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Q&A: Dick Vitale Talks About Sports, Helping Kids, His New Book And The Pope

There are very few things that leave Dick Vitale speechless. We found two: the Pope and children stricken with cancer and other forms of life threatening illnesses.

Dickie V. took the time this week to tell Big Lead Sports about both as he promotes his ninth book, Dickie V’s ABCs and 1-2-3’s. Unlike his previous published works, this latest is a kid’s book, geared to ages 2-6 to encourage reading and learning, with some audio (of course) from Vitale himself.

The book is currently in its latest printing in time for back to school, with all of his profits going to fight pediatric cancer through “The V Foundation.” With illustrations by Craig Lueck, the book is a great companion for pre-schoolers, although maybe exposing little ones to Vitale at such an early age is not the best of things.

All kidding aside, Big Lead Sports asked Vitale about the reasons for the book, and his thoughts on the latest on the college side as student-athletes head back to campus.

Big Lead Sports: Why did you decide to write a children’s book?

Dick Vitale: I am obsessed with helping battle pediatric cancer. My life has been so blessed. I have five grand kids of my own. We have gone and done so many children’s hospital visits and you see the parents and these kids facing such terrible illnesses and your heart goes out. That’s why every dollar we get for this book will go directly into research, so that maybe there is one young person, one family, whose lives are made easier not just now but forever. That is part of what we all have to do, give back to help kids and that next generation. It’s our legacy. For all the talking we do and the impact we want to make, there is nothing better than seeing the smile on a child’s face. You can’t measure that in any way possible.

BLS: Where does a book like this rank on your priority list of projects?

DV: Very high. We have written so many good books telling the great stories of coaches and athletes and life lessons, both funny and unique and sometimes silly, but this one can make an impact in many ways. First, the funds raised go to the neediest of causes. Second, it is about educating kids in a fun way so that they have a good basis from which to build on. The sounds, the letters, the simple lessons are fun, and if we can make learning fun then we are accomplishing a great deal. The book has gotten good exposure but we need to sell and push more so we can support the worthiest of causes. And that’s my goal: sell the books and raise the money.

BLS: Did you ever think when you were coaching the Detroit Pistons or at the University of Detroit or starting out at ESPN that you would do a kid’s book?

DV: Honestly it was the furthest thing from my mind. You work so hard in the moment, whether it is coaching or preparing for a game, that working with any kids other than your own is not even thought of. However, now I’m older, and I work with people who have great ideas. This book, working with an amazing illustrator like Craig Lueck, was great fun. Craig did the hard work, the work that kids will appreciate. I am here to help out and spread the word.

BLS: You mentioned you just got back from Italy. Anything special happen?

DV: We got an audience with the Pope, which left me speechless. And that’s not an easy thing to do. I was all ready with the big line – “Pope Benedict, you may not be the most popular person in Germany. It’s Dirk Nowitzki of the world champion Mavericks baby!!” – but when we got there I couldn’t speak. He was so gracious, he asked me about my family and what I do and how he can help me, and I asked him to pray for my family and for the kids and for world peace. And yes we kissed the ring. He was awesome, it was the memory of a lifetime. And of course too much pasta on the trip . . . I can’t eat another plate of pasta!

BLS: What do you think about the latest alleged movement of schools?

DV: It is all appalling. Look, I understand Texas A&M’s desire to switch to the SEC, because it’s so tough to compete with Texas and the Longhorn Network and all they have in that state. But some of these other moves being talked about are just so silly. It’s pure greed. Look at the travel time, the lack of rivalries, no commonality of goals or ideas that some schools have, and you have to scratch your head and wonder what people are thinking. There is no loyalty, its lunacy these days. Our book is about helping little kids, but college kids need the help too.

BLS: What do think needs to be done?

DV: They need to be able to be judged fairly in the classroom and on the playing field. In many cases you are dealing with apples and oranges with academic reporting. A 2.5 at one school is different from a 2.5 at another. Some kids are late bloomers, and some never get a chance with the system the way it is now. We need a better system; we need rivalries that make sense. I know it’s a business and the stakes are high, but we need more common sense to make it work, and we don’t have much of that these days. I hope it all works out, because college athletics is still one of the greatest spectacles in sport anywhere.

BLS: Where can people go for more information?

DV: They can find the new book at Amazon, in bookstores and at ascendbooks.com. And they can see the photos of the kids at DickVitaleonline.com. That’s where you get the best sense of what we are doing.

 

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