When the 2022 Men’s NCAA Tournament starts in March, it’ll be the first time fans will be back in the stands as teams will be playing in venues across the country since 2019. The 2021 tournament took place in a bubble in Indiana, and the 2020 tourney was canceled. However, I want to pitch an idea for the 2023 Men’s Tournament — the combo of Dick Vitale and Gus Johnson calling some games.
Earlier this week, Vitale announced that he’s shutting it down for the rest of the season as he needs more rest and will eventually need surgery after being diagnosed with dysplasia on his vocal cords. Over the last year, Vitale has already endured multiple surgeries to remove melanoma, had been diagnosed with lymphoma, and needed to step away to rest.
“So, while I’m heartbroken that I won’t appear on ESPN for the rest of this season, I’m encouraged by the progress,’’ wrote Vitale. “In fact, it appears that by resting my voice for the past three weeks, I’ve reduced the inflammation by 60 percent. Let’s hope the added rest will help it heal some more, and things will look even better when I go for my next follow-up visit on Feb. 16. Once the inflammation heals, we will set a date for surgery.
“My throat’s condition is clearly moving in the right direction, and Dr. Z. is very optimistic that this can be successfully treated to have me strong for the 2022-23 season on ESPN.”
The Hall of Famer made his first call of the season in November when he worked the UCLA/Gonzaga game. It was a very emotional night.
Since Vitale has spent his entire career as a sportscaster with ESPN, it means he’s never had a chance to call a March Madness game on TV outside of working radio for the event. And at the age of 82 — along with his positive outlook of returning next season — it’s time that the networks rectify that and give Dickie V a chance to work some of the tournament games on CBS. But, to do that, Vitale would need a play-by-play man to partner with, which is why CBS should figure out a way to join Vitale with Gus Johnson to create the most exciting duo to ever call a game in the history of college basketball.
In case you forgot, nobody did March Madness like Gus Johnson. There’s even been a soundboard created for his calls.
Johnson left CBS for FOX back in 2011, which means he hasn’t called an NCAA tournament game in over a decade. He does get to call a few games throughout the season with FOX. But, that’s not good enough. We need Vitale and Johnson calling the tournament on CBS. And I’m not the only person that feels that the networks should make similar deals like this. The Athletic’s media reporter Richard Deitsch has been calling for ESPN and Turner to figure out a way to pair Vitale with Charles Barkley for years.
Back in 2016, ESPN and Turner found a way to make sure that Craig Sager worked an NBA Finals game, as it was the one thing he’d never done since his network didn’t have the rights to the NBA’s season finale. A few months later, Sager passed away from cancer — the same disease that Vitale has battled. And if that isn’t a reason for CBS, ESPN, and FOX to figure something out to get the voice of college basketball on the screen of the sport’s biggest event, then I don’t know what is.