Dick Vitale is guaranteeing a Tampa Bay Rays' victory tonight in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. He is undeterred by back-to-back season-saving performances from the Houston Astros. How did he come to this conclusion? By consulting the Vitale Bald Dome Index, a proprietary tool he and he alone has access to, 24/7/365. All the more follicle-blessed guys with non-Vitale surnames once again are left to curse their misfortune and shake fists in jealousy.
Vitale is forecasting clutch pitching, defense, and hitting for Kevin Cash's guys. If it comes true, he may celebrate with a nice, refreshing dip in the pool. And while this is all fun and lighthearted, allow me a moment of true sincerity.
Seeing Vitale's loyal, completely authentic love of his local team warms the heart. This is a franchise perhaps properly ridiculed for drawing sad crowds in a lifeless stadium. But that doesn't make the diehards' hearts beat any less intensely or their passion less real. And Vitale is not some Johnny Come Lately hopping onto a bandwagon. The guy is a lifer.
He's been through the analytic wars and constantly trying to outsmart the in-division baseball bluebloods. He's locked into random May games and ubiquitous at The Trop when it's safe for human attendance. The guy lives it. There's not a shred of inauthenticity to be found.
How can a person not enjoy seeing someone who has seen it all explode in such honest, all-consuming joy? It taps into the purist, most pristine angels of our sporting nature. To watch Vitale, perhaps the most energetic and positive sports personality over the past four decades, reach new levels of joy and happiness is pretty special.
I can't be the only one curious to see what would happen if Tampa Bay could capture its first World Series. If only to see what it does to and for the franchise's most famous fan. For now, though, it's fun to enjoy the ride from afar, with a wry and real smile.