Dick Vitale is a very nice man, let us say that right up front.
And let us give him the benefit of the doubt by saying that his
geniality is the reason he does such a disservice to his viewers
by extolling every person and product that comes into his head
while degrading the language with ceaseless superlatives. To
think that all of this is a calculated act is too much to
A cataloging of Vitale's crimes against objectivity (as well as
the King's English) during ESPN's broadcast of the Dec. 12
Kentucky-Maryland game left no doubt about who really needs a
T.O., baby! For instance, Vitale used the word great 85 times,
making such observations as: "What a great pass, what
anticipation by [Kentucky's Heshimu] Evans, great eyes, great
feel." Lest one think Dicky V doesn't know any alternative
superlative, he also used the following: special (8 times),
tremendous (7), unbelievable (6), super (5), superb (5),
outstanding (5), phenomenal (3), sensational (3), excellent (2),
awesome (2), dynamite (2) and brilliant (1), and when none of
those adequately captured the moment, he simply blurted, "Wow!"
(13). On only three occasions could Vitale's comments be
described as remotely negative. A sample: "[Maryland's]
half-court offense is really not superb." The result of all this
is that the extraordinary gets lumped in with the banal until
everything sounds like hype.
Nowhere is that more obvious than in Vitale's butt-smooching of
coaches. During the broadcast he dropped the names of 22 coaches,
often in reverential and gratuitous soliloquies such as, "It's
great to see [Rick] Pitino proteges become outstanding coaches:
Ralph Willard at Pittsburgh, Herb Sendek at N.C. State, Billy
Donovan, Tubby Smith.... I would have given anything to have a
chance to work for someone like a Pitino or [Duke's Mike]
Krzyzewski or one of the great coaches in America like Dean
Smith." Just once, an objective view of a coach who isn't doing a
super, superb job would ease the sense that this is all pointless
Other plugs: C.M. Newton ("the best athletic director in
America"), Fred Barakat ("the supervisor of ACC officials, who
does a great job"), Michael Wilbon ("the outstanding writer of
The Washington Post"), an as-yet-unwritten article for ESPN The
Magazine ("Steve Francis is going to be a great story by Curry
Kirkpatrick and his creative genius as a writer") and the ESPN
Zone restaurant ("That's a beautiful place down at the Sports
Zone [sic], look at those Maryland fans at the Sports Zone, that
place is gorgeous.... C'mon, guys, go down and eat, buy some food
so we can make some more money").
Vitale did squeeze in some analysis amid the shilling and
bootlicking, providing the following insights:
--"[Francis] is one sensational player. Look at the hops. Look at
the hops! Look at those hops! Wow! Wow!"
--"Make no bone about it. Maryland has got an outstanding team
and will have a great year."
--"[Kentucky is] one of the great programs in college basketball
year in and year out, and it just keeps getting better and
better, and next year it will be even better."
--As Kentucky clinched the win with 24.7 seconds remaining: "It's
over, baby. It's over! You can count this one goodbye!"
Make no bone about it, Vitale is not superb.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY STEPHEN KRONINGER [Composite drawing of Dick Vitale surrounded by superlatives]