January 29, 2007

Andrews active with books, film roles

Three years ago, writer-director Blake Edwards made a memorable entrance onstage at the Academy Awards, racing an electric wheelchair into a wall, Pink Panther-style, during his acceptance of an honorary Oscar.

"Didn't he?" Julie Andrews, Edwards' wife, replied last month when the incident was mentioned. "Didn't he just?"

Don't expect much in the way of slapstick Sunday when Andrews is honored with a lifetime achievement award of her own from the Screen Actors Guild in the group's annual awards show, which will air at 8 p.m. on TBS and TNT.

"No, better leave that one be," the 71-year-old Andrews says, sounding just a bit like "Mary Poppins," the Oscar-winning role in which she made her debut as a screen actor more than four decades ago.

"I just hope I can find some words that adequately express how wonderful it is," she says. "It's been a lovely life, and I'd like to put it together as well as I can."

Not every performer is wild about the idea of receiving a lifetime achievement award when he or she is still out there achieving, but Andrews isn't complaining.

"I'm simply thrilled and so honored," she says. "It came really out of the blue, and I am just knocked out by it."

Andrews, who for most of her career was as famous for her singing as for her acting, lost most of her celebrated five-octave range to throat surgery several years ago, only to see the pace of her career actually pick up.

"The most amazing thing is that since I've not been singing, it seems that I've been busier than ever," she says, with roles that included queens in two "Princess Diaries" movies, "Shrek 2" and the upcoming "Shrek the Third," as well as a very un-Mary Poppins-like nanny in television versions of "Eloise at the Plaza" and "Eloise at Christmastime."

On a more adult note, she was reunited with "Sound of Music" co-star Christopher Plummer in 2001 for a live version of "On Golden Pond" on CBS.

"The Princess Diaries" have brought Andrews fame among a generation that might not have seen her in "Mary Poppins" or "The Sound of Music," and she happily recounts an encounter with a 6-year-old whose mother listed the actress' credits to her with no response until she got to "Diaries," at which point the child said, "Oh, cool."

Actresses of Andrews' age seldom get much in the way of onscreen romance, as her Queen Clarisse did at the end of "Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," which culminated in a surprise wedding to Hector Elizondo's character.

"I got the guy. And listen, better also that I got to wear all that real jewelry and got to wear all those great clothes ... It was great fun, believe me," she says. "Best of all was working with Garry Marshall, who's just a honeybun."

Plus, "I have another day job now," running her own imprint, "The Julie Andrews Collection," at HarperCollins Publishers, along with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.

Andrews, who's been writing children's books for more than 30 years, last year published the 15th she's written with Hamilton, "The Great American Mousical," a story set in a Broadway theater, and even recorded a new song, "The Show Must Go On!" to accompany a Web-based game tied to the book. (Both can be found at www.julieandrewscollection.com, where the song can be downloaded separately for $3.50. A portion of the book and song proceeds goes to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.)

"There was a song that was necessary, and of course the first person they came to was me. And I said, 'I don't think I can,' and they said, 'Could you try?' "

She told them, " If you wrote it in the only five notes I have these days and in a very low key, I'll run it up the flagpole," she says, adding that there was also some "technological wizardry" involved.

"I couldn't be more thrilled. So I play the voice of the beaver," named Adelaide, she says, after the character in "Guys and Dolls."

Still, she says, of her singing voice: "It's really non-existent. I just have the four or five bass notes ... I don't have my soprano voice anymore and it's very sad, and I miss it terribly."
Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro euthanized

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. - Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized Monday after complications from his gruesome breakdown at last year's Preakness, ending an eight-month ordeal that prompted an outpouring of support across the country.

"We just reached a point where it was going to be difficult for him to go on without pain," co-owner Roy Jackson said. "It was the right decision, it was the right thing to do. We said all along if there was a situation where it would become more difficult for him then it would be time."

A series of ailments, including laminitis in the left rear hoof and a recent abscess in the right rear hoof, proved too much for the gallant colt.

Barbaro battled in his ICU stall for eight months. The 4-year-old colt underwent several procedures and was fitted with fiberglass casts. He spent time in a sling to ease pressure on his legs, had pins inserted and was fitted at the end with an external brace. These were all extraordinary measures for a horse with such injuries.

Roy and Gretchen Jackson were with Barbaro on Monday morning, with the owners making the decision in consultation with chief surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson.

