Dick Vitale is a hot item these days, and isn't it nice that a guy with a balding pate, bulging eyes, a chalk-on-the-blackboard voice and preternatural enthusiasm has made the grade? But while giving Vitale points for not being the typical network smoothie, let's not ignore the fact that the ego of college basketball's frog prince is out of control and that his self-importance is starting to get in the way of his often perceptive commentary. Here's a selection of self-aggrandizing revelations that Vitale force-fed his viewers during last week's Michigan—Ohio State and Duke—North Carolina telecasts on ESPN:
Dick Vitale went to dinner with Ohio State coach Gary Williams.
Dick Vitale also went to lunch with Williams and Michigan coach Bill Frieder. Frieder bought.
Dick Vitale shot hoops with the Buckeyes on game day.
Dick Vitale conducted the Ohio State band before the game.
Dick Vitale has gotten to know all the players on the Michigan team and "they're really a bunch of nice kids."
Dick Vitale will be speaking at a luncheon in Madison, Wis. Dick Vitale "always has a great time" in Madison.
When Dick Vitale coached, he was "a wild, zany wacko."
Dick Vitale talked to Ohio State guard Curtis Wilson, and Wilson asked Dick Vitale to call him "the Colonel" on the air. And so, after Wilson made a jump shot, Dick Vitale said, "The Colonel! He said, 'Please call me the Colonel! My dad's a colonel!' He wanted me to call him the Colonel! Colonel Wilson!"
Dick Vitale visited with North Carolina coach Dean Smith and was mightily impressed with Smith's stupendous office.
Dick Vitale talked to the Tar Heels' sophomore star J.R. Reid about the possibility of Reid's leaving North Carolina early for the NBA, and Reid said, "I'm not going anywhere, Coach Vitale."
Now, did Reid really call Dick Vitale "Coach"? And shouldn't we be wary of people who refer to themselves in the third person, as Vitale does about a dozen times a broadcast? "There's not a bigger fan of the Big Ten than Dick Vitale," said Dick Vitale.
Never mind his incessant flattering references to college coaches and high school stars. That goes along with his being an inner-circle member of college basketball's club. Never mind that Vitale can be as changeable as the Dow Jones average: He criticized Michigan guard Gary Grant for "getting a little too individual" just moments after he had praised Grant for hitting a tough jump shot off a purely one-on-one move. Most commentators (and many print journalists) are just as fickle. And never mind his unflagging cheerleading: After watching Grady Mateen's dunk shot give Ohio State a 70-68 victory over Michigan, Vitale screamed into the microphone, "Amazing! College basketball! Parity! Unpredictability!"
College basketball is, in essence, one big pep rally, and Vitale holds the biggest megaphone. But when Dick Vitale gets so stuck on Dick Vitale that he undermines the freshness he once brought to the sport, that's a problem. Someone in the club should tell him about it.