By his own count Dan Levin has written on 29 different subjects for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. In this issue he demonstrates his versatility by reporting on two more, a crew race in Vancouver, British Columbia and a turkey shoot in Virginia. Though he undoubtedly will see more crew races, chances are he has experienced his last turkey hunt. "Those guys were obsessed," he says of his fellow hunters. "Like Ahabs going after Moby Dicks. It was a taxing, trying, frustrating week. Besides, I'm not a hunter. I'm uncomfortable around guns, even unloaded guns."
Levin is a fisherman and has been since he was five years old. His grandfather set him on a rock beside the sea in Nahant, Mass., put a pole in his hand and said, "Watch the bobber. If it goes under, you yank." Levin yanked, caught a small fish called a cunner and was hooked. "The constant anticipation in fishing is its greatest appeal to me," he says. "No matter how long you fish or how many fishless days you've had, you never know, the next cast may be the one."
Levin has not only known fishless days, he can speak of fishless years. "I spent 17 years fishing in the surf for striped bass without catching one. When I finally caught one it was almost a religious experience. It was on Nantucket, I was alone, and it was an hour after dark. I cast out and, bam! I knew this was it. I loosened the drag on the reel because I wanted to prolong the experience. And as I was playing this fish, my whole life as a fisherman passed before me. I thought about those nights when I was nine, 10, when my line would get tangled or I'd come home freezing."
As a schoolboy, Levin says, he was "a terrific underachiever." When he wasn't thinking about fishing, he was thinking about Ted Williams. "Growing up in Boston in the early '50s, it was very easy to identify with Williams. He was such a hero. I was a Red Sox fan, but essentially I was a Ted Williams fanatic. The first sports story I ever wrote was about Williams. I sold it to Yankee magazine."
Levin majored in public relations at Boston University and was in and out of five advertising and PR jobs in a year and a half before he realized that the only part he liked was the writing. He switched to newspaper work and eventually came to SI, where his first assignment was to go fishing on a bass boat off Cape Cod in November. "The captain, who had been fishing for 30 years, said it was the roughest day he'd ever seen. If I had felt any better, I would have jumped overboard and tried to swim to shore."
These days Levin lives in an apartment overlooking New York's East River, growing strawberries, lettuce, radishes and tomatoes on his terrace. He has learned to tolerate New York, but his daydreams are still those of a New England angler. "My ideal place," says Levin, "would be a house near enough to the beach to hear the surf pounding. Out one window I would be able to see a tidal river that winds through a marsh. Out another would be a forest of tall pines. And if I stood on my roof maybe I could see another house."
LEVIN: 17 YEARS WITHOUT A BASS