"I would say thank you for everything, and all your thoughts and prayers over the last eight months or so," Jackson said to Barbaro's fans.

The news that Barbaro had been euthanized first was reported on the Thoroughbred Times Web site.

On May 20, Barbaro was rushed to the New Bolton Center, about 30 miles from Philadelphia in Kennett Square, hours after shattering his right hind leg just a few strides into the Preakness Stakes. The bay colt underwent a five-hour operation that fused two joints, recovering from an injury most horses never survive.

"We loved him," said Peter Brette, Barbaro's exercise rider and assistant trainer for Michael Matz. "He did everything we ever asked of him. He could have been one of the best. What a fighter he was."

Barbaro suffered a significant setback over the weekend, and surgery was required to insert two steel pins in a bone — one of three shattered in the Preakness but now healthy — to eliminate all weight bearing on the ailing right rear foot.

The leg was on the mend until an abscess began causing discomfort last week. Until then, the major concern was Barbaro's left rear leg, where 80 percent of the hoof had been removed in July when he developed laminitis.

"This horse was a hero," said David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. "His owners went above and beyond the call of duty to save this horse. It's an unfortunate situation, but I think they did the right thing in putting him down."

Brilliant on the race track, Barbaro always will be remembered for his brave fight for survival.

When Barbaro broke down, his right hind leg flared out awkwardly as jockey Edgar Prado jumped off and tried to steady the ailing horse. Race fans at Pimlico wept. Within 24 hours the entire nation seemed to be caught up in a "Barbaro watch."

Well-wishers young and old showed up at the New Bolton Center with cards, flowers, gifts, goodies and even religious medals for the champ, and thousands of e-mails poured into the hospital's Web site just for him.

The biggest gift has been the $1.2 million raised since early June for the Barbaro Fund. The money is put toward needed equipment such as an operating room table, and a raft and sling for the same pool recovery Barbaro used after his surgeries.

The Jacksons spent tens of thousands of dollars hoping the best horse they ever owned would recover and be able to live a comfortable life on the farm. The couple, who own about 70 racehorses, broodmares and yearlings, and operate the 190-acre Lael Farm, have been in the horse business for 30 years, and never had a horse like Barbaro.

Foaled and raised at Sanborn Chase at Springmint Farm near Nicholasville, Ky., breeder Bill Sanborn fought back tears Monday as he talked about "the privilege" of working with the colt.

"Everything was looking really, really good, and of course I honestly thought that the horse was going to pull it off," he said. "It just wasn't meant to be. It didn't surprise me that he fought so long. He was a great horse."

La Ville Rouge, Barbaro's broodmare, remains pregnant at Mills Ridge Farm in Lexington with a full brother to Barbaro. The foal is expected to be born sometime in the early spring, according to farm spokesperson Kimberly Poulin.

A son of Dynaformer, out of the dam La Ville Rouge, Barbaro started his career on the turf, but Matz knew he would have to try his versatile colt on the dirt. He reasoned that if he had a talented 3-year-old in America, he'd have to find out early if his horse was good enough for the Triple Crown races.

Barbaro was good enough, all right. He won his first three races on turf with authority, including the Laurel Futurity by eight lengths and the Tropical Park Derby by 3 3/4 lengths.

That's when Matz drew up an unconventional plan for a dirt campaign that spaced out Barbaro's race to keep him fit for the entire Triple Crown, a grueling ordeal of three races in five weeks at varying distances over different tracks.

Barbaro won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4, but his dirt debut was inconclusive since it came over a sloppy track. After an eight-week break, an unusually long time between races, Barbaro came back and won the Florida Derby by a half-length over Sharp Humor.

The deal was sealed — on to the Derby, but not without criticism that Barbaro couldn't win coming off a five-week layoff. After all, it had been 50 years since Needles won the Derby off a similar break. But Matz stuck to his plan.

Not only did Barbaro win the Derby, he demolished what was supposed to be one of the toughest fields in years. The 6 1/2-length winning margin was the largest since 1946, when Assault won by eight lengths and went on to sweep the Triple Crown.

In Barbaro, Matz truly believed he was training a Triple Crown winner. He often said Barbaro was good enough to be ranked among the greats and join Seattle Slew as the only unbeaten Triple Crown champions.

