Saturday, December 16, 2017

No more Mr. Nice Guy for Vitale

Who says Dick Vitale doesn't have a temper? He does when he has had enough and, he is very clear about this: He has had enough.

The ESPN college basketball analyst has heard the criticism for years that he has a bias toward Duke. In fact, some take his nickname "Dickie V" and twist it into "Dukie V."

"Don't get me started," an agitated Vitale said. "I have kept this in for years, but I'm not keeping it in anymore. I tell all those (critics), 'Go to the tape.' "

Well, the Wall Street Journal did just that. It reviewed five Duke games that Vitale called over the past two seasons and analyzed more than 1,100 of his comments. The article seemed to imply that Vitale did favor Duke, but the numbers didn't exactly add up to such a bias.

Of Vitale's comments, the WSJ determined that 13 percent of Vitale's comments were "positively gushy" about Duke. Then again, 11 percent of the comments favored Duke's opponents. Perhaps that 2 percent difference, which is hardly a difference at all, can be explained by the fact that the sample included more Duke wins and more Duke home games than losses and road games.

There's more. The sample also included Ryan Kelly's 36-point performance against Miami on March 2, as well as last year's incredible Duke-North Carolina thriller when Duke's Austin Rivers hit a winning 3-pointer at the buzzer for a one-point victory.

"This is so absurd," Vitale, 73, said. "I'm fair. I'm objective. You don't last 34 years not being fair."

Vitale added that he certainly isn't going to apologize for the times he does gush about Duke.

"Do I praise Duke? Damn right I praise Duke because they deserve to be praised," Vitale said. "What is there not to praise about a coach (Mike Krzyzewski) who wins the Olympic gold medal (twice), world championships, Hall of Fame? The team is a standard that others want to follow. They graduate their players."

Vitale also points out that he doesn't shy away from criticizing Duke when the Blue Devils lose, like when they suffered a 27-point loss to Miami on Jan. 23.

"I ripped Duke like you couldn't believe when they got blasted by Miami," Vitale said. "So enough of that. I'm done with it. … It has hit a button with me because it's so easy for a guy to say, 'Oh, he loves Duke.' Well, I do a lot of Duke games. Why do I do a lot of Duke games? Ask my bosses. You know why? They are the most-watched team in college basketball."

Thumbs-up/ thumbs-down

Three of each for the sports world from the past week:


1. Bill Simmons. The ESPN columnist and analyst is back on Twitter after the network ridiculously suspended him from using the social network site for three days because he used it to criticize a segment on ESPN's dumb First Take show. Heck, it should've given him a raise for speaking the truth.

2. Wil Myers. The Rays prospect is showing major-league class for how he is handling starting the season in the minors.

3. Dominican Republic. What a joy to see its baseball players jumping around like little kids at the World Baseball Classic — all for the true love of the game.


1. Big East breakup. What a shame that the Georgetown-Syracuse Big East basketball rivalry has come to an end because of all this annoying conference realignment.

2. College basketball uniforms. What's the point of those goofy neon-colored camouflage uniforms all these teams are wearing? Does anyone like these LSD-induced nightmares?

3. Umpire Angel Hernandez. Good to see that he is just as bad calling balls and strikes in the World Baseball Classic as he is during the major-league season.

Best fans

Who has the best college basketball fans in the country? One list would suggest that it's Louisville, Ky. For the 11th consecutive year, Louisville was the highest-rated market for ESPN's regular-season college basketball telecasts. It was followed by two North Carolina markets: Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham. Rounding out the top 10: Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; and a tie between Knoxville, Tenn. and Nashville. Tampa Bay did not make the list of the top 25.

This season, by the way, was the most-watched in ESPN history. The network averaged 1.37 million viewers for more than 135 games, slightly better than the previous record of 1.35 million set for 130 games last season.

Final Four flip

In 2010, CBS and Turner Sports signed a 14-year deal to share the telecasts for the NCAA Tournament. Under the terms, Turner was supposed to begin televising the Final Four starting in 2016. However, there is an option in the contract to begin rotating the Final Four telecasts starting in 2014. While no decision has been made, there are strong rumors that Turner will air the Final Four next year.

Already, college football's title game is on cable (ESPN) and college basketball could switch to cable (either TNT or TBS) for its championship game.

Random thoughts

The NBA releases a statement saying a foul should've been called against the Hawks' Dahntay Jones for the play in which the Lakers' Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle. You think the NBA would have released the same statement if Jones had bumped into, say, J.J. Redick or Chauncey Billups or anyone not named Kobe or LeBron James? … It was 45 years ago today that Kathy Whitworth won the St. Petersburg Orange Blossom Women's Open at the old Sunset Golf and Country Club, which is now the Vinoy. … Gonzaga might very well be the best men's basketball team in the country, but based on its rather weak schedule, I don't see how it gets a No. 1 seed ahead of the top teams in the Big East, Big Ten and ACC, who seem to play a tough team at least once a week.

tom jones' two cents


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