December 21, 2005

Joe Paterno Chosen As AP Coach of Year

NEW YORK - Joe Paterno doesn't have to say "I told you so." JoePa, who turns 79 on Wednesday, got an early birthday present Tuesday when he was an overwhelming choice as The Associated Press college football coach of the year.

So much for critics who said the game had passed him by.

Not that he's gloating about Penn State's resurgence.

"The only thing I wanted to do is try to get us back to where we were a good football team and we could be very competitive and make some plays we hadn't made," he said. "We got that done and I feel good about that."

After four losing seasons in the last five years, Paterno and the Nittany Lions rebounded in 2005 to go 10-1, share the Big Ten title and earn a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

For that, Paterno received 45 of 65 votes from media members on AP's college football poll board. Texas' Mack Brown was second with eight votes after leading the Longhorns to a perfect regular season and a spot in the Rose Bowl. Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and Southern California's Pete Carroll, whose Trojans will face Brown's Longhorns for the national title, got three votes each.

West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez received two votes. Les Miles of LSU, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina, George O'Leary of Central Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Auburn, last year's winner, each received one vote.

"It's very flattering," Paterno said. "I think anytime, regardless of whether it be my first year or my 50th year, to have people recognize what's been done is very, very ... uplifting. The only thing I feel sometimes is that the head coach gets too much credit. I think sometimes it ought to be coaching staff of the year."

Despite going 4-7 in 2004, Paterno was convinced that the Nittany Lions were on the verge of good things.

In search of playmakers, he landed two of the nation's top recruits in speedy receivers Derrick Williams and Justin King. By doing so, Paterno showed that he and his staff, led by recruiting coordinator and former Penn State quarterback Mike McQueary, were still capable of bringing in blue-chippers.

Paterno believed in quarterback Michael Robinson, who spent three seasons moving from passer to runner to receiver, and gave offensive coordinator Galen Hall and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno the job of building a system around the multidimensional senior.

Hall and Jay Paterno, Joe's son, went to Texas in the offseason to check out what Brown was doing with Vince Young.

"We got some great ideas," Joe Paterno said. "It was a big help to us, it really was."

Robinson and the fast frosh made the Nittany Lions explosive again, and JoePa had himself a 21st century offense to go along with a rugged defense, led by a throwback Penn State linebacker, junior Paul Posluszny.

The Nittany Lions had signature wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin and rose to No. 3 in the nation. In Paterno's 40th season, Penn State was just a couple of seconds away from going unbeaten. Its only loss was 27-25 at Michigan, on a last-play touchdown.

Paterno now has 353 victories. Only Florida State's Bobby Bowden (359) has more among Division I-A coaches, and the two will meet in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, Penn State's BCS debut.

Few outside Happy Valley saw this coming.

From 2000-04, Penn State was 27-33 overall, 16-24 in the Big Ten, with seven victories combined in 2003-04. Nevertheless, Paterno has never tied success solely to wins and losses.

"I never felt bad when we were 4-7 last year because I thought we had a bunch of kids that never quit," he said. "And that's the joy of coaching. It isn't 8-3. It isn't 10-1. It isn't 11-0. It isn't any of that stuff. It's did you get the most out of your football team."

Now Paterno is in vogue again. Maybe more than ever before.

The doubters who cried for change, who thought Paterno was hurting the school by refusing to let go, have had to eat their words.

But don't expect Paterno to call out his critics.

"To be honest, I really have never thought that way. It's not my nature," he said. "I'm not a vindictive guy. I don't read the papers. I realize the media's got a job to do and I realize the alumni, if they're interested in your program, are going to die when you lose and so forth, and a lot of them get carried away," he said.

"What good does it do for me to say, 'I told you so.'"

December 11, 2005

USC's Bush Runs Off With Heisman Trophy

Reggie Bush took slow, deliberate steps to the podium and began his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech with a huge sigh of relief and a hand over his heart. He may have been the only one in the packed room with any doubt about the outcome. Once again, the sensational Southern California tailback left the competition far, far behind.

Redick Scores 41 as Duke Crushes Texas

There was no doubt about the latest No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

December 09, 2005

Dancing with the Stars competitors named

The New York Post almost got it right when it leaked some names of contestants on the next installment of Dancing with the Stars. They said Lisa Rinna, Jerry Rice, Drew Lachey, Robert Wagner and possibly Kevin Nealon would compete. Wagner and Nealon didn't make the final list, which ABC released today. Season two of competition premieres on Thursday, January 5.

Here is the official list of contestants:

Tia Carrere, actress. Dancing partner: Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Giselle Fernandez, journalist. Dancing partner: Jonathan Roberts
George Hamilton, actor. Dancing partner: Edyta Sliwinska
Stacy Keibler, pro wrestler. Dancing partner: Tony Dovolani
Drew Lachey, singer. Dancing partner: Cheryl Burke
Kenny Mayne, ESPN host. Dancing partner: Andrea Hale
Tatum O'Neal, actress. Dancing partner: Nick Kosovich
Jerry Rice, former NFL receiver. Dancing partner: Anna Trebunskaya
Lisa Rinna, actress. Dancing partner: Louis van Amstel
Romeo, teen-age rapper. Dancing partner: Ashly Delgrosso

December 05, 2005

(7) North Carolina 77, (8) Connecticut 54

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Ivory Latta had 21 points and five assists and No. 7 North Carolina dealt Connecticut its worst home loss in the Geno Auriemma era, beating the eighth-ranked Huskies 77-54 Monday night.

The Tar Heels (8-0) were nearly unstoppable on offense, extending their lead to 33 points, and they shut down the Huskies (6-1) for long stretches.

When Latta left the game with 2:22 remaining, the speedy guard received a round of applause from UConn fans that remained.

The loss was the earliest home setback for the Huskies in 15 years. Before Monday, the worst home loss in Auriemma's 21 years at UConn was a 20-point defeat to Villanova in 1986.

Nearly 14,000 turned out to watch the women's edition of the Jimmy V Classic, a cancer research fund-raiser in honor of Jim Valvano, the late North Carolina State coach. The game was a rematch of last year's Jimmy V classic in Raleigh, which was won by the Heels 71-65.

North Carolina gave the UConn fans little to cheer as its relentless defense accounted for five steals and seven blocks and held the Huskies to 35 percent shooting. The Tar Heels also scored 23 points off UConn turnovers.

With Latta running the point, the Tar Heels seemed to score at will as their up-tempo attack ran into little interference.

La'Tangela Atkinson finished with 18 points for North Carolina, and Camille Little added 17. Atkinson and Little combined for 17 rebounds and the Tar Heels outrebounded UConn 42-33. Erlana Larkins finished with three blocks.

Ann Strother finished with 13 points and was the only UConn player to reach double digits.

The Tar Heels had five steals and five blocks in the first period, and when they weren't swiping the ball, they were swiping at it, disrupting just about everything the Huskies tried to run.

North Carolina scored 15 points off turnovers in the opening half.

The Huskies didn't have an answer for Latta, who had 10 points in the first half.

The Tar Heels silenced the crowd with an early 21-1 run. UConn went nearly 11 minutes without a field goal and nine minutes without a point. By the time Christina DeWitt's layup ended the run, the Tar Heels' lead was at 19 points, 28-9, with just under 8 minutes left in the half.

The Huskies recovered and put together a 14-7 to cut their deficit to 35-23 at the break.
No. 1 Duke Defeats Virginia Tech 77-75

DURHAM, N.C. - No one has scored more points for Duke than Johnny Dawkins. Nearly 20 years after his college career ended, he settled for one big assist. Sean Dockery made a heave from about 40 feet with less than a second left after some advice from the associate head coach, giving the top-ranked Blue Devils an improbable 77-75 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski drew up a play for burly center Shelden Williams, but Dawkins saw Dockery was virtually unguarded. He urged the senior guard to make himself available for Josh McRoberts' pass, if Williams should be covered.

That's exactly how it happened.

"I knew I had plenty of time," Dockery said. "I had confidence in the shot and I knocked it down."

It conjured up memories of Christian Laettner's shot at the buzzer that beat Kentucky in the 1992
NCAA tournament, when he took a pass from Grant Hill and swished a jumper from near the top of the key. Much as Hill did, McRoberts set the play in motion with perfect aim.

"I don't know what I was thinking," McRoberts said. "It was kind of surreal to watch."

The frantic finish denied the Hokies a stunning upset after they rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 4 1/2 minutes. Coleman Collins capped the comeback by tipping in a miss by Zabian Dowdell, and after conferring with TV replays, the referees put 1.6 seconds back on the clock for the Blue Devils (7-0).

He received the ball just over halfcourt, then took one quick dribble — one less than Laettner needed 13 1/2 years ago — and launched his shot from the "Coach K Court" decal near the sideline.

It rattled in, sending the Cameron Crazies into a frenzy and giving Virginia Tech (5-3) its second stunning loss in two days. On Saturday, Marcus Vick and the Hokies' football team lost the ACC's first championship game to Florida State.

"I'm very proud of our basketball team," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. "We did a lot of things that gave us a chance to win the basketball game. We just got beat by a great team on a great shot."

Shelden Williams dominated throughout and finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds, while J.J. Redick bounced back from first half foul trouble to add 18 points. Yet, with the game on the line, Dockery was the one who came through.

He finished with a season-high 19 points — the first time he's been in double figures all season — and was 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Of course, the final one was the most important.

"It felt real good leaving my hand," Dockery said. "Not to sound cocky or anything, but I knew it had a chance. In practice, I'm never the one hitting those shots. I guess it makes me about 1-for-30 now."

Collins led the Hokies with 25 points on 12-of-17 shooting, and Dowdell added 15.

"We just kept fighting," Dowdell said. "I was real optimistic. I just felt like something good was going to happen to our team."

This one was tight all the way, featuring 17 lead changes and 12 ties. The Blue Devils finally took control with — what else? — with stingy defense, and Redick and the rest of the guards finally found range from outside.

Virginia Tech was down 63-61 when Gordon got stripped by Dockery, and Duke's Lee Melchionni beat everyone down court for what was going to be an uncontested layup. Gordon hustled down in an attempt to stop the shot, but he simply shoved Melchionni out of bounds instead of going for the ball.