But two weeks later after the Derby Barbaro took a horrible misstep and one of the most extraordinary attempts to save a thoroughbred was under way.

The injury was considered to be so disastrous that many thought the horse would be euthanized while still at Pimlico Race Track. Instead, Barbaro, who earned $2,302,200 with his six wins in seven starts, was operated on the next day by Richardson.

Though Barbaro endured the complicated five-hour surgery, Richardson called chances for a full recovery a "coin toss."

Afterward, though, things went relatively smoothly. Each day brought more optimism: Barbaro was eyeing the mares, nickering, gobbling up his feed and trying to walk out of his stall. But by mid-July, Richardson's greatest fear became reality — laminitis struck Barbaro's left hind leg.

Barbaro responded well to treatment, but he began to struggle in January with a serious laminitis setback and this final, fatal turn.

January 28, 2007

Julie Andrews honored at SAG Awards

LOS ANGELES - From her 1953 Broadway debut to voicing the queen in "Shrek 2," Julie Andrews watched as her career of more than 50 years was highlighted Sunday night when she received the Screen Actors Guild's lifetime achievement award.

Andrews remains a working actor at 71. She will reprise her role in "Shrek 3" this summer, already having gained a younger audience of fans from her role as a queen in "The Princess Diaries" and its sequel.

Dick Van Dyke, Andrews' co-star in "Mary Poppins," presented the award. They shared a big hug onstage.

"I never quite got over being a little bit tongue-tied in Julie's presence," he said. "That beauty ... that voice could tune a piano."

Andrews received a standing ovation from an audience that included her husband of nearly 37 years, Blake Edwards, whom Andrews called "my main squeeze."

"I have one very tiny complaint," she said. "When he directs me in a love scene, he says, `That was fine, but I know you can do better.'"

Andrews came to fame on stage and radio in her native England. She won an Oscar for "Mary Poppins," and was nominated for "The Sound of Music" and "Victor/Victoria," directed by Edwards.

"My career has just been blessed by good fortune," she said. "What about all those delicious leading men? You have given me an evening I shall just treasure my entire life."

N.C. State 64, Boston College 46

RALEIGH, N.C. - It was an emotional weekend for North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.

The Wolfpack's 64-46 victory over Boston College on Sunday was the coach's 698th and capped "Hoops for Hope" -- a weekend honoring her second fight in 20 years against breast cancer.

She returned to the bench on Thursday in the Wolfpack's 71-60 win over Virginia after missing two months to undergo treatments.

Everyone on the court Sunday was encouraged to "Think Pink" by the N.C. State administration, symbolizing support for all NCAA coaches battling cancer.

Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher and new Wolfpack football coach Tom O'Brien sat courtside, wearing pink wristbands. Every N.C. State and Boston College player wore pink shoelaces. Every coach wore a pink top or jacket. Officials used pink whistles.

N.C. State donated $43,820 in proceeds at halftime to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for cancer research. Yow signed the ceremonial check.

"This game was very emotional for me, with everything it means," Yow said. "'Hoops For Hope' is exactly that. It's all about hope."

Boston College knew N.C. State's two days of Wolfpack player reunions, an alumni game, fundraising and social events would make for a different game.

"We knew it was going to be emotional," Boston College coach Cathy Inglese said. "We told the team, 'This could be a two-edged sword. Let's get out there and use all this atmosphere and play our best.' But we didn't."

Gillian Goring, who missed N.C. State's first six games as she recovered from offseason back surgery, had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. It was her career high for points and matched her career high on the boards.

"When I think about coach Yow and how she's been fighting, all my nagging little injuries and complaints seem like nothing compared to her problems," Goring said.

Boston College missed its first six shots and had 10 turnovers within the game's opening 13 minutes.

Goring scored six of N.C. State's first eight points to pace the Wolfpack to a 34-23 halftime lead.

Boston's College's Kathrin Ress, Kindyll Dorsey and Mickel Picco each had three fouls by halftime, mostly from trying to stop the 6-foot-7 Goring in the paint.

"We were forced to try all sorts of combinations of players," Inglese said. "We've never had to try a configuration in practice with two starting posts (Ress and Dorsey) on the bench."

Goring scored 14 points in the first half, hitting six of her first 11 shots from the field. Ashley Key added 11 points and four assists for the Wolfpack (15-7, 4-3 ACC).

