Never let it be said that Dick Vitale doesn’t have the courage of his convictions. Late Monday, calling Kansas-West Virginia alongside Bob Wischusen from Phog Allen Fieldhouse, ESPN’s cameras caught some Jayhawks fans checking out early, and Vitale went in on them.
In a time and score vacuum, it wasn’t an unreasonable decision. Kansas trailed by 14 with 2:43 remaining. But in context, his point was somewhat valid: Kansas is ranked #3 in the nation, they were playing at home, and they had free throws coming.
Here’s what Vitale said in that first clip:
“People leaving early! People leaving early, I can’t believe it! What are these Jayhawk fans doing? Aww…all the quality basketball they’ve given ’em over the years you stay here and support these kids! Look at these people leaving! I cannot believe it.
Aw, Gus, my producer, what’s going on here? People exiting! Call ’em back! They can’t do that, walk out on the kids! Can’t be just a frontrunner!”
He kind of had a point! 2:43 is a long time left in a game, despite the odds. Had there been thirty seconds left, then sure, try to beat the traffic. But, still, what could possibly go wrong (or right, in a team sense) for those Kansas fans?
“Oh…oh…there’s magic in the air! Allen Fieldhouse! The Phog! The Phog! All you people in the parking lot, what are you thinking? What are you thinking?! They should revoke their tickets! Get ’em back!”
And Vitale was not letting go of this one, as Kansas continued an epic comeback:
Vitale: Those fans, that left…I say SHAME on you. SHAME on you. You’re not a loyal Kansas fan. These kids deserve better. I said it then, and I’ll say it now. Played their hearts out. A lot of people, you saw, packed their bags, going home.
Wischusen (apparently a bit tired of the ranting): I would say more stayed than left, based on the noise in here right now.
He broke out a shame on you! That’s excellent. Typically, broadcasters telling fans how to be fans is tiresome, but there are a few factors at play here. First, Vitale isn’t cherry picking here. Had Kansas ended up losing by 25, he would have stuck by his assessment.
But moreover, he was wholly vindicated! This isn’t a Freezing Cold Takes situation at all; Kansas pulled out one of the more remarkable comebacks in recent memory, and ended up winning the game in overtime, 84-80.