But does Dicky Vee know basketball? "Absolutely," says ESPN studio host Bob Ley. "You just have to listen for it."
"Hard to say," says Keady. "He's pretty good on defense. But offense has passed him by."
"If Dick Vitale knew more about basketball," Oklahoma's Tubbs once said, "he'd still be coaching in the NBA instead of making an ass out of himself on ESPN."
Not that Adidas really cares. Out of the whole giant pool of slam-dunking millionaires in the nation, the shoe company picked Vitale to be its main endorser. He now stars in Adidas's "Adventures in Dickland" series. "We think Dick is the most recognizable personality in the game," says Adidas executive Sonny Vaccaro. "And I'm including coaches."
Nobody at Adidas cares much about the Vitale Ceiling, either. The Vitale Ceiling is what most Americans seem to hit just after age 30, when they suddenly realize how much Advil they need to sit through a Dicky Vee game. All that ranting, replaced occasionally by all that raving, really gets to the sinuses. With Vitale, every game is Armageddon, and Armageddon is a little much after you've had to deal with the damned Hibbings account all day. Of course, how much perspective do you want from a guy with one eye?
"I like him," says Boston Globe basketball writer Bob Ryan. "College basketball owes him a huge debt. But what he says is absolute, 100-percent bull."
No matter. Dickland continues to annex territory. Ronnie Henderson, the LSU roundball star, was in an airport recently when he ran into Billy Packer, the distinguished longtime CBS basketball analyst. Henderson, though, couldn't quite place the face. "I know you're on TV," said a puzzled Henderson, "but you're not Dick Vitale."
Packer is on network TV. Vitale is not, except for 15 games a year on ABC. Packer has called a lifetime of Final Fours. Vitale has called zero. Packer is an astute teacher of the game. Vitale tries to fit the game in between tonight's list of All-Diaper Dandies and his signature bellows. And yet Vitale owns the kids.
Because Vitale in person is so eminently likable, no broadcaster will publicly criticize him, but how's your between-the-lines reading? McGuire says some announcers work too many games: "That would be very, very difficult for me. Then your work becomes more charades than true enthusiasm. More of an Ed Sullivan kind of thing, with a lot of applause signs going off."
Packer thinks some announcers lose track of the game itself: "It's like refereeing. You're a good referee when you do the game, and afterward people say, 'Now that was a helluva game. Who reffed it?' It's the same with a broadcaster. You're a good broadcaster when they turn the TV off and say, 'Now that was a helluva game. Who called it?' "