Last night's Champion Classic featured the four presumed best teams in college basketball and, sadly, heaping doses of sloppy play and whistles. But, as the sport tends to do, it found a way to some final-minute drama. This is a very good thing for fans who have long sought that sweet euphoria of March Madness only to be left wanting as nothing is a true replacement for the real thing.
ESPN smartly split analyst duties between Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale, which allowed the latter to really give it his all. Vitale, now 80-years-old, was his vintage self, delivering his patented 40 Minutes of Yell. And nothing delighted him more than seeing Kentucky freshman Tyrese Maxey sink a three-pointer from the Lower East Side to thwart a Michigan State comeback.
There's that voice. There's that childlike excitement and joy. It's comforting to know that some things never change.
Vitale has remained a constant. His enthusiasm is tough to ignore and it's not for everyone. But one has to give him credit for being true to hisself.
This will come off as a backhanded compliment, I'm sure, but it's earnest: Vitale has managed to hang around so long that I've come around on his whole schtick. Gone from loving it to finding it a bit annoying to enjoying it again. That's staying power, man.
Here's to another decade of screaming and hollering. Vitale's an original and even those who don't want to admit it will miss him when he's gone -- though that doesn't seem like it'll be any time soon.