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IT'S NOT SPORTS ALL THE TIME; FOR RAVECH, THERE ARE MATTERS OF THE HEART.

Byline: TOM HOFFARTH The Media

Saturday, ESPN's Karl Ravech leaves on an 18-hour flight for Melbourne, Australia, to cover the Presidents Cup golf tournament for the all-sports cable network.

Which isn't a big deal. Except when you consider about a month ago, the 33-year-old had an honest-to-goodness heart attack.

Ravech was shooting baskets with ESPN pals Bill Pito, Dave Feldman and David Lloyd at a rec center just outside Bristol, Conn., when he started having chest pains and a feeling of numbness down his arms. This had never happened to him before, but he knew it felt serious.

Pito decided to drive him to the hospital, although Ravech said ``I could have walked in.''

Within minutes of arriving, an EKG showed that he was having a heart attack. Within the hour, Ravech was having an angioplasty to remove blockage from his arteries.

``I never feared the worst while all this was happening,'' Ravech said. ``Doctors are there to make you better.''

Upon further review, what Ravech's doctors eventually found out was the buildup in his system of an amino acid called homocystine.

Most people are able to convert it into protein. But for those who can't, it accumulates in the bloodstream and can be as damaging to heart as cholesterol. Modern medicine has only recently done extensive studies on the condition.

While Ravech admits he's had to dramatically alter his lifestyle (``I eat clementines like grapes,'' he said about his no-fat intake), he has been able to control it with vitamins and daily exercise.

So a high-stress, late-night, fast-food shoveling job like a sports anchor can't be very helpful for this, can it? We've seen enough of ABC's ``Sports Night'' to know better.

Ravech, who's been the ``Baseball Tonight' anchor the last few years, fills time in between with the golf assignments and ``SportsCenter'' shifts. He says he brown bags it to work these days and relies on colleagues to keep him in check about what he's popping in his mouth.

``There are probably better professions to be in than this, but I don't generally get stressed out,'' said Ravech, who's been at ESPN for six years. ``It doesn't occur to me we're doing a thing on TV that millions are watching or we get through a stressful live show. We all deal with stress differently.''

Passing a stress test at his doctor's office Wednesday cleared him for his working trip to Australia. Ravech said he was told that whatever damage was done to the interior wall of his heart has gone.

When he traveled last week with his wife and 3-year-old son to a Thanksgiving dinner at his parents' home in Boston, Ravech admitted he did some personal reassessment.

``The scariest thing is imagining my wife rasing our son by herself; that was the toughest part of the first week,'' said Ravech.

It also caused colleagues to think twice. It wasn't that long ago that another member of ESPN's family, Tom Mees, drowned in his backyard swimming pool, leaving a widow and two daughters.

``When it happened, we all felt terrible,'' said Bill Seward, the former L.A.-based sportscaster who works at ESPNEWS and golfs frequently with Ravech. ``I looked at it as I'm a few years older and a few pounds heavier . . . what are my chances? It's a wake-up call for everyone.''

It's also a time for those at ESPN to watch out for each other.

``One of the real satisfying parts to all this is the support of the people here,'' said Ravech. ``It shouldn't take something like to this make people tell you how they feel about you. In this environment, we all work with high stress and wonder if anyone else notices what we're doing. It's really nice to hear from everyone.''

Returning to work so fast may seem unusual, but it's the nature of the business.

``I'm learning that the heart is a weird thing,'' said Ravech. ``It's not like a twisted ankle. Once they fix it, it's fixed.

``You know, I never was at a point where I felt I was close to dying. But my doctor said I was on my way to a really big heart attack.''

Instead, he's on his way to Australia.

SOUND BYTES

WHAT SMOKES

Three games for the price of one. UCLA fans who show up early to the Wooden Classic college basketball doubleheader Saturday can watch ESPN's coverage of the Bruins-Miami football game (11 a.m.) on the Pond's scoreboard video monitor. Both Pepperdine-Kansas and UCLA-Oklahoma State hoop games are on KCAL-Channel 9, which struck a three-year syndication package deal with the Wooden Classic after it had been shuffled between all the networks in recent years. TNT's Bob Neal and Bill Walton do the broadcast on both games. With UCLA's Chris Roberts doing football in Miami for KXTA-AM (1150), John Ireland, who'll be a sideline reporter for KCAL's coverage of the first game, goes over to basketball play-by-play on radio for the UCLA game. Follow that?

DirecTV has added CNN/SI to its lineup (Channel 205).

The day-in-the-life-of-the-Kings piece in the current issue of Sports Illustrated. Seems they do a lot of sleeping and eating.

WHAT CHOKES

Malone again, naturally. In a segue from ridiculous radio to TV torture, Karl Malone plays the part of an INS agent tracking down a Central American baseball player (played by Jose Canseco) in tonight's episode of ``Nash Bridges'' (Channel 2, 10 p.m.).

Fox Sports Pittsburgh was called for unsportsmanlike conduct by the NHL for airing commercials during a recent Penguins broadcast that hawked two hockey fight videotapes. According to ``The Hockey News,'' the Pittsburgh regional arm of Fox Sports Net originally rejected the spots, but the company went through a clearing house in L.A., bought the time and snuck the commercial in. Of course, folks in L.A. are always willing to help circumvent red tape for the promotion of good, old-time hockey.

Fox's first network Saturday baseball game of the week for L.A. will be the Angels-Dodgers game - on June 5. Baseball's apparently so hot a network sport that it can afford to skip April and May.

WHAT SMOKED ON LOCAL TV

The top 10 Nielsen-rated sports events (with their share numbers) on L.A. television from Nov. 25 to Dec. 2:

Event Date Station Rt/Sh.x

NFL: Minnesota at Dallas 11/26 Fox 15.3/39

NFL: NY Giants at San Francisco 11/30 KABC 15.3/24

NCAA: Notre Dame at USC 11/28 KABC 14.7/25

NFL: Pittsburgh at Detroit 11/26 KCBS 12.6/28

NFL: Atlanta at St. Louis 11/29 Fox 12.1/28

NFL: Denver at San Diego 11/29 ESPN 10.6/17

NFL: Washington at Oakland 11/29 Fox 9.6/20

NFL: Buffalo at New England 11/29 KCBS 8.1/17

NCAA: Colorado at Nebraska 11/27 KABC 5.6/15

NCAA: Texas at Texas A&M 11/27 KABC 4.7/12

Note: The Skins Game on KABC drew only a 4.3/10 rating on 11/28 and a 3.4/7 rating on 11/29. Saturday's coverage was almost matched by KCBS' coverage of two college football games, Miami-Syracuse (4.1/9) and Georgia Tech-Georgia (3.7/9). Also, ESPN's Denver-San Diego game did a 10.3 nationally, the network's highest-rated NFL game since Dec. 1995 (Green Bay-Tampa Bay). In Denver, the game had a 51.2 rating.

x -One rating point equals 50,092 TV homes in Los Angeles; a share is the percentage of all the TV sets in use at that time.

CAPTION(S):

2 Boxes

Box: (1) SOUND BYTES (See Text)

(2) WHAT SMOKED ON LOCAL TV (See Text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Dec 4, 1998
Words:1285
Previous Article:FOOTBALL: GRANADA HILLS CRAMS FOR TEST AGAINST BANNING.
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