Get ready, Dick Vitale to call NCAA
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
After being the most recognizable TV voice in his sport, Dick Vitale onSaturday will finally sit courtside to call NCAA basketball tournament action for the first time.
But if you’re live in the USA — where CBS/Turner coverage owns the NCAA TV rights — you won’t see him call the Wichita State-Louisville game, nor Monday night’s title matchup.
You can, however, if you cross the border and watch from Mexico and Canada.
Vitale, alongside announcer Brad Nessler, will call the action for ESPN’s international feed. Meaning, viewers in 150 countries will be repeatedly exposed to idiosyncratic renditions of “Awesome-baby!”
It almost makes sense the world will finally be exposed to Vitale. (Although overseas viewers won’t hear him on Michigan-Syracuse — Nessler and Jay Bilas call that game.)
Vitale tells USA TODAY Sports he’s not going to cut back on any catchphrases just because viewers in lots of new time zones might not know what to make of them. “It’s carried me for 34 years,” he says. “I say this humorously, but think about it. Some people think I’m loud, that I talk a lot. But I must be doing something right. I can’t go anywhere without people yelling, “Do I need a T.O., baby?’ ”
Since joining ESPN in its first year in 1979, Vitale has always worked ESPN’s NCAA tournament studio shows. Depending how far ESPN’s on-site studios were from courts, he sometimes watched first-half action live if he then had time to hustle back to the set. Now, he says, fans stopping him for autographs or pictures pretty much make such scrambles impractical.
Vitale, 73, says producers would tell him he was connecting with viewers in his early ESPN years but he didn’t really believe it — “I didn’t even know what they meant” — until, in 1983, he first attended a Final Four for ESPN. He saw he was widely recognized. “That’s about when things took off for me and I thought maybe I should stay in this instead of chasing the golden dream of getting back into college coaching.”
Vitale, looking back, thinks it was a pretty smart move to join the fledgling ESPN … [For more on Hiestand: Get ready world, Dick Vitale to call NCAA, click here.]