m staying with it. My marriage is 48 years old, I’ve been with ESPN 40 years, I’ve had the same agent for 35-40 years. Too many people want to chase, all these free agents chasing things thinking the grass is greener elsewhere. I mean, how much more money could you need, seriously? I don’t care what anybody else makes. In fact, several times ESPN has told me, Look, we want you to know CBS asked to use you during the Tournament and we said no. I don’t get mad about it. No, I’m flattered.
Corso: 10 years ago, I had a stroke. I could hardly talk for months. I did a lot of therapy. A lesser company would’ve dumped me and gotten rid of me. I mean I couldn’t talk! I make my living talking, and that stroke, that really put life into perspective.
4. Stay sharp.
Corso: Everyday for 10 years I’ve been doing vocal exercises for 15 minutes in the morning. You’d get a kick out of them. (Writer’s note: imagine Cardi B but louder.)
Vitale: Everyday I have a goal that I want to do something positive. I plan what I want to do, like who I want to contact or sometimes where I want to go for dinner with someone. Little goals, simple things, that I write down before the end of the day to do tomorrow. It keeps you mentally sharp. I write them down on index cards and throw them away.
5. Keep studying.
Vitale: There’s a tendency especially today with social media, that if you make a mistake when you’re up in your years like we are, right away the name calling is vicious. Senile! Time to pack it up! Go to a rocking chair! It’s very nasty, and that’s such a small percentage but those people are out there. I work harder than ever not to make a mistake with names or stats. You’re never going to be perfect, but that’s one thing I work so hard on.
6. Maintain your passion.
Corso: The fact is, you’ve got to be passionate about life. If you’re passionate about life, then it’s easy to take it to your job.
Vitale: We have a great love and passion for what we do. What people don’t know about me is my life is way more than college basketball. I’m a fanatic about music. You name the concert, we’ve probably been there. Tim McGraw, Celine Dion, The Temptations, Frank Sinatra—I saw him a number of times. Everyday you learn something new and everyday you’ve got to be excited about something. I have a passionate love for life. My parents were beautiful people. They always said if you have passion and take pride in what you do, a lot of good things can happen.
7. Accept new limits.
Vitale: When you test time like we have, there’s a respect factor out there. I’m the first to admit when I make a mistake. You have to be accountable for what you do. You can’t be stubborn. You’ve got to be a team player. And I’ve been blessed to work with some great people.
Corso: After my stroke, ESPN modified my role on GameDay. I’m not on the full three hours. The production group figured out the amount of time I can be on, with rest in between. That has kept me going. I was happy with that; I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.
8. Set new goals.
Corso: I tell everybody, I’m working on beating Alonzo Stagg’s record. He was 96 and still working in football.
Vitale: I want to be the first person at 100 years old to walk out there and do a game. It sounds crazy. People will probably laugh when they hear me say that. But don’t bet against me.