An intentional foul was called, giving the ball to the Blue Devils following two free throws from Melchionni. Redick made the most of the extra possession by making his first 3-pointer, and suddenly, the Hokies were down seven.

It quickly got worse. Collins worked inside for an easy basket before Duke pulled away, thanks to Williams putting back his own miss, Redick using a nifty behind-the-back dribble to free himself for an open look and Dockery converting a pair of free throws.

That made it 74-63. On the sideline, Greenberg told his team to stay patient and to come back one defensive stop at a time.

"That's what we hang our hat on," Dowdell said. "As long as we keep doing that well, we'll be all right."

The comeback was swift. Nine straight points — highlighted by Collins' two dunks — cut the margin to two and, after Jamon Gordon made one of two at the line, Williams missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

With 11 seconds left, the Hokies got an open look for Dowdell, and when the ball rolled off the rim, Collins beat Williams to the rebound to give his team the lead.

It proved to be short-lived.

"I feel very badly for Virginia Tech," Coach K said. "They gave a winning effort. They never quit and they were certainly deserving to win. I'm not sure we were."

No. 18 Washington 99, No. 6 Gonzaga 95

At Seattle, Jamal Williams had 22 points and seven rebounds and Washington overcame Gonzaga star Adam Morrison's 43-point night.

Freshman Justin Dentmon scored a season-high 17 points to help Washington (7-0) extend the nation's longest home winning streak to 29 games. The Huskies also ended a seven-game losing skid to their cross-state rivals.

December 04, 2005

Mary Hayley Bell
January 22, 1914 - December 1, 2005
Actress and author who supported her family in their careers and wrote the enchanting novel Whistle Down the Wind

In a remarkable theatrical family, Mary Hayley Bell tended to be overshadowed by her husband, John Mills, and their daughters, Juliet and Hayley. Yet while she was happy to fulfil the traditional roles of wife and mother, and did so with unswerving loyalty and affection, she managed a not inconsiderable career of her own.

She had started in the theatre as an actress but became better known for writing plays than appearing in them. She was nothing if not prolific. Working from a caravan at the bottom of the garden at the family home in Richmond, Surrey, at one time she was turning out a play a year.

Not all reached the West End and some were not even accepted for production. Among the disappointments, however, were tangible successes, especially when her husband was the leading man. He starred in Men in Shadow (1942), Duet for Two Hands gave him a long London run in 1945 and eight years later he was with Joan Greenwood in The Uninvited Guest, an excursion into Victorian madness which required him to sport a blazing red wig.

She continued to write plays until the early 1960s when, after her latest effort had been rejected, she decided that the theatre no longer wanted her. In the meantime, however, she had turned to writing novels. Her most notable book was Whistle Down the Wind (1958), the story of three children who mistake an escaped murderer for Jesus Christ. It was sensitively filmed in 1961 by Richard Attenborough (as producer) and Bryan Forbes (as director) with the location changed from the Home Counties to Lancashire. Hayley Mills gave a fine performance in the lead role.

Many years later Whistle Down the Wind was turned into a stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, still set in the 1950s, but relocated to the American Deep South. The show had a chequered history. It opened in Washington to mixed reviews, a New York transfer was delayed and then cancelled, and a smaller, cheaper production eventually opened in London in the summer of 1998.

Bell was not involved in either adaptation of Whistle Down the Wind but she was co-writer of the 1965 film Sky West and Crooked. This was a family affair, with John Mills directing and Hayley starring as the retarded girl who falls in love with a gypsy, played by Ian McShane.

Mary Hayley Bell was born in Shanghai and spent a colourful childhood in China where her father was a customs official. Originally put in the charge of a governess, she later went to school in England, attending Malvern Girls’ College and excelling at lacrosse.

When her father lost his money in misguided Far Eastern ventures she had to fend for herself, and set out to become an actress, studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her first stage appearance in 1932 in Shanghai, playing Henrietta in The Barretts of Wimpole Street with an American touring company.

She had her first London part two years later. There followed a series of plays in the West End, a tour of Australia with Fay Compton and a New York debut in 1939. She gave up acting on marriage, and did not return to the stage until the mid-1950s when she and Mills toured British Army camps in Germany in Agatha Christie’s whodunnit, The Mousetrap.

She first met Mills in the 1930s when he was touring the Far East. Some years later they met again in London at a painful time in both their lives. His first marriage had ended and she had been jilted by her fiancé.

They married at Caxton Hall register office in January 1941 and it proved to be one of the longest, closest and happiest of showbusiness unions.

Bell obeyed the convention of the time that on marriage women should put aside their own careers and concentrate on raising the family. She and Mills had three children, a son, Jonathan, as well as Hayley and Juliet, and Bell did her best to keep a maternal eye on them, not least when Hayley became an international child star at the age of only 14.

Writing provided a welcome diversion from family duties, though Bell lived very much in her husband’s shadow. In the 1960s she was appointed a magistrate but was asked to resign three years later because it was felt that she was spending too much time with Mills while he was abroad filming. She did not hide her disappointment.

In 1968 she brought out an autobiography, What Shall We Do Tomorrow? and in 1981 produced a book about the family dog, a Yorkshire terrier called Mr Chips.

Her later years were difficult ones for Bell. She lost her sight, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was latterly confined to a wheelchair. But in January 2001 she was able to walk up the aisle with Mills when they renewed their wedding vows on their diamond anniversary.

Sir John Mills died in April, aged 97, and she is survived by her children.

Mary Hayley Bell, actress, playwright and novelist, was born on January 22, 1914. She died on December 1, 2005, aged 91.

December 01, 2005

Gregory Peck's Stolen Star Replaced

LOS ANGELES - In a simple ceremony, a new star honoring Oscar winner Gregory Peck was unveiled Wednesday on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to replace one that was stolen by a brazen thief.

Kneeling on the ground, Hollywood's honorary mayor Johnny Grant lifted a covering and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly welcome back to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Gregory Peck."

Peck's original star had been part of the Hollywood Boulevard celebrity shrine for more than four decades until someone with a cement saw cut the bronze-and-terrazzo marker out of the sidewalk.

The crime occurred sometime in late November and apparently drew no one's attention.

Grant offered the thief a deal.

"You know now you can't sell it. This has become a worldwide story and if you'll just bring it back and leave it right here I'll forget the whole thing happened," he said.

Grant, 82, has for years overseen the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's star unveilings, which often draw big crowds.

Peck, who died in 2003 at age 87, won an Academy Award for his portrayal of upstanding Southern lawyer Atticus Finch in 1962's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

His star was the fourth to be stolen since the Walk of Fame was inaugurated.

Jimmy Stewart's and Kirk Douglas' stars disappeared some years ago after being removed for construction and were later recovered by police in suburban South Gate. Gene Autry's star also vanished during a construction project. Grant once got a call saying it had been found in Iowa but it was never returned.

November 28, 2005

The Rockford Files - Season One

November 26, 2005

(1) Duke 70, (11) Memphis 67

NEW YORK -- Their names go together like so many college basketball duos. It's rare to hear J.J. Redick of Duke without Shelden Williams following right behind.

For the second half of the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday night, Williams was a solo star and it meant a title for the top-ranked Blue Devils and an MVP trophy for the senior center.

Williams matched his career high with 30 points, including the game-winning tip-in with 32 seconds left, to give Duke a 70-67 victory over No. 11 Memphis.

At halftime, when Duke held a 42-41 lead, Redick had 15 points, one more than Williams. Redick, a returning All-America, didn't score in the second half. Williams did.

"We're a team, me and him," Williams said of the senior guard. "We take the weight and onus on our backs every game. If he's not doing something I'll take it up for him and I know he'll be there whenever I need him."

The Blue Devils (5-0) didn't wrap up their third title in the tournament at Madison Square Garden on Williams' eighth rebound of the game when he tipped in a missed drive by Sean Dockery.

Duke's Lee Melchionni was fouled after grabbing the rebound of a miss by Memphis' Darius Washington Jr., but he missed two free throws with 11 seconds left. Dockery got the rebound of the second miss, but he didn't make the first of his two free throws. He made the second for a 70-67 lead and then Memphis freshman Shawne Williams hit the rim with a 3-point attempt at the buzzer and Duke had the title to go with the ones in 1985 and 2000.

"I want this team to win so bad I'll do anything for this team," the 6-foot-2 guard said of getting the rebound.

Those offensive rebounds were the kind of plays Memphis coach John Calipari said were the difference.

"The two plays that cost us the game, they weren't anything with skill or anything else," Calipari said. "They missed a layup and they offensive rebounded, simply effort. They missed two free throws and they offensive rebound. That was the ballgame."

Freshman Josh McRoberts added 12 points for Duke, which got all its points from its starters. The Blue Devils were without starting guard DeMarcus Nelson, who is out indefinitely after suffering a hairline fracture of his right ankle in the 78-68 semifinal win over Drexel.

"Together, Shelden and J.J. still scored 45 points. If they do that every night, we'll be good," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We just have to figure out other people to score with them. That's where we miss DeMarcus because he was capable of scoring of driving, rebounding, shooting. When DeMarcus comes back we have a chance to be better."

Williams had 15 points for the Tigers (3-1), while Rodney Carney added 12 and Washington had 11. Memphis advanced to the final with an 88-80 win over No. 16 UCLA in the semifinals.

"We have guys who just haven't played together," Calipari said of his two sophomores and five freshmen in the eight-man rotation. "We're just trying to figure it out. Offensively, we're taking so many bad shots right now it's almost making me want to vomit at times, but we are being aggressive."

Greg Paulus made two free throws with 5:02 remaining to give Duke a 64-57 lead. Memphis then went on a 6-0 run capped by a layup by Washington with 3:11 to go.

Dockery hit a 3 from the corner to make it 67-63 and Williams tied it himself with a drive to the basket with 1:07 to play and two free throws 10 seconds later.

Williams tipped in a drive by Dockery to give Duke the lead for good but that and Dockery's 3 were the Blue Devils' only field goals over the final 5:17.

Dockery said Krzyzewski has been on him to keep shooting.

"That gives you confidence when Coach keeps on me like that to keep shooting," he said. "I was open for that 3 and my guy was playing off me. I felt it and made it."

Williams' other 30-point game came against Miami last season.

"Shelden is a really good offensive player," Krzyzewski said. "He showed a lot of poise tonight."

