December 31, 2004

White Roses, Candles Bring in Solemn New Year

People held candles and white roses on the tsunami-hit island of Phuket, tearfully embracing as they grieved, in a poignant symbol of the mood which darkened New Year celebrations across the globe.

Tsunami Toll, Feared at 150,000, Dims New Year

A legion of ships and planes delivered aid to millions of Asian tsunami survivors on Saturday as New Year celebrations around the world paused to mourn victims of one of the worst disasters in living memory.

Bush Raises Tsunami Aid Tenfold to $350 Million

President Bush, under pressure over the pace and scale of American aid to Asian tsunami victims, abruptly raised the U.S. contribution to $350 million on Friday, 10 times the amount pledged just two days ago.

Buenos Aires Rock Club Inferno Claims 175 Lives

A flare thrown from the audience ignited a packed Buenos Aires rock club where locked exit doors trapped young New Year's revelers in smoke and flames, killing 175 people, officials said on Friday.

December 30, 2004

Tsunami Toll Jumps to Over 125,000, Fear Lingers

Asia's tsunami death toll soared above 125,000 on Friday as millions struggled to find food and clean water and persistent rumors of new giant waves sent many fleeing inland in panic.

Fire in Buenos Aires Club Kills Nine, 200 Hurt

At least nine people were killed and 200 injured when a fire erupted in a crowded nightclub in central Buenos Aires, police said on Friday.

Powell to Lead U.S. Delegation to Asian Tsunami Region

President Bush, criticized for his slow reaction to the Asian tsunami disaster, said on Thursday he would send a delegation led by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region on Sunday to assess the need for U.S. assistance.

U.S. Soldier, 25 Rebels Killed in Mosul Battle

A frontal assault on U.S. troops by dozens of Iraqi insurgents in Mosul left an American soldier and about 25 guerrillas dead in one of the boldest attacks yet on occupying forces in Iraq.

Ukraine Court Rejects PM's Election Complaints

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich's bid to overturn his liberal rival's victory in a presidential election lay in tatters on Thursday after Ukraine's Supreme Court threw out his complaints.

Massive Public Response to Tsunami Aid Appeals

People worldwide opened their hearts and wallets on Thursday to give millions of dollars to the victims of Asia's tsunamis, jamming phone lines and Web sites and outpacing their own governments in their generosity.

Disease Next as Tsunami Toll Rises, Experts Say

Diarrhea, malaria, dengue fever, and even meningitis and flu may be waiting to cause a second wave of misery across Indian Ocean coastal areas devastated by Sunday's tsunami, experts said on Thursday.

Jazz Giant Artie Shaw Dies at Age 94

Jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw, famed for classic recordings of "Begin the Beguine" and "Oh, Lady Be Good" as well as turbulent marriages to movie stars Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, died on Thursday at age 94, his manager Will Curtis said.
Defending Champion UConn Women Struggling

STORRS, Conn. - Connecticut has lost games, its Top 10 ranking and a whole lot of swagger. The three-time reigning NCAA (news - web sites) women's basketball champions are just 6-3 — the first time they've dropped three games this early since 1992. The Huskies already were ranked 11th before losing by 16 points at home to Michigan State on Wednesday night.

They haven't been that low in the AP poll since 1994.

"What we've seen in UConn teams in the past is that attitude and that confidence. Right now, we have it sometimes, and sometimes we don't," junior guard Ann Strother said.

The setback against No. 10 Michigan State was UConn's worst home loss since 1992.

Coach Geno Auriemma saw it coming.

"I said early on this is not going to be good," Auriemma said. "We don't have any semblance of continuity."

The Huskies also don't have All-American Diana Taurasi anymore and it shows. Her bold leadership was a staple the last four years; she imposed her will on opponents and teammates. Auriemma tinkered with his lineups hoping that a leader or leaders would emerge. Instead, he's left at times with the gang that can't shoot straight.

"If you can't make open outside shots you can't win basketball games," Auriemma said. "Nobody can make a shot."

Opponents have focused on Strother, UConn's best returning shooter, and her teammates have failed to capitalize on their open looks. The Huskies are making 46 percent of their shots.

Junior Barbara Turner leads the team with 13.9 points a game, getting most of her offense in the paint.

Four of the last five games featured different starting lineups and 11 of 12 UConn players have started this season. Last year the starting five appeared in 35 of 36 games. With the graduation of Maria Conlon, the point guard position has been the biggest area of concern.

Freshman Mel Thomas had the last two starts at the point. Ketia Swanier, another freshman, also has taken her turn running the offense. The youngsters have big shoes to fill in a position played in the past by Sue Bird and Jennifer Rizzotti.

Auriemma mixed and matched all night Wednesday, but nothing worked against the Spartans.

"We don't have any more defenses we can play. We don't have any more offenses we could run," he said. "I was making stuff up on the fly."

Opponents are not fearing the five-time NCAA program like they did in the past, either. Unranked South Florida, which will join the Big East next year, battled the Huskies into the first overtime game in the 14-year history of Gampel Pavilion on Dec. 1. UConn escaped with a 75-65 win, eventually wearing the Bulls down in the extra period.

The Huskies have a tough stretch ahead. UConn hosts No. 8 Tennessee in a national championship game rematch Jan. 8. The Lady Vols (8-3) also are struggling and lost by 14 Wednesday night to No. 24 Rutgers.

Fourth-ranked Texas visits the Hartford Civic Center on Jan. 17.

It's anybody's guess, including Auriemma's, how the Huskies will respond.

"With this particular group, I don't think anything would surprise me," he said. "I have no idea what is in store."

December 29, 2004

Year 2004 Bids Farewell to Entertainment Greats

From the larger-than-life film stars of "The Godfather" and "Superman" to the musical "Genius" who pioneered the sound of soul, some of the world's greatest entertainers took final bows during 2004.

Marlon Brando, the Oscar-winning rebel hailed as one of the most influential actors of his generation, and Christopher Reeve, the big-screen Man of Steel transformed by paralysis into a real-life hero to the disabled, joined composer and singer Ray Charles among the ranks of performers whose deaths dimmed the past year.

Others included knighted actor Sir Peter Ustinov, beloved children's entertainer Bob Keeshan (aka Captain Kangaroo) and two actresses famed for screams -- "King Kong" heroine Fay Wray and "Psycho" co-star Janet Leigh.

Borscht belt veterans Alan King and Rodney Dangerfield both delivered their last punch lines, and onetime B-movie actor Ronald Reagan, who went on to ignite a Republican revolution as the 40th president of the United States, passed into history.

Following is a list of some of the better known show business figures who died during the past year, in order of their passing:

- Ann Miller, 81. Dancer and comic actress who co-starred with such partners as Fred Astaire in "Easter Parade" and Gene Kelly in "On the Town." Jan. 22.

- Bob Keeshan, 76. Original Clarabell the Clown of "The Howdy Doody Show," he went on to enchant millions of American youngsters as television's Captain Kangaroo. Jan. 23.

- Paul Winfield, 62. Played slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on television and earned an Oscar nomination for his role as a share-cropping father in "Sounder." March 7.

- Sir Peter Ustinov, 82. Celebrated British actor, author, playwright and raconteur, he won Oscars for his roles in "Spartacus" and "Topkapi." March 28.

- Alan King, 76. Acerbic comedian and actor hailed by some as the "Jewish Will Rogers." Among his favorite jokes: "What's the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother? Eventually the Rottweiler lets go." May 9.

- June Taylor. 86. Choreographer for "The Jackie Gleason Show" who gave her name to the variety program's famed troupe of leggy dancers. May 16.

- Tony Randall, 84. Emmy Award-winning actor best known for his comic role as the fastidious Felix Unger on television's "The Odd Couple." May 17.

- Ronald Reagan, 93. While his political achievements most stand out in history, he began as a radio announcer and actor who appeared in dozens of films, including a role as George "The Gipper" Gipp in the 1940 film "Knute Rockne, All American." June 5.

- Ray Charles, 73. Hailed as "the Genius" for such hits as "I Got a Woman" and "Georgia On My Mind," he overcame poverty, blindness and heroin addiction to lay the foundation of soul music. June 10.

- Marlon Brando, 80. Oscar-winning star of "The Godfather" and "On the Waterfront," his maverick, naturalistic style in "A Streetcar Named Desire" came to define a post-war American image of machismo and revolutionize acting. July 1.

- Rick James, 56. Flamboyant funk music pioneer whose 1981 dance hit "Super Freak" came to embody the ruinous excesses of his colorful life. Aug. 6.

- Fay Wray, 96. The shrieking blond beauty who gained fame as the frightened woman stalked up the Empire State Building by the giant ape King Kong. Aug. 8.

- Julia Child, 91. The grande dame of television cooking whose operatic voice and irreverent style brought French haute cuisine into America's humble kitchens. Aug. 13.

- Johnny Ramone, 55. Born John Cummings, he was the guitarist for pioneering punk rock band the Ramones. Sept. 15.

- Janet Leigh, 77. Starred opposite such leading men as Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, James Stewart and ex-husband Tony Curtis, but perhaps her most memorable film moment was her shower stabbing scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." Oct. 3.

- Rodney Dangerfield, 82. Bulgy-eyed comic famed for his self-deprecating one-liners and the signature phrase "I can't get no respect," he became a pop culture sensation in middle age with a string of broad film comedies. Oct. 5

- Christopher Reeve, 52. "Superman" actor who became a leading advocate for spinal cord research after a riding accident left him paralyzed. Oct. 10

- Howard Keel, 85. A coal miner's son who starred in classic MGM musicals like "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," he later revived his career on TV's "Dallas." Nov. 7

- Ol' Dirty Bastard, 35. Born Russell Jones, his criminal lifestyle and erratic behavior overshadowed his work as a founding member of the rap collective Wu-Tang Clan. Nov. 13.

