Friday, March 6, 2015

Should Dick Vitale Do The UNC-Duke Game?

The second UNC-Duke game of the season will be upon us tomorrow and, just like the first one, Dick Vitale won't be in attendance.

It is a shame.

Look, there's no one that rolls his eyes at Vitale's shtick more than me.  As a lifelong Tar Heels fan, I've heard the same things over and over and over and over again from Vitale that you could essentially put a soundboard up to the telecast and just hit the corresponding soundbites when needed.

Still, this is Duke-UNC and this game along with Vitale (along with the rise of the Big East in the 1980s) have built up college basketball on this network. Vitale called every big college hoops game on the network, and every UNC-Duke game is seemingly a big one.  Tomorrow's game is as well.  Vitale should be there.

I'm fine with Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas calling the game.  Shulman is big-time and Bilas is not only as smart as they come but he actually played in these games.  But Vitale elevates the atmosphere of it.  As great as their first matchup was (and it was great), it missed having Vitale's voice accompanying it.  It missed Vitale's fan voice.

Look, Vitale hasn't analyzed anything for me in basketball in over 20 years.  He says the same stuff, name drops and goes through the entire breadth of his catchphrases in a two hour time slot.  He doesn't break anything down for me like Bilas or most any other color analyst does anymore.  I don't need him for that.  I need him for the pace.  As much as fans of anyone else outside of Durham or Chapel Hill don't like it, Vitale loves these programs and cherishes this rivalry.  We know ESPN does as well by the fact they hold it dearly and use it to frame a day's worth of programming.

So why make this change?

Vitale is ESPN's college basketball mascot and he's missing for their signature game.

To do it this year is a shame.  With the passing of Dean Smith prior to the first meeting between these two schools, it would've been nice to hear Vitale's thoughts during the game.  To hear Vitale howl as the Blue Devils, then Heels, then Blue Devils go on big runs to take control of the game.  To add his enthusiasm to one of the great atmospheres in all of sport.

Can Vitale still do that?  Yes.  Especially when you add him in with Shulman and Bilas and not just leave him as the lone analyst.

ESPN, just let him.

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