This was Duke's fifth appearance in the tournament and the two times it didn't win it, it lost in the title game.

"We're a young team, too," said Krzyzewski, who starts two freshmen. "As we bring them along, you only get better. That's why these tournaments are great in the early season. Not preseason; this is the season."

Memphis dropped to 0-7 all-time against teams ranked No. 1, but it was the first time Calipari lost to a top-ranked team. He was 3-0 against No. 1 teams during his tenure at Massachusetts.

November 19, 2005

Legend Paterno Leads Penn State Into BCS

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to the BCS, JoePa. Joe Paterno and No. 5 Penn State locked up their first Bowl Championship Series bid, defeating Michigan State 31-22 on Saturday to win the Big Ten for the first time in 11 years.

Michael Robinson ran for 90 yards and a touchdown and passed for another, and Alan Zemaitis had three interceptions for Penn State (10-1, 6-1).

Coming off a 4-7 season, Penn State tied Ohio State for the Big Ten lead but will get the league's automatic BCS bid because the Lions beat the Buckeyes in October.

Michigan State (5-6, 2-6), which began the season 4-0, finished it with six losses in seven games to post consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1991-92.

When it was over, the Nittany Lions celebrated on the field but Paterno just ducked his head and ran into the tunnel, giving the Penn State section a wave on the way out.

"He deserves it," Robinson said. "He really does. He's worked so hard. He stayed with us. People told him to retire. Now look at him. Nobody's saying to retire and no more Joe must go Web sites. None of that. I'm just so happy for him."

Zemaitis' second pick came in third quarter, and he returned it 17 yards to the Michigan State 4. Robinson threw a 3-yard TD pass to Deon Butler moments later for a 24-7 third-quarter lead.

Paterno, pant-cuffs rolled and kept warm on a cold, windy night by a long, dark winter coat, barely reacted to the score, turning away to resume pacing the sideline as his players and coaches jumped for joy.

Win No. 353 gave Paterno his first Big Ten title since 1994, when Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter were piling up big numbers during Penn State's second year in the league.

Who would have believed then that Paterno's program would eventually drop to the Big Ten's second division, with four losing seasons in the past five years?

That Penn State completed its return to the top of the conference against Michigan State provided a bit of symmetry to the Nittany Lions' revival. Penn State completed last season with a 37-13 victory over the Spartans in Happy Valley that injected some optimism into the program heading into 2005.

With a new, dynamic offense — directed by the versatile senior Robinson — and the best defense Penn State has had since LaVar Arrington was a Nittany Lion, Paterno has been vindicated.

He said throughout the 2004 season that he felt the team was close to being a winner again — and he was right.

"I feel wonderful," Zemaitis said. "It's something when you put your mind to it, battle all adversity and nobody giving us respect — when you get what you wanted at the end, it makes it that much better."

Michigan State looked as if it might be the surprise team in the Big Ten after beating Notre Dame in September, but coach John L. Smith's Spartans lost consecutive heartbreakers to Michigan and Ohio State in October and never recovered.

But the Spartans couldn't be accused of quitting in this one, even after trailing 17-0 at half.

Jason Teague had a 25-yard touchdown run and receiver Jerramy Scott ran 4 yards for a score on a direct snap to make it 24-14 after three quarters.

Michigan State was on the verge of making it even tighter, driving to the Penn State 11 at the start of the fourth quarter. But Drew Stanton was sacked by Jay Alford for a 13-yard loss and Michigan State botched the snap and hold on a 43-yard field goal attempt, never even getting a kick off.

Stanton finished 23-for-36 for 233 yards with four interceptions and a late TD pass.

The Lions immediately took advantage of the special teams' gaffe as Tony Hunt capped a nice drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 31-14 with 4:58 left.

Smith dropped to 18-18 in three seasons in East Lansing, a mark that probably won't stop speculation about his job security, though athletic director Ron Mason has given no indication that he'd fire Smith halfway through a six-year contract.

Penn State got into the end zone for the first time when Donnie Johnson blocked Brandon Fields' punt deep in Michigan State territory and Matt Hahn scooped up the ball near the goal line and fell across for a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.

Less than three minutes later, Robinson took a keeper up the middle, slipped through two tacklers and cut away from another on his way to a 33-yard touchdown. Robinson's 11th rushing TD of the season made it 17-0 with 4:13 left.

Johnson ended the half with another big play, picking off Stanton in the end zone with 3 seconds left on a second down from the 15.

November 08, 2005

Colts Clobber Patriots 40-21

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts finally scaled their personal Everest. Maybe now, after routing the New England Patriots 40-21 on Monday night, they'll admit this could be a super season.

Manning shrugged off his 0-7 record at Foxborough with an intelligent dissection of the two-time defending champions. Aided by star running back Edgerrin James' 104 yards on 34 carries, and 100-yard receiving games from Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, Manning led the Colts on six lengthy scoring drives and kept them perfect through eight games, the NFL's only undefeated team.

While the Patriots have struggled mightily with injuries, an undependable running game and a leaky defense, their hex over the Colts was the major theme in this meeting. But other than a masterful first-quarter march — Tom Brady was 10-for-10 passing in the opening half — and two TD drives when the Patriots (4-4) were trying to rally, they were the inferior team.

That mediocre record is good enough to lead the AFC East. It doesn't put them within shouting distance of the Colts, who looked mature, savvy and resourceful, all elements they have lacked against New England in recent years.

The last time Indianapolis was here, in January, it managed all of three points and never contended in the divisional playoff game. This time, the Colts' vastly upgraded defense hit harder when the score was close and forced the pace, while the offense was versatile and unflappable.

Manning was 28-of-37 for 321 yards and three touchdowns. He guided the Colts, who are 5-0 on the road, to scores on seven of eight possessions. Indy didn't punt until the final 2 minutes and scored its most points ever against the Patriots.

The Colts, who have downplayed their great start this season, were so skillful this night they even forced Bill Belichick into some desperate measures. After Daniel Graham turned a tight end screen into a 31-yard touchdown midway in the third quarter, New England's coach ordered an onside kick. It was recovered by the Colts' Joseph Jefferson, who advanced it to the Patriots 22.

Indianapolis managed only Mike Vanderjagt's 35-yard field goal, and Belichick remained emboldened. The Patriots went for a fourth-and-4 at the Indy 43, but Brady threw too low for David Givens.

Vanderjagt added a 20-yard field goal before Manning capped it with an on-the-run throw that descended directly into Harrison's hands in the end zone despite tight coverage by Asante Samuel.

The win made Colts coach Tony Dungy 51-0 when his team has led by at least 14 points.

Harrison had nine catches for 128 yards and Wayne had nine for 124. The Colts held the ball for 36:41.

The offensive showcase began immediately when Manning hit Harrison for 48 yards, then threw him a fade pass in the right corner of the end zone over Samuel for a 1-yard touchdown.

That drive took five plays to cover 54 yards. Showing they also could sustain a longer march, the Colts went 68 yards on 17 plays — James handled the ball on 11 of them, including a 2-yard run from the Patriots 46 on fourth-and-1.

Another 2-yard run by James gave Indy a 14-7 lead.

In between those drives, the Patriots were just as efficient with their first possession. They also converted a fourth down when Brady hit David Givens for 5 yards on fourth-and-1 at the Colts 21. Two plays later, he connected with Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch for a 16-yard score.

Nearing the end of the half, though, both defenses made big plays. First, New England unnerved Manning and the offensive line with a blitz. Manning unwisely threw off his back foot to avoid a sack and Mike Vrabel picked it off at the Patriots 47.

New England returned the favor, however, after reaching the Indy 17. Bob Sanders knocked the ball out of Corey Dillon's hands directly to Jason David, who made up for earlier allowing Branch's TD and a 35-yard third-down completion to Givens.

Using the hurry-up offense to perfection, Manning took up nearly all the remaining 2:07 on a nine-play, 73-yard drive. He capped it by hitting Wayne with a precise pass into the left corner of the end zone for a 10-yard TD just 9 seconds before halftime, making it 21-7.

He was right back at it again after New England held the ball a mere 29 seconds after the second-half kickoff. The two-time MVP engineered an 11-play, 60-yard series highlighted by his own 18-yard scramble on third-and-5. Dominic Rhodes ran in from the 4 for a 28-7 lead.

Not even the second game for Tedy Bruschi, New England's Pro Bowl linebacker returning from a mild stroke, could help the Patriots this night. Not against a Colts team that no longer can play it low-key.

November 05, 2005

Penn State Shuts Down Wisconsin, 35-14

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Tamba Hali had four sacks to lead a ferocious defense, while Michael Robinson threw two touchdown passes and ran for 125 yards as No. 10 Penn State inched closer to claiming the Big Ten's BCS bid by defeating No. 14 Wisconsin 35-14 Saturday.

Tony Hunt added 151 yards and two scores for the Nittany Lions (9-1, 6-1), who can guarantee a trip to a BCS bowl by winning their final regular-season game, at Michigan State on Nov. 19.

Hali, a senior defensive end playing his final game at Beaver Stadium, led the charge, running around or over most of the blockers Wisconsin threw his way. Besides the sacks, he had seven tackles for a loss.

"Our kids have played hard defense all year. Tamba — I've been bragging on Tamba since preseason," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. He then paid Hali his signature compliment, "Tamba's a heck of a football player."

The Badgers (8-2, 5-2) fell back in the conference race after Penn State held tailback Brian Calhoun to 20 carries and 38 yards, well below his 135-yard average coming into the game. The Badgers also had the league's highest-scoring offense at 39.7 points coming into the contest.

"Obviously, we couldn't block them very well, you could see that," said Barry Alvarez, who is stepping down as Wisconsin coach after the season. "We couldn't establish the run and had a hard time with pressure off the edge."

Penn State sacked Badgers quarterback John Stocco nine times.

"When you're back there dropping in pass coverage looking every which way and you just see the quarterback get crushed, that's such a great feeling," said linebacker Dan Connor.

Calhoun did get a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the Badgers, setting a school record with 22 for the year.

Penn State never trailed after scoring on its opening drive. Terrell Golden made an over-the-shoulder reception for a 21-yard gain to put the ball at the Wisconsin 47. Two plays later, Robinson rolled right and hit Deon Butler in the end zone to give the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead.