- Jerry Orbach, 69. Onetime song-and-dance man who became a beloved co-star of the long-running "Law & Order" TV series, playing sardonic detective Lennie Briscoe. Dec. 28.
Millions Hunt for Food as Tsunami Toll Nears 80,000

Millions of people around the Indian Ocean scrambled for food and clean water on Thursday, with the threat of disease now stalking survivors of the most devastating tsunami on record.

Car Bombs Detonated Near Saudi Security Buildings

Suicide bombers tried to storm Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry and a security unit in the capital Riyadh on Wednesday in what appeared to be the latest brazen strike by al Qaeda in the world's top oil exporter.

U.S. Army Kills 25 Rebels in Fierce Iraq Fight

U.S. troops backed by warplanes killed 25 guerrillas in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday after facing a coordinated assault involving two suicide bombs and dozens of insurgents, the military said.

Bush Vows More U.S. Aid for Tsunami Victims

President Bush said on Wednesday that a $35 million U.S. pledge for victims of the Asian tsunami was only the beginning and any suggestions America was stingy were "misguided and ill-informed."

Agencies at Odds Over Fingerprint Checks

Terrorists and criminals could slip into the United States because immigration and law enforcement agencies have not coordinated their fingerprint databases, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

'Law & Order' Star Jerry Orbach Dies

Jerry Orbach, acclaimed as a quintessential New York actor for his work on Broadway, in films and as the star of television's "Law & Order," has died from cancer. He was 69.

Pentagon Plans Deep Cuts in Costly F/A-22 Fighter

The Pentagon is planning deep reductions in spending on the costliest fighter jet ever built, the Air Force's F/A-22 Raptor, amid rising spending on the Iraq war, U.S. defense officials said on Wednesday.

Ukraine PM Makes Last-Ditch Bid to Keep Power

Ukraine's defeated presidential candidate made a last-ditch but seemingly hopeless attempt on Wednesday to challenge the victory of his liberal opponent, Viktor Yushchenko.

Hmong Hunter Pleads Innocent in Wisconsin Slayings

A Laotian immigrant pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in a Wisconsin court to charges he murdered six hunters and attempted to murder two others, court officials said.

Expert Sees More Aftershocks But No Killer Quake

Strong aftershocks from the Indonesian earthquake will be felt for "weeks and months" but more killer-magnitude tremblers and deadly tsunamis were unlikely, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey said on Wednesday.
'Law & Order' Star Jerry Orbach Dies

NEW YORK - Actor Jerry Orbach, who played a sardonic, seen-it-all cop on TV's "Law & Order" and scored on Broadway as a song-and-dance man, has died of prostate cancer at 69, a representative of the show said Wednesday.

Orbach died Tuesday night in Manhattan after several weeks of treatment, Audrey Davis of the public relations agency Lippin Group said.

When his illness was diagnosed, he had begun production on NBC's upcoming spinoff "Law & Order: Trial By Jury," after 12 seasons playing Detective Lennie Briscoe in the original series. His return to the new show had been expected early next year.

On Broadway, the Bronx-born Orbach starred in hit musicals including "Carnival," "Promises, Promises" (for which he won a Tony Award), "Chicago" and "42nd Street."

Earlier, he was in the original cast of the off-off-Broadway hit "The Fantasticks," playing the narrator. The show went on to run for more than 40 years.

Among his film appearances were roles in "Dirty Dancing," "Prince of the City" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Orbach is expected to appear in early episodes of "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," for which he continued as Briscoe in a secondary role, when the series premieres later this season, Davis said.

"I'm immensely saddened by the passing of not only a friend and colleague, but a legendary figure of 20th Century show business," said Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of the "Law & Order" series, in a statement. "He was one of the most honored performers of his generation. His loss is irreplaceable."

In a 2000 Associated Press interview, Orbach said the role in the acclaimed "Law & Order" brought him "wonderful security" rare in the life of an actor.

"All my life, since I was 16, I've been wondering where that next job was gonna come from," he explained. "Now I take the summer off, relax, and I know that at the end of July we're gonna start another season."

He said he didn't know "where I stop and Lennie starts, really. ... I know he's tougher than me and he carries a gun. And I'm not an alcoholic."

"I know I wouldn't want to be him," Orbach sums up. "I guess THAT'S where I stop and he starts."

In 1987-88, he starred in the series "The Law and Harry McGraw," a spinoff featuring a character he created in "Murder, She Wrote." In 1990, a shot on "The Golden Girls" brought him an Emmy nomination as best guest actor in a comedy series.

"There's a pace in TV I like," he said in a 1993 interview. "I like to work fast. I don't like to dwell all day over one scene as you do in a big feature. Big feature films are another world."

December 28, 2004

Race to Bury Asia's Dead as Toll Hits 68,000

Thousands of corpses rotted in Indonesia's tropical sun on Wednesday as rescuers scoured isolated coasts across the Indian Ocean for survivors of Sunday's giant waves that killed more than 68,000.

Rebels Strike Iraqi Forces After Bin Laden Call

Insurgents overran a police post near Saddam Hussein's home town on Tuesday, hauled out 12 men and shot them dead in a dramatic show of force, a day after Osama bin Laden declared holy war on the U.S.-backed election.

Yushchenko Supporters to Block Ukraine Govt Meeting

The winner of Ukraine's bitterly fought presidential election called on supporters to block a cabinet meeting on Wednesday after his opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, refused to concede defeat.

Bin Laden Says Fighting in Iraq Muslims' Duty

An audio tape purportedly from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to wage holy war against U.S. forces and the government in Iraq, saying they would be committing "a grave sin" if they failed to do so.

NASA Finishes Redesigned Shuttle Fuel Tank

NASA has finished building a redesigned space shuttle fuel tank that was reconfigured to eliminate the debris problem that doomed the shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts, agency officials said on Tuesday.

Susan Sontag, Writer and Critic, Dies at 71

Author and social critic Susan Sontag, one of the most powerful thinkers of her generation and a leading voice of intellectual opposition to U.S. policy after the Sept. 11 attacks, died on Tuesday at a New York cancer hospital. She was 71.
Roethlisberger Questionable for Regular-Season Finale

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher announced at his Tuesday press conference that rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is questionable for Sunday's regular-season finale against Buffalo because of a bruised rib cartilage.

Pittsburgh (14-1) has won 13 straight games and has already secured homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Roethlisberger suffered the injury during this past Sunday's win over Baltimore when he was hit by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs while throwing a two-yard touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman with 6:26 left in the third quarter.

He looked shaky on the sidelines afterwards, but was back on the field after Baltimore's Matt Stover missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.

However, after a 26-yard pass to Plaxico Burress and a nine-yard toss to veteran running back Jerome Bettis, Roethlisberger walked off the field and was replaced by Tommy Maddox.

Roethlisberger ended the contest 14-of-19 for 221 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He improved to 13-0 as a starter since replacing an injured Maddox during Pittsburgh's Week 2 loss to the Ravens.

For the season, Roethlisberger has completed 196-of-295 passes for 2,621 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Meanwhile, cornerback Deshea Townsend (broken right hand) is out for Sunday's game at Buffalo, while Bettis (ankle) and linebacker Clark Haggans (groin) are doubtful.

December 27, 2004

Tsunami States Hasten to Provide Aid, Beat Disease

Indian Ocean nations from Indonesia to Sri Lanka struggled on Tuesday to find and bury their dead and get water and other emergency supplies to survivors of a tsunami that killed more than 23,200 people.

Yushchenko Certain Victor in Ukraine Election

West-leaning opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko looked certain on Monday to become Ukraine's next president, but his opponent, the prime minister, refused to concede defeat in the bitterly fought contest.

Voice on Tape Is Likely Bin Laden's

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded an audiotape on which Osama bin Laden urges Iraqis to boycott January's elections is likely genuine, an official said on Monday.

U.S. to Probe Airlines' Customer Service Promises

U.S. airlines, after a Christmas weekend that snarled thousands of travelers' holiday plans, will face a government review of whether they are living up to customer service commitments made five years ago.

'Bin Laden' Endorses Islamist War on Iraq Vote

Osama bin Laden apparently urged Iraqis to boycott U.S.-backed elections, endorsing Sunni Muslim insurgents on the day a senior Shi'ite leader survived a car bombing and the top Sunni party pulled out of next month's vote.

U.S. Says Militants Lurk in Horn of Africa

Militant groups including al Qaeda are exploiting lawless areas in the seven-nation Horn of Africa region to hide, recruit and train members and possibly plan attacks, the head of the region's U.S.-led anti-terror force said Monday.

U.S. to Pledge $15 Million for Tsunami Aid

The United States expects to provide an initial $15 million in aid for victims of a devastating tsunami in Asia and has already released $400,000, a top U.S. aid official said on Monday.

U.S. Honeymooners Survive Tsunami on Thai Island

William Robins vowed Monday to change his life forever after the professional golfer from California and his new bride, Amanda, narrowly escaped death in the grip of a tsunami.

Comedian George Carlin Enters Rehab Program

Comedian George Carlin, who became a counter-culture hero in the 1970s with routines about drugs and dirty words, said on Monday he was voluntarily entering a drug and alcohol treatment program.

December 26, 2004

Steelers Top Ravens 20-7, Go 8-0 at Home

PITTSBURGH - Ben Roethlisberger gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a lot bigger scare than the Baltimore Ravens did. Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in a run-heavy offense before being pulled from a 20-7 victory Sunday with an unspecified rib injury caused when he was blindsided on a scoring pass.

The Steelers (14-1) wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye that means after their Jan. 2 game at Buffalo they won't play again until Jan. 15 or Jan. 16. But a team that has been playing without six injured regulars sustained two more injuries, as both Roethlisberger and cornerback Deshea Townsend (wrist) were pulled in the fourth quarter.