"I'm not downplaying what this game means as an ACC game," Yow said. "When I see us trying hard and playing well like that, it really gives me a lift."

Ress committed her fourth foul just 1:08 into the second half and played just 24 minutes. She ended up with 17 points to lead the Eagles (11-10, 1-6).

N.C. State took its biggest lead, 54-29, after Goring hit a field goal with 8:44 to play. Boston College went on a 12-2 run while Goring was out of the game, but the Eagles never got closer than 54-41 in the final 8:32.

January 25, 2007

Minus her trademark pacing, Yow returns to N.C. State sideline

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Kay Yow mostly played it cool in her return to coaching North Carolina State, giving up her longtime habit of pacing the sideline in exchange for a comfortable seat on the bench.

"I'm back at practice, but I'm having to ease my way back into everything and see how much I can do," Yow said. "I can't just jump into everything like I was before."

Just having her back was enough to satisfy the Wolfpack.

Two months after leaving her team to fight cancer, the Hall of Fame coach came back to work Thursday night and led her team on a comeback of its own, a 71-60 win over Virginia.

Ashley Key and Shayla Fields scored 18 points apiece for N.C. State (14-7, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Wolfpack rallied from a five-point halftime deficit, took the lead for good on Gillian Goring's stickback with about six minutes left and overcame Monica Wright's 23 points for the Cavaliers (12-8, 2-4).

But the biggest star of the night spent most of the game on the bench, trying to conserve energy.

Yow, the 64-year-old gold medal-winning coach who's in her 32nd season at N.C. State, improved her career record to 697-321 in 36 seasons.

"It's always a huge boost to have your chief back," Key said. "Just to be able to see her out there, knowing that she may have her weak moments but she'll be out there strong for us ... that was enough boost in itself."

Yow remained calm while sitting courtside alongside her team, clapping and occasionally standing to summon her players. She did show a flash of her old self just before halftime, when a charging call on Fields brought the coach to her feet, enraged, with palms out in disbelief.

"When they toss the ball up, you just sort of move into that (competitive) mode," Yow said. "But when the ball was tossed and the game started, I started feeling the old, familiar feeling. I started to get into it right away."

But Yow left the pacing and the histrionics to assistant Stephanie Glance, the interim coach during her time away. In the days before her return, Yow said she didn't want to overwhelm herself by trying to do too much too soon.

"My staff, my team -- everybody's working to help me work my way back in, just as if we had an injured player who has been out for a long time and is coming back," Yow said. "You have to work your way back in. You can't just take off as if you're 100 percent."

First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, Yow took leave Nov. 22 after doctors found the cancer that first recurred two seasons ago was progressing and began treatment with a combination of chemotherapy and newly targeted biologic therapies.

Meanwhile, Glance filled in and went 10-6 with back-to-back losses to No. 1 Duke and No. 2 North Carolina, and Yow kept tabs on her team as part of the therapy. After receiving favorable reports from her doctors, Yow announced her comeback earlier in the week.

"If you've never had cancer, you can't even begin to understand about cancer," said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan, who had surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2000 and is cancer-free. "To see someone like Kay have it, it was really hard for me to watch her try to get through this, because it's just such a tough opponent. ... She's got a tremendous chance to hopefully overcome this, but it's going to be a hell of a fight."

There were plenty of reminders that this wasn't a typical women's basketball game between two middle-of-the-pack ACC teams.

Fans and coaches -- including Ryan's entire staff -- wore varying shades of pink to promote breast cancer awareness, in advance of N.C. State's "Hoops for Hope" game Sunday. Signs dangled carrying messages like "Pray 4 Coach Kay."

Yow entered the Reynolds Coliseum court to a 90-second standing ovation just before tipoff from the roughly 3,000 in attendance. She made her entrance from the end of the arena where banners mark her induction into the Hall of Fame and her 600th career victory.

"Seeing her fight makes me want to fight," Goring said.

She waved to the crowd, hugged the director of the pep band, flashed the Wolfpack's hand gesture (with middle and ring fingers touching the thumb to create a wolf's head) and then held both hands over her heart -- her way of saying thanks.

After the game she grabbed a microphone to address the crowd, then thanked the team and the fans before walking off the court to chants of "Kay."

"All the e-mails, cards gifts, flowers, everything that I have received has lifted me up so much," Yow told the crowd. "Thank you so much for that kind of support. You're wholesome, and you're Wolfpack family."

