Notebook > Sports

Missing out on the madness

Sports | CBS tried to borrow Dick Vitale to broadcast games in the NCAA Tournament, but ESPN refused

Issue: "Broken promises," March 25, 2006

Ironically, March Madness means the retreat of the mad man of college basketball. And it's always been this way. CBS-not ESPN-has the broadcast rights for the field-of-65 NCAA men's college basketball tournament. That means ESPN basketball commentator Dick Vitale will fade from game coverage and into his tournament role as a studio analyst for the cable network.

Not that CBS didn't try this year to lure the spastic Mr. Vitale to the sidelines for the tournament. CBS asked to borrow the basketball icon for a few games during 2006's tournament. But ESPN refused-a decision that the see-no-evil Mr. Vitale predictably refused to criticize. "Early in my career, I might have been [bothered], but I'm 66 years old, I act 12, and whatever my bosses want, I'll do it," said Mr. Vitale, who has never broadcast an NCAA tournament game. "I'm on so much, on so many shows, that I'm on the air more than the guys who do the games."

Of course ESPN's reluctance ruined the chance for a fantasy matchup of differing broadcast styles. Imagine the tension should ESPN have paired the unstoppable force of Mr. Vitale's sunshine reality with the immovable object of play-by-play man Billy Packer's hardened realism. And maybe that's why Mr. Vitale's positive-at-all-costs broadcast style works better in the regular season where a future tournament means hope can spring eternal. After all, teams get eliminated during March Madness. What would Mr. Vitale say about that?

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Around the Horn

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