Studio-guy Levy revels in atmosphere of live events


WASHINGTON -- From a booth atop the ice here at MCI Center the other night, ESPN's Steve Levy looked over the delirium left in the wake of the Washington Capitals' 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo in the Eastern Conference finals and mused on how much fun he was having.

"It's the reason you buy a ticket to a live sporting event, or you pay your cable bill or you watch an event on television. It's because anything can happen," said Levy.

"The drama and the ups and downs are amazing. From [Caps forward Esa] Tikkanen dropping his stick and almost crying on the ice when he deflected a goal in his own net to the elation just a matter of minutes later for his team winning the hockey game. It's the reason you get in the business. These are the fun nights."

Levy, 33, is an ESPN studio staple, taking turns on "SportsCenter" and hosting between-periods segments for NHL and anchoring ESPN Radio coverage of the NFL during the fall.

But, little by little, Levy has been easing out of ESPN's Bristol, Conn., headquarters to do more hockey play calling, a role he filled in college at Oswego State in upstate New York.

His workload has gradually increased from two games in 1995 to about 20 games this season. Levy will work tonight's Game 3 of the Capitals-Buffalo series with Darren Pang and Brian Hayward at 7: 30 p.m.

"I'm really fortunate. I get the best of both worlds," said Levy. "The advantage to the studio is that everything is safe and prepared and, technically, everything is going to work 99 percent of the time. Here, since you can't predict the outcome of what's going to happen on the ice or on the field, it's all up in the air. And that's the extra excitement that comes with doing play-by-play."

Spelling it out

Every so often, it's neat to see a competition that doesn't involve the flexing of muscles, and the annual National Spelling Bee is one of those events. This year's finals air live from Washington today at 1 p.m. on ESPN, and ought to be worth a peak, er, peek or two.

Full disclosure

New York Mets catcher Todd Hundley has vowed to find the team source who leaked to the media "concerns" about his alcohol consumption, and you can only hope that his search is successful and that he uses every legal means at his disposal to get retribution.

The whisper and smear campaign that was carried out against Hundley, who missed about half of last season and all of the current season with an elbow injury, was vicious and disgusting, and unfortunately carried out with the full complicity of members of the New York media.

The trigger for the story was a conference call among the team's baseball department last Wednesday, during which the Mets decided to trade for Mike Piazza. In the course of the call, Hundley's alcohol consumption, as well as his rehabilitation habits, was discussed.

From there, some undisclosed figure leaked the contents of the call, apparently to grease the wheels for the departure of Hundley, who, in addition to dealing with his rehab, is coping with illnesses to his parents and his wife's pregnancy.

The eight-year veteran, upon hearing of the leak, confronted general manager Steve Phillips, manager Bobby Valentine and others, to find out where the information originated. Valentine, who made comments last year about Hundley's sleeping habits, has denied that he leaked the story.

"I've confronted everyone I have thought might have done it and I can't get a straight answer. Someone's dodging, moving and denying. But I'll figure it out and get it down the road," Hundley told the New York Times.

The source of the leak, once he is uncovered, ought to be fired, and if it turns out to have come from the ownership level, then Major League Baseball should impose a heavy fine for disclosing private, personal information.

But the reporters shouldn't go blameless either. If a club official wanted to create a scenario by which Hundley could be traded, fine, but he should have done it without being granted the cloak of anonymity. The reputation of honest, hard-working reporters is sullied every time a member of our profession resorts to character assassination in the name of informing the public.

Pub Date: 5/28/98

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