January 22, 2007

Steelers name Mike Tomlin coach

PITTSBURGH - Mike Tomlin, the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers — the first black head coach in the team's 74-year history.

Tomlin became the team's third coach in 38 years after he accepted the job Sunday night. He was negotiating a four-year contract that is expected to pay him about $2.5 million a year. The team announced the hiring Monday and the contract was to be completed later in the day.

Tomlin was hired on the same day two black coaches made the Super Bowl for the first time: Lovie Smith in Chicago and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis 38, New England 34

INDIANAPOLIS -- A comeback, a drive, a legacy. And, yes -- finally -- Peyton Manning gets his Super Bowl trip. So does Tony Dungy.

Football's most prolific quarterback put on a show for the ages Sunday, rallying the Indianapolis Colts from 18 points down and driving them 80 yards for the winning score in a wildly entertaining 38-34 victory over the New England Patriots.

In his nine years in the league, Manning has never played in a game like this AFC championship contest. He threw for 349 yards and one touchdown and brought his team back from a 21-3 deficit, the biggest comeback in conference title-game history.

Joseph Addai capped Manning's late drive with the winning score, a 3-yard run with 1 minute left to help the Colts (15-4) complete the rally and send Dungy to his first Super Bowl -- and a very special one.

The Colts coach will face the Chicago Bears and his good friend Lovie Smith in Miami in two weeks. Together they are the first black coaches to make the Super Bowl in its 41 years.

"It means a lot," Dungy said. "I'm very proud to be representing African-Americans. I'm very proud of Lovie."

Manning, meantime, wouldn't concede that a monster weight was lifted off his shoulders.

"I don't get into monkeys and vindication," he said. "I don't play that card. I know how hard I worked this season, I know how hard I worked this week. It's always nice when you can take the hard work, put it to use and come away with a win."

But after Indy's last touchdown, Manning was on the sideline, his head down -- he couldn't bear to watch. New England's Tom Brady -- he of the three Super Bowl rings -- threw an interception to Marlin Jackson and the RCA Dome crowd went wild. One kneel down later and Manning ripped off his helmet to celebrate.

"I said a little prayer on that last drive," Manning said. "I don't know if you're supposed to pray for stuff like that, but I said a little prayer."

Not only was it a win for Manning, the All-Pro, All-Everything son of Archie, it was a riveting, back-and-forth showcase of two of the NFL's best teams, best quarterbacks, and yet another example of why football is America's favorite sport.

"It could still be, `Can he win a Super Bowl?' and then if he does, everyone will shut up," Dungy said. "But Peyton's a great player, and anyone who doesn't know that doesn't know much about football."

It was anything but a by-the-book game, and that started becoming obvious when New England left guard Logan Mankins opened the scoring by pouncing on a fumbled handoff between Brady and Laurence Maroney that squirted into the Indy end zone midway through the first quarter.

It got worse from there for Manning, who telegraphed a throw to the sideline that Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel snatched and took 39 yards into the end zone for a 21-3 lead.

Then, the game plan changed because it had to, and the game morphed from another Manning meltdown into something much more.

He led the Colts on an 80-yard drive late in the first half for a field goal to make it 21-6. In the third quarter, he was at his cruel best, dissecting an exhausted Patriots defense for a pair of long drives and scores.

The first came on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The second was capped by a 1-yard pass to Dan Klecko, a defensive tackle who came in as a supposed decoy at the goal line. A circus catch by Marvin Harrison for the 2-point conversion tied the game at 21.

The rest of the game was rollicking, back-and-forth, and Manning never let up.

The Patriots answered with an 80-yard kickoff return by Ellis Hobbs, which set up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Jabar Gaffney. Officials awarded the score to Gaffney after ruling he was forced out of the back of the end zone by an Indy defender.

Manning came right back but his handoff to Dominic Rhodes misfired. The ball scooted forward and center Jeff Saturday got this touchdown to tie the score at 28.

After that drive, Manning could be seen on the sideline, nursing a sore thumb. But he wasn't coming out.

The teams traded field goals, and Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski put New England ahead 34-31 on a 43-yarder with 3:49 left.

After a touchback, it was time for Manning's drive: 11 yards to Reggie Wayne, 32 yards to Bryan Fletcher, a scary completion to Wayne, who nearly lost the ball but snatched it back.