Hunt and BranDon Snow added rushing touchdowns as the Nittany Lions built a 21-0 by midway through the second quarter, an advantage that allowed an already-solid defense to be more aggressive, Connor said.

Fans waved white rally flags and Guns-n-Roses blared over the loudspeakers as Wisconsin opened the second half on offense. Calhoun was held to short runs before Hali, on third-and-6, ran past guard Jason Palermo and another blocker and sacked Stocco.

Penn State stalled on its next drive, but Wisconsin failed to capitalize. Calhoun was pushed out of bounds on a swing pass for a 5-yard gain, linebacker Paul Posluszny snuffed a short pass for a 2-yard loss and Stocco threw an incompletion after getting pressured from Hali and Scott Paxson.

Robinson hit Butler on a 47-yard touchdown pass on Penn State's next drive to seal the win. Robinson finished 13-of-28 passing for 238 yards and had two interceptions.

Alvarez praised Robinson as a dual threat "that presents a lot of problems. He's a Michael Vick-type player."

Robinson, a fifth-year senior in his first year as the full-time starting quarterback, said his last home game was emotional, "but what a way to go out."

Stocco's two interceptions came in the first half, including a pick by Alan Zemaitis after he leaped in front of Owen Daniels in the back of the end zone and fell flat on his back.

Brandon White had a 10-yard touchdown catch for Wisconsin midway through the fourth quarter after jumping in the end zone, catching the ball and falling on his back to slice Penn State's lead to 28-14, but Wisconsin never got closer.

November 03, 2005

Roethlisberger Out After Knee Surgery

PITTSBURGH - Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will miss one game and possibly two after arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday.

A piece of torn cartilage was removed from his right knee.

Coach Bill Cowher said Roethlisberger will definitely miss Sunday's game against Green Bay. But it's possible he'll return as early as the Steelers' game Nov. 13 against Cleveland, even though the operation normally sidelines a player 10 to 14 days.

Roethlisberger, who missed a loss Oct. 16 to Jacksonville with a hyperextended left knee, initially hurt his right knee Sept. 11 against Tennessee.

The right knee bothered him again after his shoe stuck in the turf as he was being hit by Baltimore linebacker Jarret Johnson during the first quarter of the Steelers' 20-19 victory Monday night.

Roethlisberger stayed in the game and directed a fourth-quarter drive that resulted in the game-winning field goal, but only after telling Cowher the right knee was bothering him and he might have to take himself out of the game.

Roethlisberger had an MRI exam Tuesday, and the Steelers decided to go ahead with the operation after consulting with specialist James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

"Ben wants to play through everything," Cowher said Thursday. "He's been very cooperative and he understands it, and he's handled this well. He felt good yesterday and wanted to practice today."

Cowher said there was a risk involved in continuing to play Roethlisberger without repairing the knee, and that if the injury continued to worsen the quarterback might be out as long as a month.

Charlie Batch, who has thrown only eight passes since the 2001 season with Detroit, will replace Roethlisberger on Sunday in Green Bay.

Batch, a former Lions starter, came to the Steelers in 2002, and moved up on the depth chart after Tommy Maddox had four turnovers in the 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville. Maddox committed a fumble and threw an interception that was returned for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

October 30, 2005

Polly Bergen joins 'Commander in Chief'

Polly Bergen will play Kate Allen, the mother of the first female U.S. president, played by Geena Davis on ABC's "Commander in Chief."

Bergen will make her bow on the Nov. 29 Thanksgiving-themed episode, The Hollywood Reporter said Friday.

Bergen actually beat Davis to the punch as the first woman president, The Reporter noted. She was commander in chief for the 1964 movie "Kisses for My President" with Fred MacMurray.

Bergen won an Emmy in 1958 for "Playhouse 90." She was nominated for Emmys for the 1988 miniseries "War and Remembrance" and the 1983 miniseries "The Winds of War" -- both on ABC.

October 27, 2005

George Takei Discloses His Homosexuality

LOS ANGELES - George Takei, best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in "Star Trek," came out as homosexual in the current issue of a magazine covering the Los Angeles gay and lesbian community.

Takei told The Associated Press on Thursday that his new onstage role as psychologist Martin Dysart in "Equus," helped inspire him to publicly discuss his sexuality.

Takei described the character as a "very contained but turbulently frustrated man." The play opened Wednesday at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Los Angeles, the same day that Frontiers magazine featured a story on Takei's coming out.

The current social and political climate also motivated Takei's disclosure, he said.

"The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay," he said. "The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young."

The 68-year-old actor said he and his partner, Brad Altman, have been together for 18 years.

Takei, a Japanese-American who lived in a U.S. internment camp from age 4 to 8, said he grew up feeling ashamed of his ethnicity and sexuality. He likened prejudice against gays to racial segregation.

"It's against basic decency and what American values stand for," he said.

Takei joined the "Star Trek" cast in 1973 as Hikaru Sulu, a character he played for three seasons on television and in six subsequent films. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986.

A community activist, Takei ran for the Los Angeles City Council in 1973. He serves on the advisory committee of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and is chairman of East West Players, the theater company producing "Equus."
Silent no more - WNBA MVP Swoopes opens up about lesbianism

NEW YORK -- The only thing that outshines the exquisite diamond on Sheryl Swoopes' left ring finger is the glow on her face as she discusses the love of her life.

It's a love that the WNBA superstar has kept hidden for more than seven years. On Wednesday she "quit pretending," disclosing that she is gay and in a committed relationship.

"I feel like I've been living a lie," the Houston Comets' star said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm at a place in my life right now where I'm very happy, very content. I'm finally OK with the idea of who I love, who I want to be with."

Swoopes said she currently lives with her partner, former Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott.

The story was first reported in ESPN the Magazine, which hit newsstands Wednesday. She also announced an endorsement deal with Olivia, a lesbian cruise line.

Swoopes, the only WNBA player to win three MVP trophies, said she never had feelings for a woman before Scott and didn't understand them when they began. But in the seven years since, she said she's been "hurting" while hiding her relationship.

Now, Swoopes said, she finally feels free.

Swoopes is a five-time All-Star, three-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion as a member of the Comets, whose run of four straight titles began when she was a rookie in 1997.

While piling up accolades and accomplishments, the 34-year-old Swoopes said she dreamed about the day when she could attend an awards banquet with Scott on her arm.

"We have had to celebrate behind closed doors," she said. "I don't want to have to hide from the world anymore."

But that's not to say that she isn't concerned about repercussions from her admission. She worries about her mother Louise, who has known for five years, but "doesn't think it's right."

"She'll probably never accept it," Swoopes said. "But she's dealing with it."

And she is nervous about the response from her hometown of Brownfield, Texas, about 600 miles northwest of Houston, where cotton is king and Swoopes reigns as queen.

Not to mention what people will think right down the road in Lubbock, where she brought Texas Tech it's only national championship in basketball by scoring 47 points in the final game in 1993.

"I worry about the reaction throughout the country, but I really worry about Brownfield and Lubbock," she said. "Because they're both small towns and Sheryl Swoopes is a local hero. Now what? I hope it doesn't change. It's important to me."

Swoopes is perhaps the highest profile team-sport athlete to come out and follows two other WNBA players. Shortly before she retired in 2002, New York Liberty player Sue Wicks became the first active WNBA player to open up about her sexuality.

"I'm happy for Sheryl," Wicks said. "I think all people deserve to be able to live their lives openly and honestly, and I applaud Sheryl for her courage."

Former Minnesota Lynx player Michele Van Gorp, who no longer plays in the WNBA, also came out while an active player in July 2004.

No man has ever come out while still active in the major leagues of football, baseball, basketball or hockey. If an NBA ever player did, commissioner David Stern said, there'd only be one question:

"How many points? How many rebounds? I think that it's a non-issue."

Swoopes said her news had been well received so far.

"What she does in her personal life is her own decision," Comets coach Van Chancellor said in a release. "I respect everything about Sheryl, how she's handled herself on and off the court. To me, she will always be one of the greatest ambassadors for the game of women's basketball."

She has long reveled in her position as a role model and hopes that parents won't discourage their children from looking up to her because she is gay. Her wish is that her coming out could help someone dealing with the same issue.

"If a kid out there who is struggling with their identity can read this article and say, 'If she did it I can deal with this,' then this is worth it," she said.

Swoopes said her decision had nothing to do with the proposed Texas constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which is already illegal in Texas. In fact, she didn't know about it until Wednesday morning.

But she said would like to one day marry Scott.

"At some point I would love for that to happen," she said. "Right now I think we're very happy with the relationship we have. This is the person I plan on being with for the rest of my life."

Swoopes was married to high school sweetheart Eric Jackson and the two have an 8-year-old son, Jordan. Their divorce in 1999 had nothing to do with her being gay, Swoopes said.

When contemplating whether to come out, Swoopes said thoughts of Jordan were foremost in her mind.

"He goes to bed every night and he's peaceful and when I see that I never question that what I'm doing is right," she said.

Jackson released a statement Wednesday night through his lawyer.

"I respectfully request for everyone to remember that behind this story there is an 8-year-old child who will undoubtedly receive attention because of his mother's pronouncement regarding her lifestyle," Jackson said.

"Our son's well-being is my sole focus. I am completely committed to doing what is in the best interest of our child. My wish is to partner with Sheryl to support our son in light of this announcement, I want our son to know that he has two parents who love him and support him and above all else are dedicated to ensuring his mental and emotional security."
White Sox capture World Series

HOUSTON - The Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros 1-0 at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday to sweep the best-of-seven World Series by a 4-0 margin.

The championship series victory is the first for the White Sox since 1917.

October 24, 2005

Steelers Defeat Bengals 27-13

CINCINNATI - Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in his return from a knee injury, and the Pittsburgh Steelers proved they're still the team to beat in the AFC North by beating the upstart Cincinnati Bengals 27-13 on Sunday.

The Steelers (4-2) haven't lost their knack for winning tough game in tough places. They dominated the second half in front of a Cincinnati-record crowd of 66,104, setting a franchise record with their 10th straight road victory.

In the end, it was Hines Ward — not Chad Johnson — getting the last dance.

For the first time in their stadium's six-year history, the Bengals (5-2) had the fans on their side for a home game against the Steelers. There was more orange than yellow in the crowd that turned out on a raw, rainy day — the kind the Steelers usually dominate with defense and runs.