After being leveled by Terrell Suggs while throwing a 2-yard scoring pass to Jerame Tuman that put Pittsburgh up 17-7 late in the third quarter, Roethlisberger was assisted off the field — a large clump of grass sticking out of the left side of his face mask.

Roethlisberger returned to complete throws of 26 yards to Plaxico Burress and 9 to Jerome Bettis on Pittsburgh's next drive, but was replaced by Tommy Maddox.

Roethlisberger's injury did not appear serious — he threw along the sidelines after being lifted — but was a worrisome note for the Steelers on a day they ran their franchise-record winning streak to 13 games and all but eliminated the rival Ravens (8-7) from playoff contention.

The Steelers also went 8-0 at home for the first time since their last Super Bowl championship season in 1979, with every victory by at least a nine-point margin following an opening game 24-21 win over Oakland.

Bettis ran for 117 yards in his sixth 100-yard game this season — all in place of Duce Staley (hamstring), who sat out for the sixth time in eight games. Bettis also moved past No. 4 Eric Dickerson on the NFL career rushing list with 13,294 yards and closed to within 60 yards of his ninth 1,000-yard season.

About all the Ravens accomplished during their fourth loss in five games was putting out a Steelers quarterback with an injury for the second time this season. Maddox injured his right elbow in a 30-13 loss at Baltimore on Sept. 19, the injury that caused Roethlisberger to become the starter.

Pittsburgh hasn't lost since and is assured of matching the best record in franchise history (14-2 in 1978) even if it loses at Buffalo.

Burress returned from a four-week layoff with a sore hamstring and made an immediate impact with three catches for 97 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh drove 80 yards in five plays on its opening possession.

Three times the Ravens advanced to at least the Pittsburgh 35 without scoring.

Baltimore briefly tied it at 7 on Jamal Lewis' 5-yard TD run, but Joey Porter's interception of Kyle Boller's tipped pass led to Jeff Reed's 23-yard field goal.

The Steelers took control on their opening drive of the second half, using up 8 1/2 minutes during a 14-play, 71-yard drive that featured 12 consecutive runs ahead of Roethlisberger's scoring pass to Tuman.
Colts Win As Manning Sets TD Pass Record

INDIANAPOLIS - Peyton Manning wanted the win more than the record. He got both. Manning rallied his Indianapolis Colts (news) from a 15-point deficit in the final quarter, throwing his record-breaking 49th touchdown of the season to help tie the game in the last minute of regulation, and then led the winning drive in overtime as the Colts defeated San Diego 34-31 Sunday.

The victory was the eighth straight for the Colts (12-3) and gave Indianapolis at least the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The Colts still have an outside shot at a first-round bye, but New England would have to lose its final two games.

"It's a great win for us," Manning said. "It's great to get the win and the TD record all at the same time."

San Diego's winning streak ended at eight games. The Chargers (11-4) will still host a first-round game as the No. 4 seed.

It was an atypical day for Manning and the Colts, though. Manning, who had been sacked just nine times all season, was sacked four times by the Chargers. Manning fumbled twice, threw an interception and seemed out of sync for much of the day. He still finished 27-of-44 for 383 yards with two TDs to give him 49 this year. Dan Marino threw 48 in 1984 to set the record.

When the Colts needed Manning to play his best, he did.

Manning threw a 21-yard TD pass to a wide open Brandon Stokley with 56 seconds left in regulation to break the record. Then he called a draw for Edgerrin James, who ran it in for two points to tie the score at 31.

In overtime, Manning needed just four plays to set up the winning field goal. He hooked up with Stokley on a 23-yard gain, then found Reggie Wayne on a 35-yard catch-and-run, and James ran once to the middle of the field, setting up Mike Vanderjagt's winner from 30 yards with 12:13 to go.

Manning was not the only one to break records in Indianapolis.

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson ran 16 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, giving him 12 straight games with a rushing TD to break the NFL's single-season record. And teammate Antonio Gates caught his 13th touchdown of the season, breaking the NFL's season record for a tight end.

Every time Manning got near the end zone, flashes went off. He only wished it could have been that easy against the NFL's No. 26 pass defense.

Instead, Drew Brees and the Chargers defense made things tough. Brees finished 21-of-31 for 290 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, and San Diego led for almost the entire game.

The Chargers appeared to have control when Gates caught a shovel pass and ran four yards for a TD to make it 24-9 early in the second half.

On the Colts' next series, Harrison caught a 29-yard pass on third-and-12, giving the Colts just the fourth trio of 1,000-yard receivers. The play also set up Manning's record-tying throw, a 3-yard shovel pass to James Mungro. With flash bulbs going off again, Manning clapped his hands and walked to the sidelines as fans gave him a standing ovation.

San Diego answered 11 plays later when Tomlinson scored.

Dominic Rhodes countered with an 88-yard kickoff return to cut the lead to 31-23, setting the stage for Manning's late heroics.
NFL Defensive Great Reggie White Dies

CORNELIUS, N.C. - Reggie White, a fearsome defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles (news) and Green Bay Packers (news) and one of the NFL's greatest players, died Sunday, his wife said. He was 43.

The cause of death was not immediately known, however White had a respiratory ailment for several years that affected his sleep, according to Keith Johnson, a pastor serving as family spokesman. An autopsy was scheduled.

"Today our beloved husband, father and friend passed away," White's wife, Sara, said in a statement. "His family appreciates your thoughts and prayers as we mourn the loss of Reggie White. We want to thank you in advance for honoring our privacy."

White died at Presbyterian Hospital, where he was taken after his wife called 911. A police officer was outside White's Tudor-style home in a gated community, and would not let a reporter approach the house.

A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and ordained minister who was known as the "Minister of Defense," White played a total of 15 years with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. He retired after the 2000 season as the NFL's all-time leader in sacks with 198. The mark has since been passed by Bruce Smith.

"Reggie White was a gentle warrior who will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "Equally as impressive as his achievements on the field was the positive impact he made off the field and the way he served as a positive influence on so many young people."

A member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team, White was elected to the Pro Bowl a record 13 straight times from 1986-98. He was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and 1998.

"A 43-year-old is not supposed to die in his sleep," Johnson said. "It was not only unexpected, but it was also a complete surprise. Reggie wasn't a sick man ... he was vibrant. He had lots and lots of energy, lots of passion."

Johnson is the head of Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment, a ministry that White helped found. He said White had gone to see the movie "Fat Albert" on Christmas night with family and friends.

"He was a family person, a person who liked to have fun. Obviously, we're all going to really miss him," Johnson said.

White and his wife had a son and a daughter: Jeremy, a freshman at Elon University, and Jecolia, a junior in high school.

After an All-American senior season at Tennessee, White began his pro career with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in 1984. He joined the Philadelphia Eagles, who held his NFL rights, after the USFL folded in 1985. For eight years, he was as an integral piece in Philadelphia's "Gang Green Defense."

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie called White "one of the greatest men ever to play the game of football" and said his "legacy on and off the football field will never be forgotten."

White played a key role in free agency — he was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the current system.

White signed as a free agent with Green Bay in 1993 for $17 million over four years. His signing, along with a trade for Brett Favre, helped make the Packers champions again. He was the first major black player to sign with the Packers as a free agent.

"He meant as much to us off the field as much as on it," said Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association. "He had his name on the lawsuit and he didn't get one penny. That's just the type of guy he was. His character, his integrity was everything any NFL player should aspire to be."

His decision to choose the Packers was a surprise. While visiting various teams, he suggested he would prefer a major city, where he could minister to black youth.

"That's what changed the football fortunes of this franchise. It was huge," Packers president Bob Harlan said Sunday. "Everyone thought the last place he would sign was Green Bay and it was monumental because not only did he sign but he recruited for Green Bay and got guys like Sean Jones to come here. He sent a message to the rest of the NFL that Green Bay was a great place to play."

The Packers made consecutive Super Bowl appearances, including a win over New England in 1997, when White set a Super Bowl record with three sacks.

"He was just a wonderful player, first of all," said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who coached White at Green Bay. "Then as a person, he was just the best. He was one of the leaders, along with Brett Favre, of our football team in Green Bay. I'm a better person for having been around Reggie White."

White worked tirelessly in the offseason with inner-city youths. But his image was tarnished when he gave a speech in which he denounced homosexuality and used ethnic stereotypes. White later apologized.

White was 39 when he finished his NFL career with Carolina — his third retirement. He retired for one day before the 1998 season, but then said God had told him he needed to play again, and he returned to the Packers.

White retired again after the 1998 season and took a year off from football. After the Packers allowed him out of his contract, White returned to play for the Panthers. His last season was disappointing. He recorded a career-low 5 1/2 sacks with only 27 tackles, and didn't show the same pass-rushing skills that made him such a force.

"I will always miss the locker room and the guys, but I know God's will for me to move on to other challenges because it's not in me like it used to be," White said at the time.

White spent eight years with the Eagles and six with the Packers before a final one with the Panthers. Remarkably durable, White missed only one game in his last 12 seasons and started all but three games during that span.

"Reggie's records and accomplishments say it all," George Seifert, who coached him on the Panthers, once said. "He is a Hall of Fame player and possibly the best defensive lineman ever to play the game."

The A.L. Jinwright Funeral Service in Charlotte is handling arrangements.
Former NFL Star Reggie White Dead at Age 43

Former NFL all-time sacks leader Reggie White has died at the age of 43.

White, a defensive lineman who retired in 2000 after 15 years in the NFL, suffered a massive heart attack at his North Carolina home, said a report on the Web site of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of his former teams.

At the time of his retirement White held the record for career sacks of 198. His total has since been passed by Bruce Smith.

