Sad news today for college basketball fans. The #1 flag-waver of the sport, ESPN's Dick Vitale is taking a leave of absence due to his on-going throat problems. The problems require surgery to his vocal cords. Now we have been very critical of Dickie V's schtick on the air. I've said several times his act is tired. But one thing you cannot argue is that nobody loves the college game more than he does. He is college basketball. Nobody has done more to promote than game. The goal is for Dickie V to be back on the sidelines calling games by February. Here's hoping he gets back full strength and has a speedy recovery. Not many people have the enthusiasm for the game that we do, but Vitale exceeds us tenfold.
He wrote an open letter to his fans on espn.com today. Here it is:
To: My favorite people, all of the fans who make college basketball special!
From: Dick Vitale
During the past month and a half, I have had a very difficult time with discomfort in my throat. Personally, I want to apologize to all of the fans and all of the beautiful people at ESPN who have been fantastic to me during my 29 years working at the network.
I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people, especially my current teammates, Dan Shulman, Doris Burke, coordinating producer Dan Steir and director Doug Holmes, whom have all been so understanding and supportive.
The past six weeks have been very emotional for me and for my family as we've visited some of the most outstanding throat specialists. Fortunately, I am currently under the guidance of Dr. Daniel Deems in Sarasota, Fla. and he is an outstanding ear, nose and throat specialist. Dr. Deems strongly recommended that I visit Dr. Steven Zeitels, who is recognized as one of the premier throat and voice specialists in the nation.
Dr. Zeitels serves as the director for the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. After an examination, it was determined that I had lesions on my left vocal cord and that they should be surgically removed. Dr. Zeitels said his goal is to have me back sitting at courtside in early February.
There is nothing professionally that I love better than sharing insights about the players and coaches that make college basketball so unique. I can't wait to get back with all my colleagues at ESPN. Visiting college campuses and interacting with the fans has kept me so young and energized. I can't wait to get back out there, having a blast with all of you, who are so vital to our game.
I am so proud to have started at ESPN back in 1979, where I have met so many beautiful people who have been so kind and fair to me and my family. Now more than ever, I have seen how special the people at ESPN are, starting with president George Bodenheimer, as they have genuinely been fantastic to me in dealing with this little bump in the road.
Once again, happy holidays to each and every one of you. Thanks so much for your tremendous support during my tenure with ESPN. I will be updating my Web site with basketball tidbits concerning the various teams, players and coaches during my rehabilitation process. This is already a dynamite hoop season and I cannot wait for March Madness.
P.S.: If you want to lend me a helping hand, go to dickvitaleonline.com and during this holiday season, help me assist kids that are battling cancer by making a donation to the V Foundation in memory of Payton Wright. You can send a check in care of the V Foundation and mail it to Tandem Enterprises, 7810 Mathern Court, Lakewood Ranch, Fla. 34202. Or you can call (800) 4-JIMMYV and please indicate that your donation is in memory of Payton Wright.
My goal is to raise $1 million for the Payton Wright research grant to help kids battling cancer.