Cameron Crazy's praise for Terps was unexpectedly awesome, baby

THE BALTIMORE SUN

THE SHINY PATE, the singsong voice, the veering off on tangents -- they are all part of the package that is Dick Vitale.

But among some college basketball fans -- particularly those of a Maryland stripe (or parquetry or whatever you call the pattern on a Terrapin's shell) -- the ESPN analyst carries the sobriquet of Dukie V. He's supposed to be the burgermeister of Krzyzewski-ville, the devil in a Blue Devil dress, an honorary Cameron Crazy.

However, if you kept your ears and your mind open during ESPN's telecast of the terrific Maryland-Duke game Wednesday night, you might have drawn a different conclusion -- especially if you kept a notepad handy to write down some of what Vitale was saying. By the way, if you were going to do that, you should have told me, because then I could have borrowed your notes instead of having to take my own.

Some samples of Vitale's commentary:

Late in the first half: "Good effort by Maryland so far defensively."

On Maryland's Nik Caner-Medley about midway through the second half: "He's feeling it. I tell you, he's feeling it."

After a fast-break basket by the Terps: "Great job by Maryland in transition and a breakdown by Duke defensively."

More on Caner-Medley: "Caner-Medley showing Mr. [J.J.] Redick he can also tickle the twine."

On Maryland's effort: "A lot of heart and a lot of guts."

On Terps coach Gary Williams: "Look at that intensity. What a winner!"

After the win was secured: "You really got to salute Gary Williams."

Vitale and play-by-play man Mike Patrick were critical of several questionable officiating calls, pointing out some that should have gone Maryland's way. Vitale also questioned throughout the game why Duke wasn't trying to get the ball inside more to Shelden Williams and cited this failure as a reason the Blue Devils couldn't pull away.

We also got the non-linear segues of praise for the Terps' Chris McCray leading to mention of a similar Syracuse player leading to hosannas for Orange coach Jim Boeheim. And out of nowhere, Vitale was talking about Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and a charitable donation he'd made. Not to mention the constant references to other games and teams not on the court.

However, that's the Vitale approach, and it's carried him through 25 years of calling games for ESPN. And you Terps fans, maybe you should give him a break.

As for someone who is unabashedly biased -- and Maryland fans love him for it -- there is longtime radio voice Johnny Holliday. He has been at it for 26 years and maybe he has to correct himself more often these days, but Holliday's born-for-radio voice still bursts with excitement at a stirring play by the Terps.

Maryland also is fortunate to have analyst Chris Knoche working with Holliday. Knoche clearly wants the Terps to win, too, but he's not afraid to be critical of their play and paints lucid pictures of the game's strategic elements.

Fox is planting 14 "Turf Cams" in the field at Alltel Stadium for the Super Bowl on Feb. 6. Those who recall the dizzying, up-the-nostrils shots from the World Series get the idea.

The network isn't necessarily counting on getting lots of pictures from these cameras. Ideally, the ball ends up starting from scrimmage right where one is placed. But if not, c'est la vie (say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell -- Chuck Berry, 1964 -- used so memorably for the John Travolta-Uma Thurman dance scene in Pulp Fiction ... and I'm criticizing Vitale for being non-linear?).

OK, back to Turf Cam.

"They're effectively the size of an eraser on a pencil. ... It's a 100-1 shot we're going to pull something off," David Hill, executive producer for Fox Sports, said in a conference call this week.

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