By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
For someone whose life has been filled with so much rejection and loss, Dick Vitale seems like a very happy man.
The colorful ESPN basketball commentator and coach, of course, has experienced plenty of success as well, which he related yesterday afternoon to attendees at the National Association of REALTORS® Leadership Summit in Chicago. But there were times early in his career when he questioned whether he had what it took to reach his goals.
What got him through that difficult period was a nugget of wisdom from his mother, who told him, “Don’t allow ‘can’t’ to be part of your life, Richie.” That advice, he said, inspired him to redouble his efforts. As a result, he went from coaching sixth grade basketball to the NBA in just six years.
But the obstacles didn’t stop when he got to the pros. He was fired in 1979 as head coach of the Detroit Pistons due to disagreements with the owner about the direction of the team. Vitale said this brought him to a low point in his life, where he sat around the house watching soap operas and waiting for coaching offers that never came.
As fortune would have it, a TV executive contacted him about doing color commentary for a basketball game. After initially turning down the proposal, Vitale accepted. And he’s never looked back.
“It’s been 32 of the greatest years I ever had. I’ve had a blast on television,” he said.
According to Vitale, winning in the game of life — “the game we all play” — is a simple formula of passion + work ethic + good decisions in your personal life. That last point is especially important, but too often neglected, he says.
“There is nothing greater in the world than family, to share in the moments of success we have,” Vitale explained.
Many people might expect Vitale to settle into his role and routine comfortably at this point in his life, but he’s not having it. He’s still coming up with new things to accomplish, and says he still writes down goals on a regular basis, and devises the X’s and O’s to achieve them.
“Anyone can say, ‘I have a goal,’” he explained. “But you have to have a plan. You have to have commitment. I have goals to this day. I try to attack them with as much vitality as I can. That helps me enjoy life.”
What keeps him going are his three Es: energy, enthusiasm, excitement. And he’s applied those recently to a big goal: raising money for research and treatment of pediatric cancer. Through his efforts, he’s raised $1 million or more every year for the past six years. And his efforts go beyond money — Vitale has visited children’s hospitals to help lift the kids’ spirits.
“You think you have it tough? Look at those kids,” he said. “Economies go up and down, and you’ll get other chances to make sales. But many of these kids won’t get other chances.”
With his singular drive and zeal, Vitale is doing his part to help find a cure in order to give them those chances. And that’s awesome, baby. With a capital ‘A’.