Anyone who contends that sports, and in particular, basketball, is not political is out of their mind. These blind purists must have been asleep when the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony took place this past weekend. As I sat in my Lazy Boy man chair I tuned in to witness a host of greats get their due.
Two of the best centers in basketball history, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing. Check. NBA scoring guru Adrian Dantley. Check. Super coaches Pat Riley and Cathy Rush. Check. Innovator and world class Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson. Check. Annoying big mouth college basketball announcer Dick Vitale. Huh?
Dick Vitale. What in the hell is going on? Surely this must be wrong. As I halfway calmed myself down, I thought maybe it’s a typo or he’s there to present Bill Davidson (who once hired Vitale as a head coach before quickly firing him). This was my reaction because no Hall of Fame committee with half a brain would choose Dick Vitale over basketball greats Artis Gilmore, Chris Mullin, Bernard King and Don Nelson who are still waiting for their call. The only Hall of Fame Dick Vitale should be hallowed in is Duke's or the American Sportscaster Hall of Fame.
Vitale has been enshrined as a contributor to the game, which is a load of crap when you consider this title is also held by Bill Mokray, Pete Newell, John McLendon and James Naismith to name a few. Not only is Vitale not on par with past Inductees who have been deemed contributors, but his election raises more questions than answers.
For example, how is Howard Cosell not in the football or boxing Hall of Fame? He was every bit revered in his day, but the difference between the two is that Cosell, when he spoke, made sense even if you didn’t like what he had to say. Vitale on the other hand is like my 4 year-old grandson who screams and yells to gain attention. And when Vitale does gain my attention his trademark phrases, ”Awesome babeeey” and “PTPer” are comparable to my grandson’s world famous, “I farted”. But in the end I suppose it’s not really Vitale’s fault - it’s ours. We've allowed shady dealings to take place without action while forgotten players from our segregated and troubled past like Dick Barnett, Travis Grant, Bob Hopkins, and countless others from historically black colleges who will never be honored.
These fading legends don't have the backing of the powerhouse ESPN product, who showboat nationally recognized ex-coaches and players, to pitch for them. They have no friends in high places, like Coach K, to use their pull and influence. In the end those much deserving players will remain hardly noticed before disappearing forever. All while Dick Vitale is immortalized. Yeah, life is hard and mostly unfair, but the politics that gave Vitale a free pass into the Hall of Fame just plain SUCKS.