"Reggie White was a gentle warrior who will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement on

"Equally as impressive as his achievements on the field was the positive impact he made off the field and the way he served as a positive influence on so many young people.

"We are deeply saddened by his loss and extend our deepest sympathy to Reggie's wife Sara and his entire family."

White, who was also an ordained minister, played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, where he played on a Super Bowl winner in 1997, and finally with the Carolina Panthers.

White was elected to the Pro Bowl a record 13 straight times from 1986-98. He was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and 1998.

He retired three times, once before the 1998 season began where he changed his mind after just one day, and again at the end of that season.

He returned for a final season with Carolina in 2000 before retiring for good.
Asian Tsunami Kills 12,300, Many More Homeless

COLOMBO - More than 12,300 people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless after a powerful undersea earthquake unleashed giant tsunami waves that crashed into the coasts of south and southeast Asia.

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck off the Indonesian island of Sumatra early on Sunday was the biggest in 40 years.

It triggered waves that reared up into walls of water as high as 10 meters (30 feet) as they hit coastlines in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

Aid agencies rushed staff, equipment and money to the region, warning that bodies rotting in the water were already beginning to threaten the water supply for survivors.

Rescue workers also spoke of bodies still caught up on trees after being flung inland by the waves.

"I just couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes," Boree Carlsson said from a hotel in the Thai resort of Phuket.

"As I was standing there, a car actually floated into the lobby and overturned because the current was so strong," said the 45-year-old Swede.

"I heard an eerie sound that I have never heard before. It was a high pitched sound followed by a deafening roar," said a 55-year-old Indian fishermen who gave his name as Chellappa.

"I told everyone to run for their life."

In Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, one official said nearly 4,500 people had died.

The worst affected area was Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, where 3,000 were killed. More than 200 prisoners escaped from a jail when the tsunami knocked down its walls.

In Sri Lanka, the death toll also reached 4,500 and 1 million people, or 5 percent of its population, were affected.

It was the worst natural disaster to hit Sri Lanka.

Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans sheltered in schools and temples overnight, and officials expected the death toll to rise further once rescuers resumed searches after daybreak.

In southern India, where at least 3,000 were estimated to have died, beaches were littered with submerged cars and wrecked boats. Shanties on the coast were under water.

Thai government officials said at least 392 bodies had been retrieved and they expected the final toll to approach 1,000.


In Los Angeles, the head of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said U.S. officials who detected the undersea quake tried frantically to get a warning out about the tsunami.

But there was no official alert system in the region, said Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's center in Honolulu.

"It took an hour and a half for the wave to get from the earthquake to Sri Lanka and an hour for it to get ... to the west coast of Thailand and Malaysia," he said. "You can walk inland for 15 minutes to get to a safe area."

"We tried to do what we could," he said. "We don't have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world."

The earthquake, of magnitude 8.9 as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey, struck at 7:59 a.m. (1959 EST). It was the world's biggest since 1964, said Julie Martinez at the USGS.

The tsunami was so powerful it smashed boats and flooded areas along the east African coast, 3,728 miles away.

In the Maldives, where thousands of foreign visitors were holidaying in the beach paradise, damage appeared to be significantly more limited, according to initial reports.

Twenty-eight people were estimated to have died in Malaysia and 10 in Myanmar.


Aid agencies said with communications cut to remote areas, it was impossible to assess the full scale of the disaster.

The Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was seeking 7.5 million Swiss francs ($6.5 million) for emergency aid funding.

The United States said it would offer "all appropriate assistance," while the European Union pledged an initial three million euros ($4 million).

Experts said the top five areas to be addressed were water, sanitation, food, shelter and health.

"We've had reports already from the south of India of bodies rotting where they have fallen and that will immediately affect the water supply especially for the most impoverished people," Christian Aid emergency officer Dominic Nutt said.

A tsunami, a Japanese word that translates as "harbor wave," is usually caused by a sudden rise or fall of part of the earth's crust under or near the ocean.

It is not a single wave, but a series of waves that can travel across the ocean at speeds of more than 500 miles an hour. As the tsunami enters the shallows of coastlines in its path, its velocity slows but its height increases.

A tsunami that is just a few centimeters or meters high from trough to crest can rear up to heights of 100 to 150 feet as it hits the shore, striking with devastating force.

December 24, 2004

Baltimore (8-6) at Pittsburgh (13-1)
Game Info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Dec 26, 2004

The last time Pittsburgh rookie Ben Roethlisberger walked off the field a loser was in Baltimore more than three months ago.
He'll have a chance to avenge that defeat, extend his record winning streak as a first-year starter to 13 games and clinch home-field advantage for the Steelers throughout the AFC playoffs when the Ravens visit Heinz Field.

And if that isn't motivation enough, Pittsburgh can also knock Baltimore out of serious contention for a playoff spot.

``We need to take care of business at home,'' Steelers running back Jerome Bettis insisted. ``This game is going to mean everything. This is the biggest game of the year for us.''

A win gives Pittsburgh a first-round bye as well as the edge of playing its conference playoff games at home, where it is 7-0 this season. There are scenarios involving other teams this week, however, that could allow the Steelers to achieve both goals even if they lose.

But for Baltimore, a win is almost a must. The Ravens are one of four 8-6 teams fighting for the AFC's final wild-card spot.

``The objective was to get to 10-6,'' Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. ``We've said all along, does that get you in? We'll find out. There are multiple scenarios. There's an incredible amount of football that has to be played before we find out what's going to happen.''

Though it stands as the only blemish on Pittsburgh's record this season, a 30-13 loss at Baltimore in Week 2 also may have indirectly made the Steelers a Super Bowl contender because that's when Roethlisberger jumped into the mix.

The rookie quarterback from Miami of Ohio came on in relief of an injured Tommy Maddox in that game, and has since won 12 consecutive starts.

``Tommy goes down with an injury and we don't know what Ben is going to do,'' Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward said. ``He doesn't have to prove anything to us (now). It's a total different makeup of this team from the first time we played them to now.''

Though Roethlisberger usually just has to avoid big mistakes while the Steelers' rushing attack and defense control the game, he showed last Saturday that he can get the job done as well. He threw for a season-high 316 yards and hit four straight passes to set up Bettis' game-winning 1-yard TD run with 4:57 to go as Pittsburgh beat the New York Giants 33-30.

That extended the Steelers' team-record win streak to 12, and moved them a game ahead of New England in the AFC standings after the Patriots' stunning Monday night loss to Miami. If Pittsburgh and New England finish with the same record, the Steelers would win the tiebreaker due to their 34-20 win over the Patriots on Oct. 31.

Bettis could be starting again in place of Duce Staley, who continues to be bothered by a hamstring injury. Bettis has rushed for at least 100 yards in all five starts this season, but he's been held below 100 in his last nine games against the Ravens.

The Bus did not even get a carry in the first meeting with Baltimore -- Staley was held to 57 yards on 16 carries -- and Roethlisberger was sacked twice and had two passes intercepted in less than a half.

``We're Pittsburgh's kryptonite,'' Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs declared Wednesday.

``It's going to be a brawl, but we're still the Baltimore Ravens and I'm not afraid of their offense one bit.''

The Ravens now try to sweep the season series from the Steelers for the first time in team history. They've lost their last three trips to Pittsburgh.

``It's Pittsburgh. It's a rivalry. That's why you play the game,'' Billick said. ``You add the ramifications, and they have a great deal at stake, as do we. And they're very good at home, and they've beaten elite (teams) at home.''

Billick's team came close to pulling off a win over an elite team Sunday night, but lost 20-10 to Indianapolis despite holding the high-powered Colts offense to its lowest point total of the season.

A big bright spot was the performance of Jamal Lewis, whose 130 rushing yards were his most in seven games during what has been an injury-plagued season.

Lewis (ankle), however, is one of many key Ravens nursing injuries heading into this game, along with Ray Lewis (wrist), Todd Heap (ankle) and Deion Sanders (foot). All have missed practice time this week and are listed as questionable, though they're all expected to play.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher surely plans on them playing as if they're at full strength.

``We've got that bull's-eye on our chest, so I think we're getting the best efforts from teams,'' Cowher said. ``I don't think this week will be any different.''
Red Sox find fitting way to honor true fan

Christmas Day almost always has its bittersweet elements, except for the very young among us. You give thanks for those who are home for the holiday, and raise a toast and say a prayer for those who aren't and will never be again.

This year, one of the gifts under our Commonwealth's tree will be the promise of three refurbished ballparks along the Esplanade by the Charles River Lower Basin. They'll be just steps from the riverbank where Sox fans watched the nautical portion of the team's "Rolling Rally" victory parade celebrating the team's first World Series championship since 1918.

The gift tag says "From the Red Sox Foundation," but the funding and impetus for the project came from Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, who made a six-figure donation to enable the team's charitable arm to honor the memory of one of Werner's favorite fans, 14-year-old Edward "Teddy" Ebersol. The fields are to be named "Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields."

"There's been an outpouring of interest from family, friends, and citizens to help defray the cost of the project," said Meg Vaillancourt, executive director of the foundation. "Nothing would make us happier than to have this project -- revitalizing these three diamonds in the rough -- continue to draw additional contributions and transfer the positive energy of Red Sox Nation into a social force."

Teddy died the Sunday after Thanksgiving in the Montrose, Colo., plane crash that seriously injured his father, NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, and Teddy's 21-year-old brother, Charlie. The plane's pilot and flight attendant perished in the crash, and the co-pilot remains in serious condition. Teddy's mother, actress Susan Saint James, wasn't aboard the plane.

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry provided common ground for conversation between the Ebersols. Dick is a rabid Yankees fan and Teddy was an equally enthusiastic Sox fan.

Werner and Ebersol long have known each other as powerful figures in the world of television production, but Werner also could identify with the young fan who dragged his dad to Fenway. Werner, as a 17-year-old Harvard freshman, did an Opening Day documentary on Fenway Park that was a significant milestone in his life.