They did again.

Willie Parker's 39-yard touchdown run highlighted a 221-yard performance by Pittsburgh's running game. Parker ran for 131 yards overall, and injury-slowed Jerome Bettis even got in a few licks on a defense that gives up 4.9 yards per try.

Ward's 4-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter made it 24-6 and gave him a chance to rub it in with a little Riverdance-style celebration in the end zone.

Johnson got one chance to dance, but his opening-drive touchdown was overturned on review. The Steelers' defense took it from there, making Carson Palmer look ordinary for the first time in 10 games.

Palmer had tied Peyton Manning's NFL record of nine consecutive games with a passer rating of 100. The last time Palmer had struggled was in his last game against the Steelers, a 19-14 loss in Cincinnati last season.

Pittsburgh had two interceptions in the third quarter, setting up a decisive 10-point spurt. Palmer hadn't thrown an interception in 20 quarters and 169 attempts.

To make matters worse, Palmer got flattened by his former Southern California roommate, safety Troy Polamalu, as he tried to make a tackle on one interception return. Palmer finished 21-of-36 for 227 yards and a 53.8 rating — well below average.

Roethlisberger and Palmer have ranked first and second in the NFL's passer rankings the last four weeks. Roethlisberger sat out a 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville because of a sore knee, and backup Tommy Maddox had four turnovers.

Roethlisberger didn't have to do much Sunday. He was 9-of-14 for 93 yards and threw his first interception of the season. The running game did the rest.

The Bengals' biggest game since 1990 — the last time they had a winning record and made the playoffs — reminded their fans of their dismal past. They had their chance to make an opening statement, and completely Bungled it.

They drove easily down the field after the opening kickoff, and Johnson did a giddy little high-step after his diving catch in the back of the end zone was initially ruled a 16-yard touchdown catch.

The Steelers challenged the call, and referee Tony Corrente overturned it after a minutes-long review that drew boos from the crowd. Corrente decided that Johnson got only one foot down before his hand landed out of bounds.

Then, it got worse for Cincinnati. Rookie Chris Henry dropped a pass in the end zone, forcing a field goal attempt. Shayne Graham — the most accurate kicker in Bengals history — was wide to the left on a 30-yard attempt.

The Bengals' next long drive ended in a 26-yard field goal by Graham, hardly what they needed. When Bettis started bowling them over, they knew they'd missed their chance.

With his belly drooping over his belt, the massive running back took handoffs and hit the line like a bowling ball smacking the pins, making them scatter. Bettis, slowed this season by a calf injury, finished with 56 yards.

Cincinnati's defense lost first-round draft pick David Pollack in the second half. He limped off after one play and went for an examination on his left knee.

The game ended with several thousand Pittsburgh fans waving their yellow Terrible Towels and the Steelers walking off with arms raised.

Still the champs.

October 23, 2005

No. 12 Penn State Wallops Illinois 63-10

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Michael Robinson threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more — in the first half — and 12th-ranked Penn State gave coach Joe Paterno his 350th victory the easy way with a 63-10 rout of Illinois on Saturday night.

The Penn State victory was so decisive that Robinson and most of his fellow starters did not play after the Nittany Lions built a 56-3 halftime lead to spoil Illinois' homecoming. The win keeps Penn State (7-1, 4-1) in a tie with Wisconsin at the top of the Big Ten standings and moves Paterno's record to 350-117-3 in 40 seasons, second on the all-time Division I-A coaching victory list.

Penn State's performance set a new school record for scoring in a half, breaking the old mark of 55 set on Oct. 11, 1947, in the first half of a 70-0 victory over Fordham. It was the worst defeat for Illinois (2-5, 0-4) since a 69-13 loss to Michigan on Nov. 1, 1986, and marked the second consecutive home game that the Illini have given up more than 60 points, after a 61-14 defeat by Michigan State on Sept. 24.

Robinson had scoring throws of 35 yards to Ethan Kilmer, 31 yards and 19 yards to Deon Butler, and 3 yards to Patrick Hall during a first quarter in which the Nittany Lions averaged more than 11 yards per play on the way to a 28-3 lead. He had touchdown runs of 4 and 31 yards in the second quarter before he was replaced by Anthony Morelli with 1:24 left in the half.

Robinson completed 11 of 18 passes for 194 yards. He also led Penn State in rushing with 69 yards on seven carries. Morelli threw only two passes, completing one for 23 yards.

Linebacker Dan Connor ran a recovered fumble back 18 yards for another score and Rodney Kinlaw scored on a 1-yard run 26 seconds before halftime. Nolan McCready ran an interception back 76 yards for Penn State's only second-half score.

The Nittany Lions rolled up 438 yards, while Illinois gained 244, its lowest offensive output of the season.

Illinois took the opening kickoff and marched from its own 20 to the Penn State 23. But a holding penalty stopped the drive and the Illini had to settle for Jason Reda's field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The Illini would gain only 42 more yards and get only one more first down for the rest of the half. They committed nine penalties for 78 yards before halftime.

Just 1:16 after Reda's field goal, Robinson found Kilmer over the middle and he outran two Illini defenders to the end zone with 8:58 left in the quarter. The Nittany Lions scored on seven of eight first-half possessions.

Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic was 8-of-16 for 49 yards before being relieved by Chris Pazan in the third quarter. Pazan threw a 3-yard TD pass to Rashard Mendenhall to complete a 12-play, 91-yard drive with 2:19 left in the game.

October 14, 2005

Penn State and Mich. see fortunes reverse

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Suddenly, it seems as if Penn State and Michigan have switched uniforms, a reversal of fortune for two of college football's most storied schools.

Penn State, ranked No. 8 and off to its best start since 1999, plays a Michigan team Saturday that hasn't begun this poorly in 15 years.

"It's just like a couple years back, everybody was saying we were back and Penn State was down," Michigan defensive end Pierre Woods said.

Penn State (6-0, 3-0) is alone at the top of the Big Ten following two straight losing seasons and four in five. As for Joe Paterno, the 78-year-old coach is enjoying a renaissance and seems as much in touch with the game as ever.

"They're back, that's for sure," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

Now consider the Wolverines (3-3, 1-2). They are two-time defending Big Ten champions. These days, they are unranked and another loss would mark their worst record in mid-October since 1967, a predicament that has intensified the heat on Carr.

Michigan tight end Tim Massaquoi wants fans and critics to remember Carr's successes.

"All college coaches go through, 'What have you done for me lately?'" Massaquoi said.

Massaquoi has spent five years in Ann Arbor and has seen the Wolverines go 40-16 while the Nittany Lions went 27-26 during the same stretch.

"I get a lot of calls from Penn State fans and people in State College," said Massaquoi, who is from Allentown, Pa. "They call me and say 'You should've come here.' But look at my career. I've got a couple of Big Ten championships. I don't have any regrets."

Massaquoi, however, does want followers of college football's winningest program to demand excellence.

"That's how it should be in a program with a tradition like ours," he said. "People should expect us to win — we should expect to win."

Michigan, playing at home, is listed as a 3-point favorite.

"Rightfully so," Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson said. "We haven't done so well the last couple years. We understand that."

While Penn State was down the past two years, it didn't play Michigan after losing six straight from 1997-02. If the Nittany Lions end the losing streak, they would have three straight victories over ranked teams for the first time since 1995.

"We're pretty confident in ourselves right now," star linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "But I think with a big win like that against an established program like Michigan will be a big thing for us."

The Nittany Lions are winning again because of a traditionally tough defense and a new-look offense featuring Robinson, running back Tony Hunt and freshmen receivers Derrick Williams and Justin King. Penn State hasn't had a turnover since the first half of its game against Northwestern, a span of 10 quarters.

Carr is not surprised Paterno is winning again.

"I think he has always maintained a confidence that they were going to have a good team," Carr said. "I could remember last year, hearing him a few times on the teleconference, and he told everybody, they built it around the great defense. They have had a two-quarterback situation there for a couple of years, but I think now they have (Robinson) and they're doing some things to take advantage of his ability."

Michigan has struggled because of missed chances on offense and defense and injuries to key players. Paterno has tried to make sure his players are not overconfident.

"They are going to play one heck of a football game," he said. "There is a pride involved in Michigan football. There is a tradition involved in it. Those kids are not going to just say, 'OK, we lost a couple of games, let's hang it up.' No, we are in for a real, tough football game."

October 11, 2005

Pirates Hire Former Dodger Manager Tracy

Jim Tracy was named manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates today, just eight days after he parted ways with the Dodgers, who would not honor his request for a contract extension and a raise.

Tracy, who was selected over former Oakland Athletic manager Ken Macha and Atlanta Brave third base coach Fredi Gonzalez, had been the favorite to fill the Pittsburgh opening because of his friendship with Pirate General Manager Dave Littlefield. Both men worked in the Montreal Expo organization in the 1990s.

Tracy, 49, replaces Lloyd McClendon, who was fired Sept. 6 during his fifth consecutive losing season and replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Pete Mackanin. McClendon was hired after the 2000 season by edging out Tracy, who was a finalist.

Tracy instead was hired by the Dodgers to replace Davey Johnson and he posted four consecutive winning seasons, culminating in the 2004 National League West Division championship.

However, the bottom fell out this season. The Dodgers were 71-91, their second-worst record since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, and Tracy blamed the fall on the numerous off-season roster moves orchestrated by General Manager Paul DePodesta.

Tracy had one year remaining on a two-year Dodger contract that would have paid him a base salary of $700,000 with incentives worth another $200,000. He requested a two-year extension and a raise in a Sept. 8 meeting, and the Dodgers determined by season's end that they would not honor the request.

Today DePodesta will begin interviews with five candidates-Dodger triple-A manager Jerry Royster, recently fired Detroit Tiger manager Alan Trammell, San Francisco Giant bench coach Ron Wotus, Dodger farm director Terry Collins and Cleveland Indian minor league manager Torey Lovullo.

Tracy will take over a Pirate team with a significantly lower payroll than the Dodgers. The Pirates have had 13 consecutive losing seasons, three short of the major league record, and were 67-95 in 2005.

