With his outsize persona and passion, Dick Vitale is hoops’ head honcho

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
More information

First-round games


16. Albany71
16. Mount St. Mary’s64
12. North Carolina State 74
12. Xavier59


• 16. Texas Southern vs.

16. Cal Poly, 5:40 p.m., truTV

• 11. Tennessee vs.

11. Iowa, 8:10 p.m., truTV

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

engel The following has happened to all of us: We are in the same room with a celebrity and, in those however many seconds, he either makes a fan, or enemy, for life.

It’s 5 or 10 seconds to scribble his name on a piece of paper, to take a picture, extend a handshake, flash a smile or offer a “thanks for your support.” You will love him forever for his few seconds of kindness. A dismissive blow-off and you will hate him.

It’s a “I met them once. They’re so great!” or “They’re terrible; they blew me off.”

Twenty-plus years ago, I was a fawning teenager who was blown off not once but twice by Mr. Dick Vitale — the energetic voice of college basketball.

“Oh, you did?” he asked in that unmistakable Jersey accent when I recounted a pair of meetings he had zero reason to recall. “Oh, wow.”

The only thing missing was the flick of my chest he administered when I was 17. Then, he turned his back on me.

Dickie V was in the Stockyards on Tuesday for the Allstate March Mayhem Challenge in front of roughly 20 people as he led a one-ton steer picking the NCAA Tournament games.

It is unfair, but it has been hard to ever look at Vitale since and not recall those blow-offs. The difference was this time I had a microphone in my hand, and this man knows the game.

Kids, an important lesson from your Uncle Mark Ingle: Don’t judge any celeb should your paths cross for a few seconds; they have an impossible moving target to hit — assuming they care in the first place — and sometimes they don’t have time for us, or simply aren’t in the mood.

“I love people,” Vitale said. “I love people. I’m a hot dog, man. I’m a hot dog.”

Do not judge celebs for their relationship with the media, and don’t base anything on their ability to smile and shake your hand in any setting. Like you and me, the celebs we canonize are a giant canvas of colors, and the hue and shapes change depending on a variety of factors.

Maybe Vitale is a phony, fraud or used-car salesman who says “I love people” and plays it for the cameras. Chances are good someone as successful as Vitale has irritated a few people.

Maybe Vitale is completely sincere, and competition for his time is so fierce that receiving any of it is a big deal.

I don’t know, and frankly, the man has been great for the state of college basketball and it will miss him when he’s done.

Try to take the best of what these people offer; in Vitale’s case a tireless passion for his profession and for basketball. He offers a wonderful message on a good life.

“There is nothing greater in life than having fun,” Vitale said. “If one has their health, they are a billionaire.”

That message matters because he is right.

Vitale is 74. He has the energy of a 34-year-old man. He has embraced life at a time when many people his age check out.

He takes care of his body. He says he plays singles tennis three or four times a week. He says he gets seven hours of sleep. He works out on a weight machine, and walks a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour every day.

“Age is a number. I want to do this as long as God gives me the energy,” he said. “If I am physically not able to do it, then it’s over. If I am able physically, why shouldn’t I do it?”

Much like John Madden with the NFL, Vitale’s greatest contributions are off the court rather than on it. When Vitale retires, there is no replacement. He has spawned countless imitators and provided a trillion punchlines, because there is no one else like him.

He still commands a stage, can work a room or a camera, and knows his sport. He is good at his job.

Does he talk too much? Yes.

Is he a windbag? For sure.

Does it hurt anyone? No.

If you can focus on that part, the rest really doesn’t matter.

Anything above that, including a few more seconds of his time that in the end I probably didn’t need in the first place, is gravy.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at


Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?

Sunday, September 21Full Scoreboard
Toronto2Top 9th | Box
NY Yankees5@theBallpark | TV: SNET, YES
Washington «2Final | Box
NY Mets7Bottom 8th | Box
Atlanta2@theBallpark | TV: SNY, FSN-S
Boston3Bottom 8th | Box
Baltimore2@theBallpark | TV: NESN, MASN
Milwaukee0Final | Box
Pittsburgh «1
Chicago WSox10Top 8th | Box
Tampa Bay3@theBallpark | TV: WGN, Sun Sports
Seattle3Bottom 6th | Box
Houston4@theBallpark | TV: ROOT-NW, CSN-HOU
Detroit2Top 6th | Box
Kansas City4@theBallpark | TV: FSN-DET, FSN-KC, TBS
Cleveland7Bottom 6th | Box
Minnesota2@theBallpark | TV: STO, FSN-N
Los Angeles5Bottom 5th | Box
Chicago Cubs4@theBallpark | TV: SportsNet LA, CSN-CHI
Texas0Bottom 3rd | Box
LA Angels0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-SW, FSN-W
Philadelphia1Bottom 1st | Box
Oakland0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-PHI, CSN-CA
Arizona0Bottom 1st | Box
Colorado0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-AZ, ROOT-RM
San Francisco0Bottom 1st | Box
San Diego0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-BA, FSN-SD
Cincinnati 9/21 8:05 PM ET
St. Louis TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Sunday, September 21Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Week 3Full Scoreboard
Tampa Bay14Final | Box
Atlanta «56Gridiron Replay
San Diego «22Final | Box
Tennessee7Final | Box
Cincinnati «33
Baltimore «23Final | Box
Green Bay7Final | Box
Detroit «19
Indianapolis «44Final | Box
Oakland9Final | Box
New England «16
Minnesota9Final | Box
New Orleans «20
Houston17Final | Box
NY Giants «30
Washington274th Qtr 5:26 | Box
Philadelphia37@theGridiron | TV: FOX
Dallas «34Final | Box
St. Louis31
San Francisco01st Qtr 9:40 | Box
Arizona3@theGridiron | TV: FOX
Kansas City 4:25 PM ET
Miami TV: CBS
Denver 4:25 PM ET
Seattle TV: CBS
Pittsburgh 8:30 PM ET
Carolina TV: NBC
Chicago 8:30 PM ET
Full Scoreboard
Sunday, September 21Full Scoreboard
Columbus «4Final | Box
Buffalo 9/21 5:00 PM ET
Washington TV: CSN-DC, NHL Network
St. Louis 9/21 6:30 PM ET
Calgary 9/21 8:00 PM ET
Edmonton 9/21 8:00 PM ET
Full Scoreboard