Teddy's love for the Sox showed clearly in excerpts from the remembrance of Jim Graham, one of many delivered at Teddy's funeral a week ago in Litchfield, Conn.

Graham is the husband of The Gunnery's head of school, Susan Graham. The Gunnery is the Washington, Conn., boarding school where Teddy was a freshman. Jim Graham described the student body as split between Red Sox and Yankees fans.

"But for our freshman boy Teddy, it was all about the Red Sox," Graham said. "No particular malice toward the Yankees, just a zealous belief in the Red Sox. He could even rattle off esoteric Red Sox stats, such as Manny Ramirez's batting average with runners in scoring position, when it's foggy.

"But being a Red Sox loyalist also was a very tricky situation for him. His father had counseled him to be careful about taking sides. You may be a Red Sox fan at heart, but keep it in your heart. Good advice. But he had to follow his own feelings. And so he unabashedly rooted for the Sox. Sorry, Dad.

"Life in the dorm was tough. As the baseball postseason got under way, he found his Sox trailing the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, 3-0, having just lost a game, 19-8. It was a challenge to win just the league title, and the World Series was very far off. But he had a vision. `He came to me with this crazy bet when the Red Sox were down, 3-0,' remembered Mr. Nicholas Carter, the dean of students. `He said that he was sure the Red Sox were going to win the World Series, but if by chance they didn't, then he would buy pizza for the whole dorm.' Mr. Carter readily accepted the challenge. Here was a chance for a pizza night in the dorm sponsored by a young freshman.

"As the Red Sox began their climb back, the freshman boys' dorm began to heat up. With study hours not over until 9:30 p.m., they would join the contests in mid-game. Commentary between the Boston and the New York fans got contentious. Our young Red Sox fan was right in the middle, citing statistics and defending his team. Finally, one of the dorm parents made a new rule, named after our young Red Sox fan. The T-Rule. `If your team wins the inning, just that particular inning, you are allowed to speak.' This ended the arguments. As the fortunes of both teams shifted, the discussions became one-way conversations with no rebuttals. And as the Red Sox prevailed game after game, the T-Rule tipped toward T's favor.

"October 27th marked the final out in the final game of this year's World Series. The next day and night belonged to the 14-year-old. At The Gunnery, in the classrooms and in the dining hall, the rule is that hats are always off. If you are outside, walking around, a cap was fine, but inside a school building it's not to be on the head. So T, as he walked between classes, would pop on his Red Sox cap and beam. In the dining hall or classes, he'd carry his cap and wouldn't even point to it; he would just make eye contact and then lead your eyes with his down to the Red Sox logo. Then he'd smile. He had made his mark after only eight weeks at a new school, betting on what he thought was a winner and by committing to a cause. Scholarship, integrity, respect, responsibility, and dedication. This young freshman had not only understood [school founder] Mr. Frederick William Gunn's Five Values, he practiced them. This was the day that T ceased being an invisible freshman. This is the day he made his mark. That night the freshman boys feasted on pizza, courtesy of the dean."

Now, 150 miles away in Boston, a city where it's arguably impossible to build a new stadium, the city's recreational ballplayers will play on new fields, courtesy of Werner, the Red Sox Foundation, Governor Mitt Romney, and the Secretary of Environmental Affairs, with the enthusiastic support of Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

They'll be home to a new generation of Teddy Ballgames, rebuilt as a tribute to a 14-year-old fan.

One whose memory forever will be part of his family's bittersweet Christmases.

December 23, 2004

No. 10 Pitt Tops Richmond for 9-0 Record

Carl Krauser's outside shooting and career-high 31 points helped No. 10 Pittsburgh hold off Richmond 69-60 on Thursday night, the first game between the schools in 66 years.

Wannstedt Heading to University of Pittsburgh

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt has been named the new head coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

Malissa Bolish, an employee of Camelot Veterinary Services holds Ices, an injured kitten rescued by a motorist. The animal was frostbitten and received emergency surgery to save her life.

December 22, 2004

Six Steelers Dot AFC Pro Bowl Roster

The annual NFL All-Star Game will be played February 13 in Hawaii. The starters will be revealed on January 8.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the best record in the AFC at 13-1, had the most players selected from the conference with six -- wide receiver Hines Ward, guard Alan Faneca, center Jeff Hartings, safety Troy Polamalu and linebackers Joey Porter and James Farrior.

"Big Ben" snubbed for NFL Pro Bowl

Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is unbeaten in 12 starts and could lead Pittsburgh to a Super Bowl crown, but he was not among six Steelers named Wednesday to American football's all-star Pro Bowl.

Arizona State Upsets No. 8 UConn, 61-50

TEMPE, Ariz. - Emily Westerberg had a season-high 18 points and Kristen Kovesdy added 14, leading Arizona State to a 61-50 upset of No. 8 Connecticut on Tuesday night.

It was the first December loss in 11 years for the three-time defending NCAA champions, snapping a streak of 60 straight victories since a defeat at Stanford on Dec. 28, 1993.

The Sun Devils (8-2) were coming off a 61-45 loss at New Mexico that knocked them out of the Top 25 after one week in the rankings. But they used dogged defense and the outside-inside punch of Westerberg and Kovesdy to win their ninth straight home game and 22nd in the last 24.

Ashley Battle had a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds, but for the second straight game, the Huskies (4-2) had only one player in double figures and a season-low in points. They were in action for the first time in two weeks, since they beat Hartford 55-32 on Dec. 7.

Barbara Turner had a double-double that game, but this time she was held to 6 points and four rebounds, going 3-for-7 from the floor and 0-for-5 from the line.

The last time the Huskies had fewer points was in a 48-34 win at Virginia Tech in March.

Westerberg had three steals, contributing to 24 UConn turnovers.

Westerberg usually shot from the perimeter, but made her biggest basket on a 6-foot turnaround with 7:50 remaining, opening a 48-44 lead.

No more than four points separated the teams after that until Amy Denson's jumper with 1:46 left — Arizona State's final basket — opened a 54-48 lead.

In the final minute, Carrie Buckner, Kylan Loney and Westerberg sank two free throws each, and Denson added one.

Turner had a chance to extend a 31-30 halftime lead, but missed two free throws 19 seconds after the break, and the Sun Devils got the ball to Kovesdy for three quick layups. She was fouled on the third and missed the free throw, but Denson got the rebound.

That led to two free throws by Westerberg, sending Arizona State to a 38-31 lead with 16:27 left.

But Battle made a 3-pointer and a layup 32 seconds apart, Rashidat Sadiq tied it with 14:38 to go and Mel Thomas gave the Huskies a 40-38 lead with a layup with 10:38 to go.

The Sun Devils' biggest lead in the first half was 6-1, but UConn responded with a 16-2 run to go ahead 17-8 with 10:20 remaining. Battle had four baskets in the surge, giving the Huskies a 9-8 lead with a strong reverse layup, and they kept it until Kovesdy's three-layup burst early in the second half.

December 21, 2004

Majerus says he wasn't fit for duty with USC

Rick Majerus apologized Monday for backing out of the Southern Cal basketball coaching job less than a week after taking it, saying he just isn't healthy enough to put in "18-hour days" like he used to.

"I made a mistake," he said at a Los Angeles news conference. "I was blinded by this opportunity. But I'd be doing them a disservice and myself a disservice. Right now I just can't bring it. I looked at myself and thought that I was a phony.

"I realized they weren't getting the guy they hired. I'm not fit enough for this job for my standards."

Majerus, 56, has had problems with his heart and his weight, which has been around 370 pounds. He cited health concerns when he retired as Utah's coach last January after 15 seasons. He plans to return to his ESPN job.

Assistant Jim Saia, named the interim head coach after Henry Bibby was fired four games into the season, will remain in the post for the rest of this season, said Trojans athletic director Mike Garrett.

"This is the shortest-lived head coaching job, I think, in the history of NCAA basketball," Garrett said. "It's a tremendous loss. He's the best."

Said Majerus: "No one's hurt here. They're going to get a great coach, get a coach better than I am, probably.

December 18, 2004

Roethlisberger Leads Steelers to 12th Straight Win

Super rookie Ben Roethlisberger threw for a season-high 316 yards and a touchdown, and Jeff Reed kicked four field goals to help the Pittsburgh Steelers slip past the New York Giants 33-30 and collect a team record 12th consecutive win.

Magic Bus

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For a blink, the Meadowlands seemed such a familiar fit for this player. But you had to catch Jerome Bettis at just the right moment.

Maybe it was when he was cutting a swath into the New York Giants, like a snowplow in a pirouette. Or when he crossed into the shadow dividing the field early Saturday, turning his Pittsburgh Steelers jersey into a silhouette.

Just then, maybe Bettis reminded you of Ottis Anderson and the 1990 New York Giants – the Super Bowl team given balance by a running back pounding into his twilight.

"Oh yeah, I remember Ottis," a grinning Bettis said Saturday. "Of course I remember him. How could I not?"

In the midst Pittsburgh's 33-30 win over the Giants Saturday, how could anyone not?

It was 15 years ago that a New York team similar to these Steelers ground its way to the Super Bowl. Granted, we're not talking carbon copies here. The 1990 Giants had a defense just a bit stouter, while this Pittsburgh edition packs more offensive pop. And the two coaching Bills – Parcells and Cowher – aren't exactly separated at birth.

But look into Pittsburgh's backfield, and you'll see a player bearing eerie similarities to Anderson, who battered his way to a Super Bowl MVP despite critics who said he had nothing left.

Sound familiar?

"Everyone wrote him off," Steelers center Jeff Hartings says of Bettis. "People were even calling for him to be released in training camp. They said he was missing a step."

