If having baseball’s Opening Day wiped out or learning that The Masters and the Indianapolis 500 are on indefinite hold saddened sports fans, just try being Dick Vitale right now.
The man who is so synonymous with college basketball that some people swear he must have invented the game, is trying to cope with having nothing to do this weekend – the scheduled conclusion of the NCAA Tournament.
Dick Vitale should be in Atlanta this weekend
There are normally two truisms about the first week of April: People finally get serious about pulling together the information they need to file their taxes and Dick Vitale is on radio or television almost 24/7 talking about the NCAA Tournament as the college basketball season wraps up.
With coronavirus having struck, neither is true now. The tax filing deadline has been pushed back to July 15 and Dick Vitale has scarcely moved from his home when he should be in Atlanta this weekend for the Final Four.
Instead of doing his usual segments for ESPN, Vitale and his wife Lorraine shot a home video his week showing him vacuuming the pool at his Florida home.
“Then she had the nerve to say to me, ‘Hey, Dick, tomorrow we can scrub some of the wooden floors in the house,’” he told the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota.
Vitale, 80, landed at ESPN shortly after being fired as the Detroit Pistons coach early in the 1979-80 season and quickly attracted a following for his work as a color analyst on college basketball games, an early staple for the network at a time when other major sports were locked into contracts with the traditional broadcast networks.
The cancellation of most conference tournaments and then the NCAA Tournament ended Vitale’s season earlier than almost any year in the past half-century
“Usually this is the most exciting time of the year for somebody like me who makes their living talking about basketball. There is nothing like the three weeks and the journey to the national champion. I believe it’s the greatest three weeks in all of sports.”Dick Vitale
Coronavirus weighs on Dick Vitale’s mind
Dick Vitale told a reporter that the coronavirus pandemic has left him and his wife scared for the first time in a long time because of the higher risk to older adults. They’ve stopped visiting favorite restaurants and instead cook at home.
Vitale says he washes his hands frequently throughout the day and has scarcely played tennis recently. He watches his grandchildren play sports from his car.
To show just how concerned Vitale is, one of the most outgoing and accessible media personalities ever says he recently declined a fan’s request to have a picture taken together.
The one thing that must happen for him to return to work
Dick Vitale does a major benefit each spring on behalf of the V Foundation and pediatric cancer treatment. The 15th annual gala scheduled for May 8 was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, he’s hopeful that the event will take place Sept. 4, and Vitale and his wife have set a goal of raising $5 million – a 25% increase over last year.
Even if continuing problems associated with the pandemic force another postponement, the fundraiser will take place at some point.
Vitale remains under contract with ESPN, but he has placed one condition on his return to arenas to work games or to walk into stadiums to watch his beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’ll be honest with you, right now, as much as I love sports, whether it would be a basketball arena, a football stadium or a baseball stadium, I’m not going to go unless I hear Dr. (Anthony) Fauci or somebody of that character and quality, say it is safe as can be.”Dick Vitale