College Basketball Announcer Dick Vitale, Battling Cancer, Draws Strength From His Catholic Faith

“Chemotherapy was tough this weekend … but I have a streak of over 25 years of receiving [Communion] weekly,” Vitale wrote.

ESPN College basketball analyst Dick Vitale with Father Sebastian Szczawinski, the administrator of Vitale's parish, Our Lady of the Angeles, in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
ESPN College basketball analyst Dick Vitale with Father Sebastian Szczawinski, the administrator of Vitale's parish, Our Lady of the Angeles, in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. (photo: Screenshot / Taken from Dick Vitale's Instagram page last visited on December 9, 2021.)

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. — Longtime ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale is relying on his Catholic faith and the power of prayer to help him through his battle with cancer.

Known affectionately as “Dickie V,” the 82-year-old sportscasting icon was diagnosed with melanoma earlier this year and is now undergoing six months of chemotherapy for lymphoma. 

“I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that cancer can have on families, on children, and on all of our loved ones,” Vitale said in a recent statement. “It can bring you to your knees.”

Renowned for his animated commentating — his famous catchphrase is “That is awesome, baby!” — Vitale has shared details of his ongoing cancer fight on his broadcasts and social media.

“It’s physically and emotionally exhausting,” he said on ESPN. “It robs you of so many things, including life itself for some of the most unfortunate patients. I never lose sight of that, and that’s why I feel so lucky.”

On Sunday, Dec. 5, Vitale tweeted about a deacon from his parish, Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, bringing him Communion. He also used the occasion to remind his followers that they can request that Communion be brought to them when they are ill or homebound.

“Chemotherapy was  tough this weekend … but I have a streak of over 25 years of receiving [Communion] weekly,” Vitale wrote.

The post received a host of likes and messages of encouragement. “Mass and Holy Communion means so much to us when we are ill,” one person tweeted. “Never take sacraments for granted. God Bless you and your Family Coach.”

“Thnx Dickie V! I am 4 years into stage 4 colorectal cancer,” another follower wrote. “You inspire me! I also go to mass and receive the Holy Eucharist, which sustains me. All the best to u in your battle against cancer. I will pray for you.”

A few days after announcing his most recent cancer diagnosis in October, Vitale posted a picture of himself on Instagram with Father Sebastian Szczawinski, the administrator of Our Lady of the Angeles. 

“I was so touched when Father Sebastian gave me a special holy prayer for my battle vs. cancer,“ Vitale wrote. ”Ppl just have me in Awe how caring they are / pls pray for others who are in need of your prayers also."

Vitale frequently asks for prayers on his social media accounts when he is headed to the hospital for cancer treatment or awaiting blood work results. He also often thanks his followers for their prayers when he finishes a treatment or gets good news from the doctor.

Now in his 43rd season with ESPN, Vitale needs his doctors' approval to broadcast games this year. Vitale’s first game following his lymphoma diagnosis was the Gonzaga vs. UCLA game on Nov. 23. He became emotional when the broadcast launched. “I can’t believe I’m sitting here,” he said during the broadcast. “I want to thank all you people. There have been so many great messages.” 

Vitale, who provided color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979, is a graduate of Seton Hall University. Married for more than 50 years, he and his wife Lorraine have two daughters who attended the University of Notre Dame on tennis scholarships.

Vitale has written nine books and is on the board of directors for The V Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late college basketball coach Jim Valvano that is dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. Vitale was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2008.

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