Tracy has not named his coaches, but former Dodger bench coach Jim Lett is expected to join the Pirate staff.
Louis Nye, veteran comic, sidekick to Steve Allen, dead at 92

LOS ANGELES -- When he began making the theater circuit in his native Hartford, Conn., comedian Louis Nye had his sights set on becoming a serious actor.

But after a string of dramatic roles in theater and radio, it was in the Army that Nye found out just how funny he could be. Soon after, a career that would last more than half a century took off in a new direction.

Nye, who created a national catchphrase when he belted out "Hi Ho, Steverino" on Steve Allen's groundbreaking 1950s TV show, died Sunday following a long battle with long cancer, according to his son, Peter Nye.

Although different sources list various ages, Nye's son said Monday that his father was 92.

Nye, who pronounced his first name "Louie," was born on May 1, 1913, in Hartford, Conn., where he began his career in theater before moving to New York City to enter radio.

"I still think of myself as an actor," he told The Associated Press in 1970. "In the radio days I was busy playing rotten Nazis, rich uncles and emotional juveniles _ the whole span _ and the only time I tried to be funny was at parties."

He turned to comedy while in the Army, he said, when he was stationed near a "wild town" in Missouri.

"I was in charge of the recreation, hall, and I had to make the entertainment good enough to keep the young soldiers from going into town," he said. "It was a challenge and I worked hard at it. For the first time, I realized I had the ability to make people laugh."

Soon he was playing nightclubs from Las Vegas to London.

A master of voices and accents, he could go from being droll one moment to prissy the next. He could also switch effortlessly from comically evil Nazis to bumbling Russians.

"He has a great business card from that time that lists something like 15 accents that he could do," his son recalled with a chuckle, adding his father's impersonation of former Russian leader Nikita Khruschev was so dead-on that the son once failed to recognize him when they came face to face.

On "The Steve Allen Show," which ran from 1956 to 1961 under various names, he quickly endeared himself to audiences as Gordon Hathaway, the effete, country-club snob who would welcome Allen's arrival with the "Hi, ho, Steverino!" salutation.

Other regulars on the landmark show included comedians Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Bill Dana and Gabriel Dell.

After the show's run ended, Nye appeared often on TV game shows, in films and as a regular on "The Ann Sothern Show." He was often cast as the second banana, never the lead.

He played dentist Delbert Gray during the 1960-61 season of Sothern's show and appeared as Sonny Drysdale, the prissy son of harried banker Milburn Drysdale, during "The Beverly Hillbillies"' first season. He once said his character was dropped after one season because a network executive thought he was "too sissified." Nonetheless, he was back as Sonny for the 1993 TV movie "The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies" and appeared in the 2001 documentary "The Beverly Hillbillies: The E True Hollywood Story."

He teamed with Allen again in 1967, on "The Steve Allen Comedy Hour," a CBS variety show in which he also portrayed Gordon Hathaway. His cohorts that time included Allen's wife, Jayne Meadows, Ruth Buzzi and John Byner, among others.

In the summer of 1970 he hosted the variety show "Happy Days" on CBS and three years later co-starred with Norman Fell in the New York garment industry sitcom "Needles and Pins." He played Kirby Baker in the 1978 TV show "Harper Valley P.T.A."

He was a celebrity panelist on the late '70s syndicated comedy "The $1.98 Beauty Show."

In the 1980s and '90s he provided various voices for the "Inspector Gadget" cartoon show.

His film credits included "Cannonball Run II," "Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood," "A Guide for the Married Man," "Good Neighbor, Sam" and "Sex Kittens Go to College."

He also guest starred in such shows as "St. Elsewhere," "The Love Boat," "Laverne & Shirley" and "The Munsters" and appeared frequently as a guest on "The Jackie Gleason Show," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and other variety and talk shows.
Good News for Steelers' Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a hyperextended left knee and a bone bruise sustained during a game-winning field goal drive at the end of a 24-22 victory over San Diego on Monday night, but hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game against Jacksonville.

The injury isn't as severe as it initially appeared to be — immediately after the game, coach Bill Cowher said "it looked bad."

"It's a deep sigh of relief," Cowher said Tuesday.

Roethlisberger, 16-1 as an NFL regular-season starter, was injured with 1:05 remaining when Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo's helmet collided with his left knee as Roethlisberger was completing a 9-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El.

Roethlisberger lay in pain on the turf for several minutes, clutching at his knee, before limping off the field. He was removed from the field on a cart, his knee heavily wrapped, after Jeff Reed kicked a 40-yard field goal with six seconds remaining, but he had no bandage on the knee when he got dressed shortly after that.

Roethlisberger had an MRI test shortly after the team returned to Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning.

Roethlisberger was the NFL's offensive rookie of the year last season after going 13-0 on a team that went a franchise-record 15-1 before ultimately losing to New England 41-27 in the AFC championship game. He was off to an excellent start this season, completing 52 of 86 passes for 913 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating of 123.8 is the best in the league.

Backup Tommy Maddox sat out the San Diego game with a calf injury, but also could be available Sunday. Cowher said his injury also wasn't as bad as initially thought.

If neither Roethlisberger nor Maddox can play, the Steelers would turn to 30-year-old Charlie Batch, the Lions' starter from 1998 until late in the 2001 season who has played little since signing with his hometown Steelers before the 2002 season.

Batch has thrown only eight passes, completing four, in four seasons with the Steelers. He didn't throw a pass in the 2002 season, then missed all of last season with a knee injury that occurred during training camp.

The Steelers considered cutting Batch before the season started, but decided to keep three veteran quarterbacks — something few NFL teams do — after he threw two touchdown passes in leading a comeback victory at Carolina in the team's final exhibition game Sept. 1.

"The news on Ben is very good, but it's good that we have Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch," Cowher said. "As of now, Charlie is the starter by default."
Steelers rally for 24-22 win; Roethlisberger hurt
Steelers await medical report to determine cost of victory

SAN DIEGO -- The Steelers pulled out an electrifying victory last night that was dulled somewhat when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the game with a knee injury in the final 65 seconds.

Jeff Reed kicked a 40-yard field goal with six seconds left to lift the Steelers to a 24-22 victory.

Roethlisberger limped off the field with 1:05 to go after guiding the Steelers to within striking distance of the winning score. Preliminary indications were he had a hyperextended left knee. He will have an MRI today in Pittsburgh.

"I'll be all right," said Roethlisberger, as he pulled on a pair of bluejeans over the knee, which was not wrapped. "You know me, I'm tough."

He had just completed a 9-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El to the Chargers' 29 when defensive end Luis Castillo rolled into his knee.

Charlie Batch replaced Roethlisberger and handed off three consecutive times to Jerome Bettis, who gained 21 yards on seven carries on the winning drive. He got the ball to the 22 and Reed got the call for the attempt.

"He came through big for us," coach Bill Cowher said of Bettis, who led the Steelers with 54 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown in his first action of the season.

Cowher told his team yesterday morning to expect "a battle of wills," and the game and atmosphere inside Qualcomm Stadium was all of that.

Chargers fans waved white towels, thousands of Steelers fans twirled their gold Terrible Towels and four black Navy helicopters from the city where Top Gun was filmed buzzed over the largest crowd in San Diego football history.

The electricity pulsated throughout the first Monday night game in nine years in San Diego, and the teams on the field responded in kind.

"That was a classic football game," Cowher said. "I think we were just fortunate enough that we had the ball last."

The Steelers raised their record to 3-1 and made amends after losing their previous game to the Patriots on a last-second field goal. The Chargers fell to 2-3 before their largest crowd ever, 68,537.

Roethlisberger ran for one touchdown on a 7-yard draw play and threw for another of 16 yards to rookie tight end Heath Miller. Bettis, playing in his first game after returning from a preseason calf injury, scored from the 1. The Chargers scored on Drew Brees' 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson's 2-yard run and Nate Kaeding field goals of 34, 32 and 41 yards.

Roethlisberger completed 17 of 26 passes for 225 yards and remained without an interception for the season.

He did lose one fumble that appeared to be an incomplete pass. In the first quarter, San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman came from his left outside and hit Roethlisberger as he was throwing. The Chargers recovered the loose ball, and the officials ruled it was a fumble. Replays seemed to show Roethlisberger's arm coming forward but Steelers coach Bill Cowher didn't challenge the call.

Their next drive would be more eventful.

The Steelers moved from their 16 to the 36 on a pass interference call, then up stepped Hines Ward. He caught a 12-yard pass and three plays later scored on a 47-yard pass that was overturned by replay. Ward fell down after gaining 14 yards but the officials ruled he was not touched. Replay showed that cornerback Quentin Jammer got a piece of Ward's right foot with his left hand.

Roethlisberger came right back for a 21-yard pass to Randle El. Roethlisberger then set up in the shotgun formation on third down and ran a quarterback draw up the middle behind the blocks of Cedrick Wilson and Verron Haynes for a 7-yard gain and a 7-0 lead with 9:14 left in the first half.

The Chargers put together a drive of their own that linebacker James Harrison rudely ended with an interception and 25-yard return.

The Steelers made that pay off when they moved 41 yards on seven plays to score. Bettis dived off left guard from the 1 for the touchdown that put the Steelers in front, 14-0, with 1:37 left.

That's when the Steelers' kick coverage team had problems. Their troubles against the New England Patriots continued two weeks later when rookie Darren Sproles returned Reed's kick 48 yards to the Steelers' 47.

The Chargers picked up 36 yards in one hunk when Eric Parker caught a 23-yard pass and another 13 was tacked on when safety Chris Hope brought him down by the facemask. Gates then beat cornerback Ike Taylor on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left that cut the lead to 14-7.

Early in the third quarter, the special teams seemed to make amends when Chidi Iwuoma recovered a muffed punt return by Sproles, who had called for a fair catch, at the Chargers' 22. However, officials huddled for several minutes and ruled that Iwuoma did not give Sproles an unmolested chance to catch the ball. Cowher later concurred with their judgment.

Instead of possibly trailing by two touchdowns, San Diego used its second chance to close to 14-10 on Kaeding's 34-yard field goal.

Kaeding cut that lead to 14-13 when he kicked a 32-yard field goal on San Diego's next drive.

Cowher's teams had a 92-1-1 record when leading by more than 10 points, a .984 percentage that is the best of any coach in NFL history.

