“I really thought that was it,” Vitale said in a short telephone interview from his home near Sarasota, Fla. “All that screaming of ‘Awesome baby’ and all that was something I thought I’d never do again.”
Vitale, whose last game was Dec. 4, had extensive laser throat surgery to remove ulcerated lesions. A few days later, he had to have noncancerous prostate surgery.
But the lesions in his throat gave Vitale the bigger scare, because Vitale without his voice would be like Michelangelo without his paint. He was greatly relieved to hear after the surgery that there were no signs of cancer.
But Vitale wasn’t allowed to speak for almost a month after his surgery.
On Jan. 13, Vitale was back at Massachusetts General Hospital. Steven Zeitles, a well-known laryngologist who had performed the surgery, got to hear Vitale’s first words. “I didn’t know if I could speak, but the words came out, and now they have given me clearance to resume my normal life,” Vitale said. “That day in the hospital when they told me to start talking again is one of those days I’ll never forget for as long as I live.”
He’ll return to the air Feb. 6 when North Carolina plays host to Duke.