Hopefully by the time the IHRSA show rolls around in March in sunny San Diego, ESPN's Dick Vitale will still be a featured speaker there. According to reports, he should be back on the airwaves by February after undergoing throat surgery today to remove ulcers on his left vocal cord.
Last month, I was really looking forward to hearing Rick Reilly speak at the Athletic Business show in Orlando, but he bailed after announcing he was leaving Sports Illustrated for ESPN. When I heard the news of Vitale today, I was thinking I was going to be disappointed again.
Fortunately, it appears Vitale will be back to full strength or close to full strength. Of all the ailments a person could have, how cruel is it to have someone like Vitale, who yells and screams through your TV during college basketball season at rock concert decibels, be silenced for a period of time?
Say what you want about Dickie V., but he puts on a great show with an impassioned speech when he's on the public speaking circuit. Jennipher Shaver has heard him live at the AB show before, and I've seen only a sample of his work on TV as he addressed a group of high school All-American basketball players. He puts his heart and soul into every word he says.
Vitale's voice has been noticeably weaker over the last year and a half. On the few times when I've heard him on TV, you can barely hear him over the crowd at the game.
I took in a Missouri basketball game last month at the new Sprint Center in Kansas City, and Vitale was there as a commentator. Even sitting way up in the nosebleed seats (hey, they were $5 a pop), you could see how immensely popular Vitale still is, almost 30 years after he called his first game for ESPN. As time was winding down during halftime, Vitale came back on the court, but not before signing and posing for every picture he could. The guard next to Vitale was helpless as he tried to escort him to his seat before tip-off.
Vitale made it back just in time. Let's hope he still makes it to the IHRSA show, too. Even at below full strength, it's still worth it to hear him give it everything he's got.