San Diego threatened to lower that number when they took a 16-14 lead with 11:41 remaining on Kaeding's third field goal, from 41 yards.

It lasted barely a minute.

Quincy Morgan returned the Chargers' kickoff 37 yards to the 38 and then Roethlisberger threw three pitches to strike out the Chargers. His first two went to Ward for 33 and 13 yards, and his third went to Miller for 16 yards and a touchdown. Three plays, 62 yards in 1:03 and just like that the Steelers were back in front, 21-16.

However, the Chargers weren't finished. They scored on their next series after another decent return against the Steelers started them on their 38. They reclaimed the lead on Tomlinson's 2-yard run with 4:42 left. The Steelers stuffed Tomlinson on the 2-point conversion try and San Diego went ahead, 22-21.

"I thought that was huge," Cowher said of the two-point stop.

That's when the Steelers mounted their winning drive, after Wilson returned the kickoff 29 yards to the 38 with 4:36 to go.

Batch prepares to take the reins - Injuries thrust backup into spotlight

SAN DIEGO -- At the end of what was a tumultuous weekend for Steelers quarterbacks, Charlie Batch stood in the cramped locker room at Qualcomm Stadium, talking about the opportunity that appears to be presented him and embracing the chance to lead an offense that pulled out a 24-22 victory last night against the San Diego Chargers.

Sitting next to him, his head bowed, crutches propped on the locker stall, was Ben Roethlisberger, the person who should have been celebrating after the pulsating victory but instead looked as though he had thrown three interceptions in a lopsided loss.

To be sure, the game ended the way Roethlisberger intended -- with the Steelers methodically driving 40 yards for Jeff Reed's winning field goal with :06 remaining. But his contribution, which was significant for most of this Monday Night Football mayhem, was cut short when his left knee was hyperextended with 1:05 remaining.

That left Batch, an eight-year veteran who almost didn't make the 53-man roster, as the starting quarterback for a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, and maybe for at least the next couple of games after that.

"Right now, all preliminary indications are that way," Batch said.

The early prognosis on Roethlisberger is this: His knee was hypextended when he threw a 9-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El and Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo rolled into his left leg as it was planted on the turf.

Roethlisberger was scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam this morning, shortly after the team's chartered plane arrived in Pittsburgh. The Steelers did not make any official comment on Roethlisberger.

"People told me it didn't look good," coach Bill Cowher said. "It looked bad from what I saw on the [stadium video] screen."

The injury to Roethlisberger came just three days after Tommy Maddox, the No. 2 quarterback, sustained a calf injury in practice Friday -- an injury similar to the one that sidelined Jerome Bettis for nearly five weeks.

Just like that, Batch has been elevated to starting quarterback, a role he hasn't assumed since he was with the Detroit Lions in 2001. Since coming to the Steelers in 2002, Batch had appeared in just three regular-season games in three years before last night. In that time, he attempted only eight passes, completing four, for 47 yards.

What's more, until last night, he hadn't appeared in a regular-season game since Nov. 30, 2003. Batch, a Steel Valley High School graduate, missed the entire 2004 season when he had season-ending knee surgery in training camp.

"It's been a while," Batch said. "I'm excited for the opportunity.

"You always want to play. But you never want to wish injury on anybody. Under the circumstances, the weekend has been crazy. Tommy gets hurt and then Ben goes down."

Indeed, the three-deep quarterback position -- probably the best in the National Football League -- will be put to the test immediately. And it will be left to Batch, who earned a spot on the roster with a good showing in the final preseason game, a 21-17 victory in Carolina in which he threw the winning 45-yard touchdown pass to Sean Morey with 54 seconds remaining.

Batch didn't need any such heroics against the Chargers. All he had to do was hand the ball on three consecutive plays to Jerome Bettis to set up Reed's winning field goal.

When he came into the game, the Steelers were faced with second-and-1 at the Chargers' 29. His job was easy.

"At that point, you're just trying to get the guys fired up," Batch said. "But, at that point, I didn't have to say much."

Bettis did that himself, carrying seven times and grinding out 21 tough yards on the winning drive.

Roethlisberger supplied all the heroics earlier, making big plays with his arm and feet and displaying a calm demeanor that never got frazzled amid the white-waving towels and din that engulfed Qualcomm Stadium.

He completed 17 of 26 passes for 225 yards and a sweet 16-yard touchdown to tight end Heath Miller. He did not throw an interception for the fourth game in a row, leaving him and Oakland's Kerry Collins as the only NFL quarterbacks without an interception in 2005.

And his passer rating -- the league's best coming into the game -- was 105.4, the third time in four games it has been over 100.

Now, though, the offense gets turned over to Batch.

"You don't know when your number is going to be called," Batch said. "And when it is, you got to be ready."

Is Batch ready?

"I'm ready," he said. "I've waited a while for this."

Steelers Notebook: Injured Maddox to miss 3-4 games

SAN DIEGO -- Quarterback Tommy Maddox did not travel with the Steelers to the West Coast and will miss the next three to four games.

Maddox pulled a calf muscle in practice on Friday and was listed as doubtful on the Steelers' injury report that day. Maddox's injury is similar to the one that knocked Jerome Bettis out of the third preseason game until he returned to play here last night.

Charlie Batch, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, moved up to No. 2 behind Ben Roethlisberger.

Batch, who started his first four seasons in the league with Detroit, has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since Nov. 30, 2003, when he threw two in Cincinnati. Since joining the Steelers as a free agent in 2002, Batch has thrown just eight passes, all in the 2003 season. He has played in only three games with them, all in 2003.

Duce is out

Halfback Duce Staley did not dress last night as coach Bill Cowher opted to make Bettis the backup to starter Willie Parker. Verron Haynes also dressed and was used as the third-down back.

Staley had surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in a knee Aug. 8. He has practiced the past four weeks and dressed for the first time against the Patriots on Sept. 25. He was involved in three plays but had no carries. Staley has not had a carry in any type of game since he ran 10 times for 26 yards against the New England Patriots in the Jan. 23 AFC championship game.

Bettis played for the first time since he had a pulled calf muscle in the third preseason game. He has practiced the past two weeks.

The rest of the inactive list for the Steelers: Maddox, CB Bryant McFadden, LB Clark Haggans, LB Rian Wallace, G Chris Kemoeatu, OT Trai Essex and WR Nate Washington.

San Diego inactives: QB Cleo Lemon, FS Jerry Wilson, C Scott Mruczkowski, G Toniu Fonoti, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Ryan Krause, LB Marques Harris and DE Dave Ball.

Mr. Dependable

Hines Ward, listed as questionable all last week with a hamstring injury, made his 83rd consecutive start and continued his record of never missing an NFL game. Ward looked as if the injury were nagging him in pregame warm-ups.

Rough stretch

Starting last night with the Steelers, the Chargers play three consecutive games against well-rested opponents. As with the Steelers, their next two foes, Oakland and Philadelphia, each have off the week before they play the Chargers, both at home. Starting with the Steelers, four of the Chargers' next five games come against teams with byes the week before they play them.

"Sometimes, a bye can be bad for you,'' Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards told the San Diego Union Tribune. "You start to overanalyze the opponent and drive yourself nuts. When you have too much time to [prepare], sometimes it's counterproductive.''

Not Miller time

Rookie tight end Heath Miller did not start for the first time in his NFL career. The Steelers had opened the first three games with two tight ends and no fullback. Last night, they started with one tight end, Jerame Tuman, and fullback Dan Kreider got his first start of the season. ... WR Cedrick Wilson replaced CB Ike Taylor as a deep kickoff return man, next to CB Ricardo Colclough. ... The Chargers opened the game with a spread offense and no one in the backfield and without taking a huddle. Drew Brees completed a 5-yard pass on first down to Keenan McCardell, then overthrew on second down and Joey Porter sacked him on third downs. ... Among the celebrities attending last night's game were California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actors Ray Romano and Jim Belushi, golfer Phil Mickelson and baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.

October 10, 2005

Penn State bursts into AP top 10

Penn State is in the top 10, Michigan is out again and UCLA is on the rise in The Associated Press Top 25.

The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions (6-0) are off to their best start in six years and have their highest ranking since they were No. 6 in the Nov. 7, 1999 poll.

Southern California is No. 1 for the 25th straight poll, receiving 58 first-place votes in the media rankings released Sunday, with Texas and Virginia Tech holding onto the next two spots. The Longhorns received seven first-place votes, one more than last week.

Florida State is fourth followed by a pair of Southeastern Conference teams, Georgia and Alabama.

Miami is No. 7 and Penn State, Notre Dame and LSU round out the top 10.

Penn State, which started the season unranked, beat Ohio State 17-10 on Saturday night in State College, Pa., to jump eight spots in the AP poll. Ohio State fell nine spots to 15th.

Michigan had a streak of 114 straight weeks in the rankings snapped when the Wolverines fell out of the rankings two weeks ago, following their second loss of the season. Michigan jumped back into the Top 25 after beating Michigan State last week, but the Wolverines fell to 3-3 with a last-second loss to Minnesota and were dropped from the rankings again.

Penn State, the only Big Ten team without a conference loss, plays at Michigan on Saturday.

"We're not done," Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson said after the Ohio State win. "We've got ourselves a tough Michigan game coming up next weekend."

In the USA Today coaches' poll, the top five was unchanged from last week -- USC, Texas, Virginia Tech, Georgia and Florida State.

In the AP Top 25, No. 11 is Florida and UCLA is No. 12, moving up eight spots after beating California 47-40.

The Bruins (5-0) haven't been ranked this high since the last poll of October 2001 when they were ninth.

No. 13 Texas Tech is followed by Boston College, Ohio State, Michigan State and Tennessee, which fell nine spots to No. 17 after losing 27-14 to Georgia at home.

Cal dropped eight spots to No. 18, and is followed by Louisville and Oregon. No. 21 Auburn gives the SEC six ranked teams, the most of any league.

The bottom four has two teams (Minnesota and TCU) moving back into the rankings this season and another (Colorado) making its 2005 debut in the Top 25.

Minnesota returns at No. 22, and No. 23 Wisconsin gives the Big Ten five ranked teams.

No. 24 Colorado is in the rankings for the first time since early in the 2003 season.

No. 25 TCU was in the Top 25 for one week after beating Oklahoma to start this season, then lost to SMU the next week and fell out. The Horned Frogs have since won four straight.