Nobody's saying that anymore, not with opposing defenses wearing Bettis' cleat marks like floral patterns. The Giants can attest to that fashion statement, after Bettis left a 36-carry 140-yard imprint on them Saturday.

With running back Deuce Staley's hamstring still throbbing, Bettis has shouldered the Pittsburgh load like the old days. In his five starts subbing for Staley, he's gone over 100 yards every time, rolling up 621 yards and averaging just over 31 carries per game.

Those are the classic blunt-instrument numbers that have rendered Bettis suddenly invaluable, and worthy of team MVP consideration. While it's been hard to see anything past rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's blinding acclaim, Bettis gives the Pittsburgh offense its backbone.

Considering Staley's injury, it's hard to believe this team would be 13-1 and the toast if the AFC if you take Bettis out of the equation. That's a coup for a player who entered this season as little more than a goal-line specialist and emergency option. A player who, as the pundits framed it, had little more to offer than a burden on the team's salary cap.

Bettis has bagged 13 touchdowns, and given Pittsburgh unexpected flexibility in the backfield. When Staley returns, the Steelers should have the luxury of both power and finesse in the playoffs – an Ottis Anderson-Rodney Hamptonesque duo, if you will.

"Without a question, we can be that," Staley said. "It's been proven. I was able to come in the first seven games and start off pretty good. Now he's definitely picked it up since I went out."

When Saturday's outcome was in doubt and the ball was on New York's 8-yard line with the Steelers trailing 30-26, Bettis got three straight handoffs to score the go-ahead touchdown. Nearly four minutes later, when Pittsburgh faced 3rd and 3 and needed a first down to run out the clock, Bettis went over tackle for seven yards. Game over.

"I've been a closer all year long," he said. "When it gets on the one [yard line], that's when my true duties come out. There was no question about it, I was going to get that football in. Just like on that 3rd and 4 at the end of the football game – there was no way that we weren't going to get a first down."

By the time he was done, Bettis had notched the 48th 100-yard game of his career, passing Franco Harris to become Pittsburgh's all time leader. Just another stat on a resume that includes 13,177 rushing yards and 85 total touchdowns, yet still attracts the occasional barb. Only last week, Hartings went red-faced when he heard a television commentator question whether Bettis deserved Hall of Fame consideration.

"One of the dumbest questions I've ever heard," Hartings said. "I can't even believe that they would even have to question that. He's a no-doubt Hall of Famer."

A Super Bowl ring would go a long way toward crushing any remaining doubts. Bettis is acutely aware of this, just as he knows the same people lauding him now are the people who said he had nothing left to offer only a few months ago.

"It always upsets you when you hear those things, because you know that you're better than that," Bettis said. "Just to get the opportunity now is the thing. You've got to get the opportunity to make things happen."

Twelve years into his career and eyeing another shot at the Super Bowl, it would be hard for anyone to deny Bettis is doing just that.

Pittsburgh Rolls to 73-42 Win Vs. Coppin State

Chris Taft scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as No. 10 Pittsburgh rolled to a 73-42 win over Coppin State in a non-conference matchup at the Petersen Events Center.

George Harrison Guitar Sells for $567,500

A classic Gibson guitar played by George Harrison on the Beatles' "Revolver" album and by John Lennon during the recording of the "White Album" sold Friday to an anonymous bidder for $567,500, Christie's auction house announced.
Father United with Baby Cut from Slain Mother

The girl, Victoria Jo Stinnett, was healthy and "a miracle," the Stormont-Vail hospital in Topeka, Kansas, quoted the girl's father, Zebulon Stinnett, as saying after the two were united late on Friday.

The girl's mother, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, had been found strangled in her Missouri home on Thursday with her abdomen sliced open, the baby gone and the umbilical cord cut.

The woman was eight-months pregnant when discovered in a pool of blood by her mother, Becky Harper. Investigators said Harper "noted it appeared as though her daughter's stomach had exploded."

A nationwide "Amber Alert" for the missing baby drew intense attention. It was credited with helping authorities find the girl alive and in the possession of Lisa Montgomery, 36, of Kansas, who was arrested on Friday on murder and kidnap charges.

Montgomery confessed to killing Stinnett and taking the baby, according to a federal criminal complaint. Based on the statement, the authorities united the baby girl and her father, although DNA tests are pending, Nodaway County, Missouri, Sheriff Ben Espey said through a spokeswoman.

"I want to thank family, friends, Amber Alert and law enforcement officials for their support at this time," Zebulon Stinnett said in the hospital statement.

Stinnett, of Skidmore, Missouri, and other family members had traveled to Topeka to be with the baby, who was listed in good condition.


Montgomery probably will appear in court on Monday in either Kansas or Missouri, authorities said.

Authorities desperately trying to find the prematurely born baby had honed in on Montgomery with the help of a tip and FBI computer sleuths tracing Internet communications. They tracked the baby to the town of Melvern, in eastern Kansas, where she was found at Montgomery's home.

Bobbie Jo Stinnett bred and sold rat-terrier dogs, and had been in communication on her computer with someone who asked for directions to her home to make a purchase, according to an affidavit released by the U.S. Attorney in Kansas City.

Stinnett's mother also told the authorities her daughter had said in a phone conversation that she was expecting someone to come and look at her dogs and then said, "Oh, they're here, I've got to go."

Marks on Stinnett's throat indicated she had been strangled from behind, and blond hair was found clenched in both of her hands.

The motive for the crime remained unknown, investigators said. Local media in Kansas City reported that Montgomery had suffered an earlier miscarriage.

Agents who made the arrest said Montgomery had told her husband, Kevin, that she had unexpectedly given birth.

"She had ... called her husband, we allege in the complaint, and told him that she had a baby in Topeka," Todd Graves, U.S. District Attorney for Western Missouri, told ABC's "Good Morning America.

"She was at Long John Silver's (restaurant) in Topeka, he should come and meet her. He went to meet her; there was a baby; they took it home."
Boston baseball diamonds to be named for Ebersol

LITCHFIELD, Conn. -- Three baseball diamonds along Boston's Esplanade will be named for 14-year-old Teddy Ebersol, Red Sox team officials said.

Red Sox officials made the announcement at the teen's funeral Friday.

Ebersol, a passionate Red Sox fan, was killed Nov. 28 when the plane he was traveling in crashed amid freezing temperatures, fog and light snow. His father, NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol, and his 21-year-old brother, Charlie, were injured.

The three baseball fields are located along a 17-mile stretch of the Charles River, and are used for pick-up games and for adult play. Boston Red Sox owner Tom Werner, a friend of Dick Ebersol, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the Boston Red Sox Foundation plan to restore the fields, officials said.

"We're still in the early stages of planning," said Meg Vaillancourt, senior vice president of corporate affairs for the Red Sox. "But we hope to have the restoration completed by this summer."

Friends said that the day after the Red Sox defeated the Yankees to win the American League Championship, Teddy Ebersol brought a box of tissues to his school cafeteria, and gave them to Yankees fans. At a memorial service this week, friends gave away Red Sox cookies shaped like two red socks to mourners.

The accident also killed pilot Luis Alberto Polanco and flight attendant Warren Richardson III. Federal authorities are investigating whether ice on the wings contributed to the crash, and why the pilots did not de-ice the wings.

December 17, 2004

Family, friends remember Teddy Ebersol

WASHINGTON, Conn. -- Speaking from a hospital bed wheeled into a memorial service for his son, NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol tearfully thanked 400 relatives and friends who gathered Thursday night to remember 14-year-old Teddy.

The teenager was among three people killed in a Nov. 28 plane crash in southwestern Colorado. The three others aboard the executive jet, including his older brother and his father, were injured.

"I know that most of you in the room can't see me, but I'm Teddy's dad," Ebersol said during the ceremony at the Washington Montessori School. "I just wanted to say that tonight and every day since the crash, Susan and I have been overwhelmed by your love and affection from people everywhere, but most of all in this community."

Ebersol, who is married to actress Susan Saint James, wore a green baseball cap and was covered by a Boston Red Sox blanket.

The crash occurred while the plane was taking off in light snow, fog and freezing temperatures.

The accident killed Edward "Teddy" Ebersol, pilot Luis Alberto Polanco and flight attendant Warren Richardson III. Dick Ebersol and his 21-year-old son, Charlie, were hospitalized and co-pilot Eric Wicksell was critically injured.

Federal authorities are investigating whether ice on the wings contributed to the crash, and why the pilots did not de-ice the wings.

After Dick Ebersol spoke, Charlie Ebersol talked about his brother and recalled what Teddy said just before he died.

"In the last second he said, 'Dad, I'm scared,"' Charlie Ebersol said. "As if he just said it, it would go away."

The Ebersols handed out gray plastic bracelets with "A Whole New Race" written on them in white letters. The quote was from Teddy's graduation speech at the school last year, when he said, "The finish line is only the beginning of a whole new race."

They also gave out Red Sox cookies shaped like two red socks. Teddy was a fervent Red Sox fan.

Keith Knudsen, a member of the Doobie Brothers, sang one of the band's most popular songs, "Black Water," with counselors from Teddy's summer camp.

During the ceremony, people spoke of Teddy's many interests, which included SpongeBob SquarePants and Skittles candy.

Charlie Ebersol remembered Teddy's love for the Red Sox, who won the World Series this year for the first time since 1918.

"They were better because you believed. I love you for that," he said.

December 15, 2004

Dick Ebersol Hurt Worse Than Reported

BC officials said yesterday that Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal Sports, who was injured in a plane crash Nov. 28, was continuing to recuperate from what the officials said were more serious injuries than originally reported.

Ebersol's son Edward, known as Teddy, was killed when a chartered plane crashed in bad weather in Montrose, Colo. Another son, Charles, sustained less serious injuries to his back and a burn on his arm when he pulled his father from the wreckage.

