ESPN college basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale is still going strong at 76, and his enthusiasm’s unabated, but he might not still be working if it wasn’t for Dr. Steven Zeitels. On an episode of syndicated interview show In Depth With Graham Bensinger that’s set to air this weekend, Vitale told Bensinger that a mid-2000s health scare meant he might not still have his voice without the help of the famed doctor, who’s worked with Adele, Steven Tyler, Lionel Richie and many others. Here’s a transcription, via Daniel O’Leary of The New York Daily News:
“I went through a tough period. Only a couple people knew about it, really. That I was going through a major throat problem. I mean major,” Vitale tells Bensinger in the interview. “There came a point where I came very close, very close, I thought maybe it was over. The party was over.”
The problem began in the mid-2000s and it got so bad for Vitale, he says he used to cry before games.
“I couldn’t get words out,” he said. “It was a struggle. I mean a struggle.”
…Vitale had something called called dysplasia – lesions on his throat that were precancerous.
After surgery, he couldn’t speak for about a month. While he’s back talking up a storm now, he no longer calls doubleheaders or does games on back-to-back nights, he says.
Vitale also says he meets regularly with a vocal coach to do tongue-twisters and other exercises.
“Some of the stuff that I do, you’d be hysterical,” he said. “The skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk… It’s comical… But we do these regularly. We’ve been doing them for 7-8 years now, and it works. It’s unbelievable.”
Here’s a clip previewing the interview:
Vitale also discusses his career, his time at ESPN, his memories of Jim Valvano, his childhood injury, and much more. The full interview can be seen this weekend on Bensinger’s syndicated show. Here’s where to watch it.