A roughing-the-passer call gave Indy the ball at the 11, then Manning handed off three straight times to Addai for the last 11 yards -- showing that, yes, maybe it really is about more than just the quarterback.

Or maybe not.

This one was Manning at his best.

He was the first-round draft pick in 1998, considered a prototypical, can't-miss guy despite the fact that he could never win the big one in Tennessee, falling to archrival Florida three times when the Vols might have been good enough to win it all.

He was 0-2 in the playoffs against New England, and the storyline all week was what a break the Colts got to get the Patriots at home, and what a sensational feeling it would be to finally knock off the team that bedeviled them most.

Manning conceded during the week that he could hear the clock ticking as his career entered its prime, especially as the disappointments mounted.

His teammates protected him, saying the quarterback shouldn't shoulder all the burden for the franchise's inability to break through and make the Super Bowl.

But now Indy has finally done it, for the first time since owner Bob Irsay's midnight move from Baltimore back in 1984 found the Colts in the Midwest, adopted at first by a basketball-loving fan base, then embraced when Manning came into the fold.

The Patriots lost for the first time in six trips to the AFC championship game, as coach Bill Belichick found himself uncharacteristically unable to shut down Peyton and Co.

The Colts piled on 455 yards and scored on six of their final eight drives, not counting the one where Manning kneeled down. The mystique that seemed so prevalent last week in an upset win over San Diego seemed missing, and this looked like a tired, desperate, defeated team in the end -- maybe in part because of a flu bug that worked its way through their locker room during the week.

So while that dynasty is dead, it is now Manning's turn to take a shot at history. Of course, with his performance Sunday -- many think he has already.
(24) Marquette 77, (6) Pittsburgh 74, OT

PITTSBURGH -- Dominic James regrets being on the bench with a shoulder injury during the key minutes of Pitt's comeback victory at home against Marquette last season. He wasn't about to miss the rematch in Pittsburgh.

James made two free throws after being fouled with less than a second remaining in overtime and No. 24 Marquette rallied after squandering an 11-point lead to surprise No. 6 Pittsburgh 77-74 on Sunday, making all 10 of its free throws in overtime.

James scored 23 points and Dan Fitzgerald and Wesley Matthews had 14 each as the Golden Eagles (17-4, 4-2) improved to 4-1 against Top 25 teams and dealt Pitt (17-3, 5-1) only its second home court loss in 30 games the last two seasons. Pitt is 0-3 against ranked teams.

"We haven't lost a lot, and this is disappointing," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "But there's not many times a team is going to go 10-of-10 at the line in overtime and lose."

Ronald Ramon scored 21 points and 7-footer Aaron Gray had 16 points and nine rebounds despite sitting out the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation, when Pitt surged back after trailing 60-51 following Fitzgerald's two 3s. Fitzgerald also hit an important 3 during the overtime.

The Panthers, who had never led or been tied since holding a 10-9 lead, sent it to overtime on Ramon's two free throws that made it 64-all with 3.5 seconds remaining.

Gray returned to score Pitt's first five points of overtime, and the Panthers led as late as 74-73 after Levon Kendall made two free throws with 1:35 remaining.

But Kendall's pass was stolen on Pitt's next possession and James, after searching frantically for an open lane to the basket as the clock ticked down, was fouled with three defenders around him and nine-tenths of a second remaining. He made both free throws to finish 7-of-8 from the line. Matthews made two more free throws after being fouled on Pitt's inbounds play.

Asked what was going through his mind when he stepped to the line, James said, "Ice water was going through my mind at the end. I've never had two free throws to win a game like that."

Last year, James sat out for 8 1/2 minutes at Pitt following a collision with Antonio Graves, and the Panthers came back to win 77-71. Later, the Panthers were told that Marquette coach Tom Crean called them "dirty," an allegation Crean strongly denied Sunday.

"We did an excellent job of dealing with the adversity of the game," Crean said after his team won its third in a row on the road, on some of the Big East's toughest home courts. "We didn't get down mentally in overtime and found a way to win the game. Winning at Connecticut and Louisville before this helps a little bit"

Especially James, with Crean saying that his point guard wasn't the first option on the play that led to his decisive free throws but still wound up with the ball.

"He didn't need to be nervous at the end," Crean said. "He makes so many big plays for us."