Falling out of the Top 25 along with Michigan were Georgia Tech and Arizona State.

September 30, 2005

Fiftieth Anniversary of James Dean's Death

Dispelling the myths

Candlelit procession, fireworks will celebrate James Dean's complex, misunderstood life

On the 50th anniversary of his death, citizens of James Dean’s hometown of Fairmount will honor his memory with a celebration of the actor, best known for playing angst-ridden, troubled youths.

David Loehr of The James Dean Gallery said the event should be a poignant one.

“It’s a major anniversary, the 50th anniversary,” Loehr said. “Every year, they have the service at the church, but this year there will be more with the fireworks and everything. The procession will be somber and sad, and the film will be more of a joyous tribute.”

The event will include a candlelight procession beginning at 6:30 p.m. today at the Friends Church in downtown Fairmount and ending at Dean’s gravesite. Following the procession, “James Dean: Forever Young,” a documentary about the actor’s life, will be shown in Playacres Park, the press release said.

The Fairmount Historical Museum played host to the James Dean Festival, an annual three-day event celebrating the actor’s life, last week. It featured bands, films and a James Dean look-alike contest.

Despite the star’s enduring fame, there is a great deal of misconception surrounding his life, particularly his years spent in Indiana, Ball State University Professor of Telecommunications Wes Gehring said.

Gehring, who wrote “James Dean: Rebel with a Cause,” a recent biography of the actor, said other books about the Dean tend to downplay his time in Fairmount.

“Even though there is a lot of literature out there, a lot of it is faulty,” Gehring said. “I found that Indiana gets trashed in the books or just isn’t mentioned.”

He said Dean gained confidence in Fairmount where he got a great deal of media attention in high school for his athletic and scholastic achievements.

“He made the newspaper front pages all the time,” Gehring said. “That might have made him think he could have done a lot of other stuff.”

Gehring said another common myth about Dean was that he was a morbid and unhappy individual.

“Within his circle of friends, James Dean was very funny,” Gehring said. “He was great at doing imitations. His friends hated it when he’d do imitations of them; he was so dead-on.”

Gehring said despite Dean’s image as a super-cool teenager in “Rebel Without a Cause,” the real actor was shy with extremely poor vision.

“He was blind without his glasses,” Gehring said, “That famous, distant look in his eye might have been just him not wearing glasses. His greatest acting skill might have been navigating a set.”

As for the actor’s sexuality, Gehring said there has been a lot of misinformation circulating in the media.

Gehring said there is no doubt Dean had homosexual relationships, but he was likely using them as a way of getting better roles, much like other stars of the period, such as Marilyn Monroe.

“If he used sex to advance his career, that’s not terribly surprising,” Gehring said. “At that time it was very common. At that point it did open some doors for him and got him into some places.”

This was in keeping with the actor’s personality, he said.

“Dean was a kind of an intellectual vampire,” Gehring said. “He would pull something out of somebody then basically move on. He didn’t have a lot of patience. He was a bit of a user who probably used the sexual card once or twice.”

Gehring said Dean’s passion didn’t end with furthering his acting career. He was nuts about photography and obsessed with bullfighting, but it was his intense fascination with race car driving that would result in his death.

“He was careless; an awful driver,” Gehring said. “On a track, he was a good, traditional driver, but put him in a normal driving situation, he was terrible.”

In popular culture, Dean’s death and the famous “Rebel without a Cause” chicken scene are often blended, giving the impression that the actor didn’t care if he lived or died.

The circumstances of Dean’s death have become larger than life. The brand new Porche 550 Spider racing down a stretch of dusty Califronia road with the ill-fated Dean at the wheel has become the stuff of legend. He was on his way to race in Salinas, Calif., when his car slammed into a truck driven by local farmer Donald Turnipseed.

“Dean had been busy filming ‘Giant,’ and he wasn’t allowed to race, so he was driving his car to the race,” Gehring said. “His mechanic, who was in the car during the accident, thought it was a good idea to drive the car to the race for practice.”

Gehring said if the weather had been different that day, Dean might have lived.

“If it had rained, they would have taken it to the race in a trailer instead of driving it there.”

James Dean

He died 50 years ago today. To watch him on film is to grieve his passing all over again. No other actor had the power to make us feel this way.

James Dean has been dead for 50 years. That's hard to imagine, just as it's hard to imagine that he was ever alive, at least alive in the normal sense of occupying space and being in only one place at any given time. These mundane facts -- life, death, time, space -- are hard to reconcile with the whole Dean package, the talent, the legend and the iconography that have accumulated around his memory in the years since his fatal smash-up on Sept. 30, 1955.

He was in a race, and today he reaches the finish line. He should have been 74 years old and contemplating his mortality. Instead he is 50 years dead and entering classic immortality. He never heard the Beatles. He probably never heard of Jack Kennedy, read Jack Kerouac or listened to Elvis. He is from another time. He wouldn't recognize us, and though we think we know him, we don't really. Not completely. There's something there. We keep going back, and Dean remains, always giving, always revealing and always, somehow, elusive.

He is the only actor I know who's impossible to watch without knowing he's dead. You can watch Humphrey Bogart and forget about it. You can even watch Marilyn Monroe and forget about it. But with Dean, his being dead seems part of the point. To watch him is to simultaneously grieve him. There he is, so emotional, and he's dead; so young and beautiful, and he's dead. For most classic actors, death is just a passing phase, a speed bump that the public consciousness encounters and processes, on the way to seeing the actor as alive again, if only in art. But Dean's is the death that keeps on giving.

Maybe we're still not over it. We assume we are, until we see him again, in "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause" or "Giant," and then the mix of feelings comes back -- the what-a-waste sadness, the fascination, the astonishment at witnessing a singular talent, and the exalted weirdness of seeing the beginning of something wonderful, the end of something wonderful and the flowering of something wonderful, all at the same time.

What happened to Dean is what everyone fears, at least fleetingly, in the wake of a great success: sudden disaster. "East of Eden," released in early 1955, had made Dean a major actor and a star on the rise. He had made two more films, yet to be released, and he died. Both of those performances merited Oscar nominations for best actor, and it's a mark of his accomplishment -- of how far he'd traveled in so short a time -- that he probably would have gotten those nominations had he lived. This wasn't sentimentality. Dean was that good, that soon.

It's all too tempting to lump Dean's life and his work together and regard him as some kind of pop culture masterpiece, but such thinking leads nowhere, making random events seem inevitable in retrospect. It's better to back up and consider Dean as a man who worked hard to become a good actor, who succeeded in his efforts and whose film work had meanings and consequences.

In many ways, he was lucky. At 18, he left home in Indiana, went to Hollywood and almost immediately started getting extra work in films and television. When he was 20, he moved to New York, got accepted to the Actors Studio, got theater work and right away started getting parts on the live TV dramas of the day. We tend to think of Dean's career as meager, just three films, but if his surviving TV appearances were ever released to DVD, we'd see that his recorded body of work was substantial, even remarkable for a guy who died at 24. He appeared on TV six times in 1952, 16 times in 1953, six times in 1954 and once in 1955, after the release of "East of Eden." In many of these, he had lead roles.

His talent was always there, but in his TV appearances, especially, we can see him trying things on and defining himself. In the quizzical way he'd look at people -- wincing and smiling, arrogant yet defensive -- we can see echoes of Marlon Brando, who was seven years his senior and already an established star. In his Hollywood career, he was still taking chances and experimenting, changing lines from take to take and adding bits of business. It helped that he worked with superior directors, veterans who had elicited brilliant acting performances over the years: Elia Kazan, Nicholas Ray and George Stevens.

His three feature films are high-quality products, though in retrospect none is wholly satisfying as a James Dean movie. To fully get Dean, it's really necessary to see all three. "East of Eden" shows Dean as a young rebellious man in conflict with his father. "Rebel Without a Cause" finds him in his most archetypal mode, and the one that most seemed to express his inner self. But Dean plays a teenager in "Rebel," and he was already a man. In "Giant," he gets to play his own age -- and then ages another 20 or 25 years -- but he does so in an eccentric character part, so he isn't exactly like himself.

Really, you have to put those three movies in a blender, together with those photos of Dean walking down the street, to get the full Dean, the one who in himself personified the alternative 1950s, the jazz-club and beatnik '50s, the '50s that became, culturally, the '60s.

When we take him as a whole, it becomes clear that, partly by design and partly by happenstance, Dean brought a lot into this world. He made weakness cool. He made emotion cool. He made being artistic cool. He made being sensitive cool. He made being tortured cool. Dean was the facade of manhood, crumbling; he was aching sensitivity under a hard shell and a leather jacket, 14 years before Woodstock came and the warrior disappeared, leaving only the weenie in his wake.

Years before anybody talked about a generation gap, he embodied it. Not that Dean wanted to kill everybody over 30; on the contrary, he wished everybody over 30 would stop being dead. He expressed the pain of a young man anticipating his spiritual execution at the hands of society. Likewise, a generation before Robert Bly wrote about it in "I Am John," Dean played men starving for male companionship, for some kind of father connection and for some way of living in the world that did not represent a deadening compromise with the inner self. His work was a brief for a more humane vision of life.

Everybody who writes about Dean ends up writing in this way: We begin in first gear, soon start speeding and end up losing contact with the earth. It has all to do with Dean, not his death, but what he did with his life. His work remains pure, 50 years later, because of his almost naive faith in the importance of emotion, of the sanctity of the inner self. That faith inspired a generation of actors. It might have inspired a generation, period.

What would it have been like to have an artist with that conviction and intensity working in the most popular art form for the last 50 years? Would movies be a little different? Would Dean have gotten cynical? Would he have been corrupted? Would he have gained 100 pounds like Brando? Would he have gained another 100 pounds like Brando? Would he have given up movies eventually? Would he have kept his spark, like Dennis Hopper? Would he have become a director, like Clint Eastwood? Would he have played cops? Would he have starred in love stories? And what would he have been like in the 1960s? And in the 1970s?

You can find the answers to those questions in the same history that tells you all about Bobby Kennedy's two terms as president, George Gershwin's symphonies and John Lennon's 1981 world tour -- a good book, but one not available on this planet. The only safe thing to say is that if this young man died at 23 instead of 24, we'd have all been a little poorer for it.