The pilot and a flight attendant were also killed in the accident.

The family is holding a memorial service today in Litchfield, Conn., for family and friends of Teddy, who was 14. They have set up a fund for contributions to the Litchfield County Association for Retarded Citizens. Teddy was a volunteer worker for that organization.

Ebersol is expected to attend the service, though friends and colleagues said he was still unable to walk. He will not be able to stand on his own for several more weeks, said Mike McCarley, a spokesman for NBC Sports.

Initial reports said that Ebersol had fractured his sternum and three ribs, but his injuries were more extensive. He also has a fractured pelvis, a fractured coccyx and six broken vertebrae in his back.

It is still undetermined when Ebersol will be able to return to work at NBC, McCarley said. In his absence, his duties at NBC Sports are being handled by two executives.

Ken Schanzer, the president of NBC Sports, is managing the day-to-day work of the division, and Gary Zenkel, the executive vice president of NBC Olympics, is managing the network's Olympics business.

NBC has the rights to the next Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, in 2006, as well as the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. The network also owns the rights to the 2012 Summer Games. A host city for that Olympiad will be announced next summer.

Ebersol has been the key executive in all of NBC's Olympics coverage. He negotiated all the Olympic rights deals for the network and has served as the chief producer on the network's Olympic telecasts.

December 14, 2004

Barry Manilow Signs Las Vegas Contract

LAS VEGAS - Barry Manilow, famous for songs such as "Mandy" and "Copacabana," has signed a long-term deal to perform at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel-casino. Manilow will perform five nights a week for 24 weeks through 2005 and into 2006, executives announced Tuesday. The 90-minute show premieres Feb. 24 and is called "Manilow: Music and Passion."

Executives declined to discuss contract details.

Manilow said at a news conference that playing Las Vegas made perfect sense after he made the decision to stop touring.

He said the show will include singers, dancers, a large band and new songs.

"It won't be static," Manilow said. "It will change every night."

His theater will hold about 1,700 people after renovations.

Manilow, who said he intends to write a Las Vegas theme song similar to "New York, New York," is following in the footsteps of Elvis Presley, who once performed at the Hilton, and other singers such as Celine Dion, Elton John and Gladys Knight.

Asked if he had gotten any tips from Dion about living and performing in Las Vegas, Manilow said no, but added: "I'll give her a call."

The Manilow deal is part of a plan to reinvigorate the aging Las Vegas Hilton.

Casino giant Caesars Entertainment Inc. sold the property to a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Colony Capital LLC earlier this year in a deal worth $280 million.

Rudy Prieto, Las Vegas Hilton chief executive and general manager, said Manilow will help restore the luster to the 3,000-room hotel-casino that was built in 1969.
Back to business: Majerus accepts USC post

Rick Majerus accepted an offer Tuesday night to coach the Southern California men's basketball team beginning at the end of the 2004-05 season, multiple sources have told

The former Utah coach is expected to sign a five-year contract with the Trojans and will resign immediately as an ESPN college basketball analyst.

At USC (3-3), Majerus will succeed Henry Bibby, who was fired last week. Jim Saia will remain as interim coach through this season. Saia is 1-1 since taking over for Bibby, who coached the Trojans to a 2-2 record before being dismissed.

USC is expected to announce Majerus' hiring as early as Wednesday. Majerus is in Los Angeles and is expected to be on campus Wednesday afternoon.

The 57-year-old Majerus was in the first year of a five-year deal with ESPN and is expected to pay a negotiated buyout to the network. He worked his last game for ESPN on Monday night in Philadelphia, where Wake Forest beat Temple.

Majerus has longed to coach at Southern California and told those close to him that this was the only job for which he would leave ESPN. He wrestled with the decision but couldn't foresee missing out on the opportunity. He apparently will lay low and rest for the next three months and not coach over Saia's shoulder.

Majerus quit as Utah's coach last January, citing health reasons. Majerus is known to be one of college basketball's best teachers of the game. He coached Utah to the national championship game in 1998, where the Utes lost to Kentucky. He has also had coaching stops at Ball State, Marquette and with the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant coach.

December 13, 2004

Scott Peterson sentenced to death

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF - Former California fertilizer salesman Scott Peterson has been sentenced to death for killing his pregnant wife Laci Peterson.

The same jury of six men and six women who in November found Peterson guilty of first degree murder in the death of his wife, and second degree murder in the death of their unborn son, delivered their verdict Monday on the third day of deliberations.

Before making their decision, the jury had asked the judge to see 13 pieces of evidence, including autopsy photos and aerial pictures of the bay where prosecutors said Peterson dumped the body.

They also asked to see the publicized photograph of Laci Peterson wearing a red maternity pantsuit with her hands folded.

The sentence follows a five-month trial in which two jurors were removed for unspecified reasons and the judge twice told the panel to start over.

Prosecutors had told the court that 32-year-old Peterson, from Modesto, Calif., strangled or smothered his wife and dumped her body in San Francisco Bay, motivated by an affair he was having with a woman who didn't know he was married.

The defence admitted Peterson was cheating on his wife, but argued there was no proof that he had anything to do with her disappearance and death.

Her decomposed body was found in April 2003, four months after she was last seen.

The remains of the male fetus she had been carrying were nearby, not far from the spot where Scott Peterson had told police he was fishing alone when she vanished.

Once DNA tests confirmed their identity, Peterson was charged with two counts of murder. The case has been making headlines ever since in both the tabloids and in the mainstream media.

Congrats on Jerome's TD Pass

Hines Jerome Lee, originally uploaded by Mrs_Skeffington.

Pittsburgh Steelers receivers Hines Ward (86) and Lee Mays (89) congratulate running back Jerome Bettis (36) after he threw a touchdown pass to tight end Jerame Tuman against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter in Pittsburgh, December 12, 2004. Bettis scored on the next drive and gained 57 yards rushing on the day, for a career total of 13,037. The Steelers won 17-6 clinching the AFC North Division.

(9) Duke 82, Toledo 54

Mike Krzyzewski 700 Wins, originally uploaded by Mrs_Skeffington.

DURHAM, N.C. -- Mike Krzyzewski avoids any contact with the outside world before a game, a long-standing ritual that allows him to prepare mentally for the task ahead.

He made a rare exception Sunday, making a phone call to the man who hired him at Duke, former athletic director Tom Butters.

``I did talk to Tom,'' Krzyzewski said, ``to say thanks.''

Later, on a court that bears his name, Coach K became the sixth active coach to reach 700 victories, watching as Shelden Williams finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds to help the ninth-ranked Blue Devils beat Toledo 82-54.

A rough first three seasons at the school left Krzyzewski with a 38-47 record, but Butters stuck with him. That support has continued throughout his 25 years at Duke, even during two brief musings about leaving for the NBA.

``I wonder, 'How lucky was I?''' Krzyzewski said. ``At 38-47, somebody's got to be there for you. Duke's always been there for me, and I'll always be there for Duke.''

During a brief ceremony after the game, Krzyzewski thanked several people within the program, including current and past players, and the Cameron Crazies who pack Cameron Indoor Stadium every game.

He also gave a nod to former coach and mentor Bob Knight, the only one to reach 700 faster than Krzyzewski. Both started their careers with successful tenures at Army, where Krzyzewski played under Knight.

``I really thought about Coach Knight and Tom Butters,'' Krzyzewski said. ``There's a reason why somebody's in a place they are all the time. Those two people have been unbelievable for my development.

``If I didn't touch them in my life, I would not have touched so many others. I realize that.''

J.J. Redick scored 14 points and Daniel Ewing added 13 for the Blue Devils (6-0).

Krzyzewski, whose record is 700-240, clearly was focused on this game, not the achievement. In the first half, with Duke leading by 11 points, he berated referees Jamie Luckie and Ray Nattili for what he thought was a kicked ball infraction by the Rockets.

During a timeout, Krzyzewski continued the ``discussion,'' but he avoided a technical. Not even the officials wanted to ruin this night for him.

``I'm not a lookback guy,'' Krzyzewski said. ``I'm a next-play guy. I'm really glad we won and we can get back to developing these players.''

The Blue Devils hadn't played in eight days, an exam-induced layoff that led to some expected rustiness in the first half. The Rockets (1-4) made their first five shots and led 10-2, quieting the Cameron Crazies for a bit.

An 11-0 run gave Duke the lead for good, and the second half was nothing more than a countdown to the inevitable. Toledo went more than 8 minutes without a basket -- missing 11 straight shots to fall way behind.

``Obviously, we got off to a good start, but then we couldn't sustain it,'' Rockets coach Stan Joplin said. ``We wanted to avoid one of those situations where they would go on a 12- or 15-2 run, and we couldn't avoid it.''

Ewing and Williams did most of the damage during the spurt, combining for the first 16 points after halftime. Bothered by foul trouble in the opening half, Ewing returned with a vengeance, going outside for a 3-pointer and then taking a beautiful lob pass from DeMarcus Nelson for a dunk.

Even crowd favorite Reggie Love got in the act, rebounding a miss by Redick and leaping for a slam. That was part of 17 straight points by the Blue Devils, and Nelson finished it off with a layup to make it 63-38.

``I don't know exactly what it means to Coach, because he is such a driven guy,'' Redick said. ``I am sure he is still hungry and energized. I expect him to get a lot more wins, but I think this will mean a lot to him.''

The Rockets, the preseason favorite in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference, beat Nevada 83-75 last week for their only victory of the season. That came at home, and they started a four-game road trip with their first visit to Cameron.

Leading scorer Florentin Valencia, who was averaging 15.5 points, struggled throughout and finished with only four points. Keonta Howell led Toledo with 13.

``We had some good looks,'' Joplin said. ``We missed some layups. Early, we were getting those, and then they started not to fall.''

