Gustavson Column: ESPN’s strong connections to our area

12/21/2014 8:00 AM |

One of these columns apparently begets another. At least that’s my conclusion after writing in this space two weeks ago about our Orient neighbor George Hossenlopp, who was in the news recently in connection with the 150th anniversary college football game between Lehigh and Lafayette. It seems George played quarterback for Lafayette 50 years ago in the 100th anniversary game.

But what I didn’t write about at the time, due mostly to lack of space, was the small-world fact that ESPN’s Emmy-winning “College GameDay” took a pass on featuring that 150th anniversary game, and it turns out the executive who made that decision is another son of Orient, Lee Fitting Jr., senior coordinating producer of “GameDay.” (Greenport High School, Class of 1992.)

Nothing personal, George, but it was strictly a business/programming decision. As Lee told The Other Times: “It’s a game that we’ve talked about for a number of years now,” but, The Times added, he “acknowledged that the game would have been a bigger draw if the league championship were on the line.” So instead, “GameDay” featured another historic rivalry, the Harvard-Yale game.

Since I’m of an age where I can’t remember what I had for lunch earlier today, I naturally forgot all about the Lee Fitting connection until Monday of this week, when this newspaper ran an online story reporting that “ESPN aired a fi ve-minute segment on Tom Cutinella and the Long Island champion Shoreham-Wading River football team during its popular ‘College GameDay’ show on Saturday.” Tom Cutinella, you will recall, is the 16-year-old Shoreham-Wading River player who died after sustaining a head injury in a game this October. His teammates ended up honoring his memory by going on to complete an undefeated season.

(To view the ESPN video, go to

Once again, it seemed, Lee Fitting had a part in what I considered to be a local story that turned into a national story. And I wondered if ESPN’s interest was coincidental, or if Lee himself was the local connection. So I called him. (After all, his bio on ESPN’s website concludes: “He is a native of Orient, New York (the most-eastern town on Long Island’s North Fork).”

After a short game of telephone tag, we finally spoke on Tuesday afternoon, and that’s when the story got even more interesting.

Lee knows George (they see one another in Orient when Lee visits in the summertime), but he had no idea George would be prominently featured in The New York Times story. Said Lee: “His name never came up. I never put two and two together.”

Considerably more interesting: ESPN decided to run the feature before the Army-Navy football game after “GameDay” staff members read in local newspapers that Tom received a posthumous football scholarship offer from West Point, fulfilling his boyhood dream to attend the U.S. Military Academy.

Extremely interesting: The aforementioned staff members include another former Orient resident, Nick Sciallo (GHS ’91), who produced “Game-Day’s” Army-Navy telecast on Saturday with his boss, Lee Fitting, looking over his shoulder; and former Westhampton resident Chris Fallica, the program’s chief researcher.

Asked to critique Mr. Sciallo’s fi rst-ever stint at the helm of “GameDay,” Mr. Fitting replied: “I was there in the (production) trailer, but I tried to keep my mouth shut, which was hard to do. Nick was nervous as hell, but he got rave reviews. He did a helluva job. He nailed it.”

So, Greenport Mayor David Nyce has announced he will not seek re-election to a third four-year term. And deputy mayor George Hubbard has announced he will seek to succeed Mr. Nyce.
Hmmm. I wonder who else might be considering throwing their hat in the ring. Could it be — oh, I don’t know — former mayor David Kapell?

Preposterous? Perhaps, but I thought I’d pop the question myself. So, this week I sent Dave the following e-mail: “I heard a rumor the other day that you are considering another run for mayor (of Greenport). Seriously. Any truth? RSVP.”

His response, in its entirety (other than the expression of best wishes for the holiday season): “Nice to hear from you. All’s well with me. Tending to my real estate and consulting business while throwing in an art show now and then.”

So, do you think it’s an accident that the former mayor ducked my question? I, for one, don’t think so. Particularly in light of what he told a friend of mine who asked him the same question: that he might be persuaded to run if spontaneously nominated.

Stay tuned for developments. It could get very, very interesting between now and March 18.

The author is the former co-owner and publisher of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected].