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

At least one pitcher tried to find some mid-season tenacity during spring training. Not that 25-year-old Chris Duffy needed to be on the receiving end. Mr. Duffy, a Pittsburgh Pirates prospect, fell to 0-2 in an at bat against Boston right-hander Curt Schilling when the veteran sent a high and inside fastball at Mr. Duffy, hitting him in the head and giving him a mild concussion. But it was Mr. Schilling's comments afterwards that really buzzed the Pirates center fielder. "Bottom line is that ball should not have hit him. You've got to be able to get out of the way of that pitch," Mr. Schilling said, also insinuating the Pirates youngster leaned his head into the fastball to get on base (in a spring training game). Mr. Duffy countered: "I don't blame Curt Schilling for what happened because I know he wasn't trying to hit me, . . . but sometimes you've just got to take responsibility. You've got to go about it in a classy way."

Professional golfers don't just carry clubs, balls, and tees in their bag. Some apparently keep some petty cash on hand. During the third round of the Ford Championship, Phil Mickelson used some of his cash to buy back good graces. Mr. Mickelson sent an errant second shot on a par five into the crowd, ricocheting off a spectator's watch. After the shot, Mr. Mickelson went to check on the spectator, giving him an autographed ball and two $100 bills he had pulled out of his golf bag.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko has a new fight: to become mayor of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The 34-year-old international sports star is in a field of 41 candidates, but faces his sternest challenge from the popular incumbent. But polls near the beginning of March showed that Mr. Klitschko had a real chance-either tied or slightly behind the incumbent leading up to the March 26 election.


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