It was announced yesterday (sort of) that Dickie V will not, for the first time in over 35 years, call the Duke/UNC game when the Tarheels make the 10 mile trek from Chapel Hill to Durham tomorrow evening.
Which is outrageous.
I remember the first time I saw Dickie V with my own eyes. I'd waited all day outside the graduate student entrance of Cameron Indoor in hopes of getting a good-enough spot for my first Duke v. Carolina game. I already had a ticket, it's the standing space I waited for. And I waited. And waited. And waited.
I ended up standing next to a few semi-drunken grad students from (probably) the business program and exchanging skin cells with the 5 other people lodged beside me. But even in the midst of that horrid experience, it was that night that I peered up into the rafters of Cameron Indoor and saw him: the man they say created the college basketball hype.
The next year my friends and I wised up and waited days instead of hours outside the graduate student entrance. The floor--to stand on the floor--was our goal. When we stood outside Cameron rubbing our hands together just to keep warm, up pulled a jet-black escalade. From its dark interior with media and fan attention to rival Taylor Swift, there he came. Jovial, outgoing, loud, and hilarious from the very first step out of that vehicle.
Dickie V wanted to be with the fans, the Crazies, in a way no other tv announcer had done before. He held our signs, took picture after picture, handed out autograph after autograph, and made sure to make eye contact with every single Crazie who simply wanted to see him.
Once we entered Cameron on that day, we had hours to wait on the court until the game began. He came by handing out autographs and taking pictures, making sure we knew that he knew how dedicated this fanbase is. It was that day that he pointed at me, as I was decked out in a Cameron Crazie shirt and my ridiculous Duke hat, smiled and said, "I love your hat." Thumbs up, too. Day. Made.
So yeah, ESPN, you could say I'm bummed that you'd pull him from this broadcast. No matter how good Shulman and Bilas are (and they are good), Dickie V is a lot more than just a broadcaster. Dickie V is a Crazie hero. And he's a Tarheel hero too. And a Wildcat hero too. He's a college basketball hero.
Dickie V makes college basketball what it is. And, to pull him from a broadcast such as tomorrow night's is not only the end of an era, it's a signal to the student bodies of these remarkable universities that ESPN's relationship with the students isn't as important as they thought it was.
Please, ESPN. Fly Vitale to Durham. The Blue Devil Nation will thank you. America will thank you.