It has been three months since we last saw a jubilant Dick Vitale turning up the volume to 11 in celebration of a Tampa-based professional sports team doing extraordinary things. But it was worth the wait. As the final seconds of the Buccaneers' victory over the New Orleans Saints ticked away Sunday night, ESPN's college basketball icon was locked and loaded with a flag and enough energy to wake up half a collegiate dorm on a hangover Saturday.
This remains entirely endearing and a rare bright spot in what's been a difficult year as a sports fan and a human being. The very notion that he finds it necessary to introduce himself as Dick Vitale delights me in such an oddly specific way. And just when you think he's losing steam after trying to get a few one-man chants going, the 81-year-old busts out some deft footwork, pantomiming passes and form tackles.
And yeah, I am admittedly fully in the tank for this guy as a fan. His dogged support of the Tampa Bay Rays through thick and thin is extremely admirable and 100 percent authentic. He finds a way to pull for his team without pulling down the other and is constantly capable of finding an optimistic and pure headspace.
It's been a good year for him and his local ballclubs and — this may sound stupid — it's really been a joy to watch from afar. One of the really wholesome and odd-upon-reflection things about sports is that you can find yourself adopting a buddy's favored team come playoff time. For instance, my longtime best friend has always — for no real reason — been a Buffalo Bills diehard. Ergo, it's easy to pull for Josh Allen's incredible arm and Stefon Diggs' fleet feet right now.
I suppose that's what's going on with Vitale. Even though Tom Brady is, in my mind, not exactly an easy athlete to pull for, knowing that yesterday's result made this person I'm familiar with on television THIS happy brings me a level of joy.
Now, if only the transient Toronto-Tampa Raptors could get their act together.