Many admire his passion for the game of college basketball. Others want to throw up just having to listen to a two-hour ESPN broadcast that features college basketball’s most passionate figure – a man who gives a new meaning to the word “color” in the title of color commentator. It’s not difficult to imagine why so many people grow annoyed after listening to Dick Vitale for an extended period of time. Maybe a raspy, energetic voice yelling, “slam, bam, jam, up up and away the elevator man!” gets under your skin and makes you want to mute your TV so you can enjoy the game. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I would strongly urge the Vitale bashers (of which there are many) to hate his style, his delivery, and even the way he goes about his job — not the man himself.
Vitale is twice as — if not more — passionate about fighting and finding a cure for cancer than he is toward anything that has to do with the game of college basketball. Having already eclipsed the age of 70, he doesn’t need any extra attention or recognition on top of what he has already received throughout his illustrious Hall of Fame career. The effort he puts toward raising money in the fight against cancer is for no other reason than to help save lives — and there are few who have done more to help the cause than Dick Vitale.
Last night, Vitale managed to bring some of the most notable names in sports together in Sarasota, Fla. for a truly incredible fund raising effort. For the fifth time in five years at the Dick Vitale Gala, over $1 million was raised in the fight against cancer. That’s more than $5 million raised in a five-year span. What I admire most about Vitale is the way he takes advantage of his celebrity status and uses it as a way to get the right people in the right place at the right times. Magic Johnson, Tom Izzo, Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy, Tommy Lasorda, John Calipari, Mike Greenberg — the list goes on and on.
There is no one more passionate about this cause — no one — than Dick Vitale,” ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg said. “Twenty years from now, maybe we’ll be here and no one will remember the (catch phrases like) ‘It’s awesome, baby.’ But somebody will be alive because of Dick Vitale.”
In an era where professional sports and phrases like “steroid use“, “adultery“, and “sexual assault” go hand-in-hand, it’s refreshing to have influential figures like Dick Vitale who use the wealth and fame of professional and collegiate athletics as a roadway to bettering peoples’ lives. When Jake Olson — a 13-year-old boy from California who was left blind by eye cancer and recently built a relationship with the USC football team — called Vitale an “inspiration” for what he has done for those affected by cancer, Vitale was left in tears.
No, the inspirational ones are the people like Jake and his family, and the other families who are here even though they have lost their children to cancer,” Vitale said. “All I do is make the calls and ask people to come. I was told that with the economy the way it is that people might not be able to help us get to a million this year. But the economy goes up and down, the stock market goes up and down. But cancer never goes away, whether you’re black or white, young or old, rich or poor, Christian or Jewish. It doesn’t care. And I will do everything I can until the day I die to fight it.”
“It’s too important to not be obsessed,” he went on. “Everyone here is a competitor, someone who hates to lose. When I coached, I hated to lose a game. Tom Izzo — you don’t think he hates to lose? Or Tony Dungy? But that’s just a game. You lose and there’s another day. You lose with cancer, and it takes your life. Cancer takes your humility. It takes everything you have. It brings you to your knees. How can you not want to fight with everything you have, especially when you see a kid like Jake Olson?”
Say what you will about Dick Vitale and his commentating style or personality, but it would be awfully tough to argue that he isn’t an incredible person. If everyone involved in the mega-industry that is professional and collegiate sports were more like Dickie V, we’d be that much closer to finding a cure for a disease that has affected the lives of almost everyone in some way.
Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota raises more than $1 million to fight cancer [St. Petersburg Times]