I’m sick of hearing about Barry Bonds. In my opinion, he’s a Giant (pun intended) piece of crap, and before he touches Ruth’s or Aaron’s home run record, I hope his steroidal body disintegrates into either 714 or 755 bionic pieces. Pick up the current Sports Illustrated dated March 13; as the cover states, it confirms “The Truth” about this juiced-up fraud and his drug regimen, as does the newly-released book "Game Of Shadows" that chronicles Bonds' doping activities. And as long as we're on the subject of dope, don't look for Bud Selig to do much about it; he never has. Hey, why should he; home runs sell tickets, even though the ethical standards of the game suck. Nod once if you fully understand how I really feel about Barry Bonds and Bud Selig.
“I ain’t in a slump. I’m just not hitting.” Yogi Berra.
It’s that time again, basketball fans. March Madness is about to relieve me of my sports boredom. Teams/brackets/seeds will be announced on Sunday. Here’s to the U. of Memphis getting a #1 seed and going deep into the tournament. Coach John Calipari has done a great job there in both recruiting and coaching. And the Fed Ex Forum is as first class as it gets. If you get to Memphis, take a tour of this magnificent basketball palace, home to the U. of Memphis Tigers and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies as well. It’s downtown, and right near Beale St. for the best in blues and bbq and beautiful Southern women.
I love Jackie Mason. If you don’t love Jackie Mason, you’re not Jewish. My thanks to my friend, Cindy Joseph, for this vintage Jackie Mason take on sports:
I never saw a Jew getting into meaningless fights. That’s why you seldom see Jewish football players. A Jew is not going to take a chance on spraining his neck or tearing a ligament in his knee just to fight with somebody over a football. He would rather go to a store and buy another ball, and avoid the whole problem.
There are no Jewish hockey players. Hockey players spend all their time hitting one another in the mouth with sticks. When Jews saw how Gentiles play hockey, Jews determined that instead of becoming hockey players, they would rather become dentists, and by doing so they could make a profit from it.
I have a football theory, and I’ve professed it for years, and often on this site. It is “Offense is pretty, but defense wins.” It’s an obvious oversimplification, but look at the Super Bowl winners the last several years:
Regular Season Winner Defensive Rank Offensive Rank
2000 Ravens 1 14
2001 Patriots 6 6
2002 Bucs 1 18
2003 Patriots 1 12
2004 Patriots 2 4
2005 Steelers 3 9
I believe it’s safe to state: THE DEFENSE FOR DEFENSE RESTS!
Story of the Week
In light of March Madness being so imminent, the subject of this week’s feature story is absolutely perfect. After all, Dick Vitale is the recognized king of March Madness.
College basketball’s season arrives quietly with this tournament and that tournament. But Dick Vitale is its town crier, jolting you from your favorite chair with one of his trademark outbursts. “Wow! I’m all excited! Coach K and Tommy Izzo! Unbelievable! Two of the great programs in college hoops! It’s been a Hostess special! Cupcake City! They’ve blown away the opposition, but now it’s chemistry time. It’s awesome, baby!”
He is adored by players otherwise too cool to care, imitated more widely than any sportscaster since the incomparable Cosell, and muted by many a fan who would rather not be that wide awake. But after more than 26 years and 1,000+ games, Vitale has become the face of college basketball.
Vitale’s hold on people, particularly young people, is extraordinary. Why? “Because he is completely genuine,” said Dan Shulman, one of his ESPN broadcast partners. His shtick made him famous, but his relationships with players and coaches, his ability to cut to the essence of X’s and O’s, and his exuberance have made it last.
Anybody who thinks he’s putting on an act is crazy. He does get that excited. He’s speaking from his heart. He’s not afraid of saying something that might be controversial. And he’s usually right on target.
Per Howie Schwab, Vitale’s lifeline and a coordinating producer in studio production for ESPN, “Dick is great. He has an amazing memory. He can dictate a website column…………………without notes.”
Vitale flies on a private jet, a perk of his success. He works 60+ games a year, and ESPN pays for a first-class commercial fare. Vitale pays the difference with money from speaking engagements. “The only work in my work is the travel. The games I do are play. So if I can cut down on travel time, I do.”
Vitale lives with his wife of 35 years in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. in a 13,000-square-foot home. His office sports a large-screen TV along with two smaller screen sets. It’s not entirely the house that ESPN built. He earns $45,000+ per speech, has written seven books, and has a website where fans can buy all kinds of autographed everything. I’m going to buy his alarm clock; it wakes you to the sound of Vitale shouting his signature phrases.
After a college basketball coaching stint, he went to the pros. He says he owes his great modern-day success to two men. One is Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, who ended Vitale’s coaching career in 1979 after he had lost 60 of 94 games. The other was Scotty Connal, the ESPN exec who hired him. Vitale has stated that he would not have lived past 50 had he remained in coaching.
Dick Vitale is 66 years young. He is in the second year of yet another five-year contract with ESPN. And he states that he absolutely has no plans to quit, which is obviously music to his employer’s ears............and mine. I am not a great fan of college basketball until March Madness rolls around or the University of Memphis is on the tube, but music to my ears is Vitale “waxing poetic, baby.” He is loaded with energy and enthusiasm, data and fact, and a most unique style of delivery. I love Vitale; he makes it all exciting and interesting.
Unlike other Halls of Fame, the Basketball Hall of Fame does not have a media wing, and until Chick Hearn was enshrined in 2003, no media member had been inducted. Many top-name college coaches are pushing for Vitale to be enshrined. After all, he has been the game’s biggest promoter for many years, and is sport’s most recognizable voice. Dickie V. deserves it! He’s awesome, baby!
Last Week’s Trivia
John Madden has the highest winning percentage of all time among NFL coaches. At 103-32-7, he is at 76.3%, tops in NFL history. He’s now an award-winning TV commentator and analyst who knows what he’s talking about. John Madden will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this year, and rightfully so.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was the first black National League MVP? Who was the first black American League MVP? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.