December 12, 2004

Get on the Bus

PITTSBURGH -- Here's how ridiculously well things are going for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season: They're 11-0 when rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger starts a game, and more importantly -- on Sunday at least -- 1-0 when 255-pound running back Jerome Bettis throws a touchdown pass.

That's right. As if the Steelers didn't have enough weapons on offense already, they turned the man they call "The Bus'' into an Airbus on Sunday against the New York Jets, getting as much point production from his right arm as those big, powerful tree stumps that pass for legs.

Guess that's life for an NFL team on a team record-tying 11-game winning streak. When your wunderkind rookie quarterback looks more like a rookie quarterback than he ever has, you still find a way to win -- salting away a division title in the process -- thanks to a veteran like Bettis, who threw for one fourth-quarter touchdown pass and scored another by his more traditional method, a 12-yard run.

Not to demoralize the rest of the NFL's likely playoff qualifiers, but when you have to worry about Bettis beating you with both his running and his passing, well, you could be in for a long day on defense.

"When the play call came in, I looked at my wristband and I didn't know if [offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt] said the wrong number, because I saw what the play was,'' said Roethlisberger, of the key play in an otherwise less-than-memorable 17-6 Steelers defeat of the Jets at Heinz Field. "But I told Jerome, 'Here's a good chance to make a play.'

"He probably won't tell you this, but we ran it in practice [this week] and it fell about five yards short of the tight end [Jerame Tuman]. And he said it's because he's not a practice player. But I hand the ball off and I turn around and you see him make the play, and that's Jerome for you.''

That's Bettis all right, and that's also the Steelers this season, the team with the Midas Touch. If nothing's working, just hold on, they'll think of something. And when they do, it'll work like a charm. Especially when it's a 10-yard Bettis touchdown pass that had a little bit of a shot put's trajectory to it.

"My quarterback grip is not very good,'' deadpanned Bettis, whose execution of Pittsburgh's 438 Counter Pass broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Steelers a 10-3 lead with 12:56 left in the game. "I tried to get it around the laces, just so I could get it up and over that safety that was out there. I didn't want it to be stuck, because I had gloves on. I made the mistake in practice of throwing a line drive, so I learn from my mistakes.''

Mistakes? Bettis is now 3-of-6 with three touchdowns throwing the halfback option pass in his career, for a cool 63 yards. He tossed a 21-yarder to Hines Ward in 1999, and another to Tuman (his favorite target), for 32 yards, in 2001. If you're keeping score, that's two more career touchdown passes than Eli Manning has.

Whatever it takes to keep their magic carpet ride going, that's what the Steelers (12-1) are getting from Bettis and Co. this season. On a day when Roethlisberger looked more like Eli Manning than Bettis did, Pittsburgh still managed to gut out the victory against a talented Jets defense that probably deserved better.

In some ways, Pittsburgh's win had to be very reassuring to the Steeler faithful. If Pittsburgh is going to play deep into January, it's probably going to have to win a game or two like this: ugly, low-scoring affairs, where the yards are tough to come by, and the points even tougher. Where Roethlisberger starts slowly, and the defense and running game have to carry the entire load for more than a half or so.

The fallback formula worked well enough against New York, even when Roethlisberger started with a paltry 3-of-11 passing in the first half, for 24 yards, a pick and a microscopic 1.7 quarterback rating. But he steadied himself in the second half, completing six of his final eight passes for 120 yards, with another interception. His first-half performance was the kind the Steelers had been bracing themselves for, and still they survived his first two-interception game as a starter.

"The one thing I liked about Ben was when the game was there in the fourth quarter, he never really fretted,'' said Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, who wrapped up his eighth division title in his 13-season stint in Pittsburgh. "He hung in there and threw a great [46-yard] pass to Lee Mays on the third down [late in the fourth quarter], which I thought was the biggest play of the game.''

Not to be the contrarian, but the Bettis touchdown pass was bigger, because it reinforced the notion that the Steelers can do little wrong in 2004. Minnesota tried a very risky receiver-option pass with Randy Moss earlier Sunday afternoon, had it picked off with just more than two minutes remaining, and lost to Seattle in a game that could end up ruining the Vikings' season.

But when the Steelers tried virtually the same thing, Bettis somehow suckered 10 Jets defenders close to the line of scrimmage, and then beat them deep with his arm. It's always a beautiful thing when trickery works. Especially when the magician is as unlikely as Bettis.

"I wasn't surprised, because we've thrown the ball in situations like that before,'' said Bettis, who also rushed for a team-best 57 yards on 10 carries, spelling Duce Staley late, after the Steelers' starter went out with a tight hamstring. "I knew if the opportunity presented itself, they weren't afraid to call it. Coach did kind of give me the last bit of advice. He said, 'If it's not there, tuck it and run with it.'

"We knew they'd read our tendencies and expect the run in that particular situation. We were in [double tight ends], where we always run a counter-type play. So it was really a great call in playing against our tendencies.''

In securing their third division title in four years, the Steelers took a giant first step toward the Super Bowl, but other than the now-mandatory championship hats that every team passes out in the post-game, there was no real sign of celebration. That's because Cowher has focused like a laser on finishing the job, which means Pittsburgh continuing to protect its No. 1 seed in the AFC with the accompanying home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Steelers are going to the postseason, but there's still plenty to lose in the coming three weeks, as Pittsburgh travels to the Giants next week, before closing with Baltimore at home and at red-hot Buffalo. If a rematch with New England is in the offing in the AFC Championship, the Steelers are determined it be at Heinz Field, where they are 7-0 this season.

"This team understands it's a journey,'' Cowher said. "This is the first step. It was almost a battle of wills out there today, like who was going to flinch first. We just came up with a couple more big plays than they did, and that was the difference in the game.''

The difference on this day was Jerome Bettis. By air, and by land. Whatever it takes.

Pittsburgh 17, NY Jets 6

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Jets prepared for everything the Pittsburgh Steelers could throw at them. Everything except for Jerome Bettis' rarely seen passing arm.

Bettis flipped a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman three plays after surpassing the 13,000-yard rushing mark early in the fourth quarter, fooling what had been an impenetrable Jets defense and sending the Steelers to team record-tying 17-6 victory Sunday.

On a day Bettis and the Jets' Curtis Martin each broke the 13,000-yard barrier, Bettis also ran for his 12th touchdown of the season late in a decisive 14-point Pittsburgh fourth quarter.

``They made the plays, and that's what good teams do, what championship teams do,'' Jets coach Herman Edwards said. ``Their guys played better than us in the fourth quarter.''

Until Bettis' surprise throw, Pittsburgh's offense didn't look Super Bowl-ready as the Steelers (12-1) were held to 19 or fewer points for the fourth consecutive game. But they overcame a spotty game by rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to win a club record-tying 11th in a row. The 1975 Super Bowl champion Steelers also won 11 straight during a 12-2 season.

``Everybody keeps waiting for us to have a letdown, but each week someone steps up and makes big plays,'' wide receiver Hines Ward said. ``Really, Jerome won the game by himself.''

Roethlisberger was only 9 of 19 for 144 yards but kept his unprecedented rookie winning streak going, too, winning his 11th in a row in the NFL and 24th straight the last two seasons, counting his final 13 games at Miami of Ohio.

The Steelers' 15th victory in 17 games against the Jets (9-4) secured the AFC North championship that has been a foregone conclusion for weeks and kept them in the lead for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

The Jets' offense constantly broke down amid an uncharacteristic series of penalties (12 for 84 yards, all in the first half) and breakdowns. Chad Pennington was intercepted three times, only one fewer than he previously had all season.

``It's up to me to steer the ship in the right direction,'' said Pennington, 17-of-31 for 189 yards. ``Only a few plays separate the 11-1 teams from the 6-5 teams. A lot of teams have come close to beating the Steelers, but to their credit, they do a good job of making sure it doesn't happen.''

The Jets' defense had shut out three consecutive opponents in the second half and six this season until Bettis' throw, which broke a 3-all tie and kept New York from being 10-3 for the first time since 1986.

Bettis' third career touchdown pass in six attempts came on third-and-3. He rolled to his right after taking a handoff from Roethlisberger and casually tossed the ball to a wide-open Tuman, who also caught Bettis' last scoring pass in 2001. Bettis also had a TD throw in 1999.

``I got behind the safety and I couldn't see him (Bettis), I could just see the ball coming,'' Tuman said. ``When we practiced it Friday it didn't look good, the throw was a little low, but he got it up today. We had it set up perfectly -- we could hear their defense calling out (a run).''

Bettis ran for 57 yards to push his career total to 13,037, taking over after starter Duce Staley gained 51 yards. Martin had 24 carries for 72 yards to move past Bettis into fifth place with 13,046 yards in the first game in NFL history in which two backs each surpassed 13,000 yards.

Only four others have more than 13,000: Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson.

``We got together after the game and I told him congratulations and he told me congratulations,'' Martin said. ``You have to appreciate consistency, and that's what he's done.''

The Jets were the league's second-least penalized team until breaking down in the first half, when the only scoring came on Jeff Reed's 34-yard field goal for Pittsburgh following Troy Polamalu's interception. New York threatened late in the half by driving from its 4 to the Steelers 30, but Pennington was intercepted by James Farrior.

``Everything in the world happened to us in the first half, everything went wrong and we were still right there,'' Pennington said. ``We made too many mental mistakes and it begins with me.''


Steelers LB Clark Haggans missed most of the game with a groin injury. ... The Steelers are 4-0 against winning-record opponents (Patriots, Eagles, Jaguars, Jets). ... Roethlisberger has thrown for 150 yards or more only once in five games. ... The Jets have scored only 12 points against Pittsburgh the last two seasons, all on field goals. The Jets won 6-0 last season in a snowstorm in East Rutherford.