Monday, February 15, 1999


Dickie V. uses image to impart knowledge

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dick Vitale signs fake bald head worn by Xavier senior Matt Abens.
(Michael E. Keating photo)

| ZOOM |
        When Dick Vitale comes to town to do a basketball game, he instantly becomes part of the show. Vitale, the veteran screamer for ESPN and ABC, may be the best known figure in college basketball.

        So when he came to Cincinnati Gardens on Sunday to do the Xavier-Temple game for ABC, you had Vitale signs, you had students wearing fake Vitale bald domes, you had people lining up to get Vitale's autograph.

        But once the ball's in the air, Vitale settles into his role of analyst, and he's still a good one.

        He said early in the broadcast that Xavier had to make threes to win.

        “Six of seven teams that beat Temple made 11 threes,” he said. “The other, Indiana, made nine.”

        Xavier ended up making eight threes. But the game turned after Maurice McAfee started hitting three-pointers.

        Vitale clearly knows Xavier. Throughout the broadcast he told you something about almost every team in the Atlantic 10. He also talked about the UC-Xavier game and Miami's Wally Szczerbiak.

        Vitale's partner, Brent Musberger, was good for the most part. But he made the inexcusable mistake of mispronouncing Xavier coach Skip Prosser's name — he said PROZ-zer — every time he said it.

        Vitale got Prosser's name right, and most everything else.

        He slipped into his “Oh baby ...” schtick a couple of times and he hammed it up when he did a promo for tonight's ESPY Awards, but for the most part he was solid.

        The thing I like about Vitale is he has fun with it. He spent as much time talking about McAfee blowing kisses to the crowd as he did breaking down plays.

        For all his fame and fortune, Vitale is smart enough not to take himself or the game too seriously.

        He disagreed with a referee's call at one point then added, “Then again, I'm sitting over here and I got one eye. The ref's right on top of it, and he's got two.”

        Musberger said Vitale makes his job easy.

        “He's the best,” Musberger said. “I don't have to do much work. I don't have to talk. I just have to be a good listener.”

        Vitale has a grinding schedule. He did Duke's game in Durham, N.C., Saturday afternoon, flew to Cincinnati on Saturday night and left for New York immediately after the game for the ESPYs tonight.

        “The thing I don't like is going to all the different climates,” he said. “But April 1 it's over. I don't know if I could do it year-round.”

        Vitale did the Duke game, despite having a temperature of 102. The team doctors gave him some medicine and the fever broke. He felt well enough to have dinner at Morton's on Saturday night.

        “They treated us like royalty, rolled out the red carpet ...,” said Vitale, subtly slipping into Dickie V. speak. “You've got to love it. I'm living the life. I'm stealing money getting paid to do this ...”

        VITALE ON XU: Vitale liked what he saw from Xavier.

        “They're definitely an NCAA team,” he said. “You didn't see their strength today. They like to run and score in transition. You get none of that against Temple.”

        BAD MOVE: Channel 9 has cut sports from its 5:30 p.m. newscast on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Sports still gets its three minutes and 15 seconds on Tuesday and Wednesday because it is a sponsored segment.

        The 5:30 sports report was almost always a feature segment by John Popovich. Popo's features are always first-rate, so they'll be missed.

        John Fay covers TV/radio for the Enquirer. He can be reached at 768-8445.


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