James has scored 56 points as the Golden Eagles have won two of three from Pitt the last two seasons. The teams meet again March 3 in Milwaukee.

With Pitt down by nine at 60-51, coach Jamie Dixon took Gray out with 3 1/2 minutes to play to put a quicker team on the floor. The move worked as the Panthers outscored Marquette 13-4 the rest of the second half to tie it on Ramon's free throws after James appeared to strip the ball from him.

Before that, Marquette quieted a loud, enthusiastic Pitt crowd by going on an 11-0 run over a 5-minute span of the first half to seize an 18-10 lead, causing some fans to throw giveaway towels on the floor to protest several fouls they felt weren't called on Marquette.

Gray scored six of the Panthers' first 10 points, only to become ineffective for long stretches after that as the Panthers had trouble getting the ball inside against Marquette's quick defenders. Pitt had 14 turnovers midway through the second half and finished with 18.

Gray missed two days of practice with a wrist injury after he had 22 points and 19 rebounds Tuesday in a 63-54 decision over Connecticut, but Dixon didn't felt that influenced the outcome.

"We knew we couldn't let him score," Jerel McNeal said. "We took him out of the game and that threw them for a loop."

Pitt went 5-of-18 from 3-point range (27.8 percent) despite Ramon's 4-for-6 day after entering the game shooting 46.3 percent beyond the arc in conference play. The Panthers had been 12-0 at home this season and 7-1 in its last eight home games against ranked opponents.

January 10, 2007

"Munsters" actress Yvonne De Carlo dies at 84

LOS ANGELES - Actress Yvonne De Carlo, who starred in films opposite Clark Gable and Charlton Heston but won enduring fame as wife of a Frankenstein monster-like character in the TV series "The Munsters," has died at age 84, her son said on Wednesday.

Bruce Morgan said his mother, who played Moses' wife in Cecil B. De Mille's 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments," died of natural causes on Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund's Retirement Home in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills.

"She passed away in my arms on Monday," Morgan said, adding that she had been in declining health for several years.

Born in Vancouver, De Carlo was raised in poverty and had to drop out of high school to work. But she won a beauty contest and used that as an entree to bit parts in movies, starting in the 1940s.

She had bit parts in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (1943) and "The Road to Morocco" (1941). But in 1945, she won a key role in "Salome, Where She Danced," about a ballerina who lands in a small Arizona town.

Paramount signed De Carlo, it was said, because she resembled its major star, Dorothy Lamour, and executives there wanted to warn Lamour that she could be replaced if she gave the studio trouble.

De Carlo appeared in such B-movie staples as "Frontier Gal," "Scarlet Angel" and "Shotgun," showing off an hour-glass figure that won her many fans.


While most of the films she made during that period were forgettable, she starred as one of Alec Guinness's two wives in the British comedy classic "The Captain's Paradise" and opposite Heston as Moses' wife in "The Ten Commandments." She also appeared with Gable and
Sidney Poitier in 1957's "Band of Angels."

She dropped out of films in 1959 to raise a family, but returned to work in television, where she became a cult favorite as the heavily made-up, ghoulish Lily Munster on the popular sitcom "The Munsters."

From 1964 to 1966, she played opposite Fred Gwynne, who starred as her good-natured but scary-looking spouse, Herman Munster, the head of an oddball family who lived in a big, creepy house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

She made nearly 100 films in all, played on Broadway, most famously in Stephen Sondheim's "Follies," and made guest appearances on such TV series as "Bonanza" and "The Virginian."

In a 1987 autobiography, she claimed to have had affairs with several of Hollywood's leading figures, including Howard Hughes, Robert Taylor and Billy Wilder.

Before her death, she performed supporting roles in two independent movies that have yet to be released, playing a psychic who channels UFOs in one and an orphanage nun during World War Two in the other, Morgan said.

"So she's not done yet," he told Reuters.

Her last screen role seen before her death was as an eccentric apartment dweller in the 1995 TV movie "The Barefoot Executive," said her longtime agent, Scott Stander.

"She was quite a pistol," Stander said. "She aged gracefully, she was a beautiful lady."
Movie producer Carlo Ponti dies

ROME - Carlo Ponti, the Italian producer and husband of Sophia Loren, died overnight in a hospital in Switzerland, his family said Wednesday. He was 94.

Ponti had been hospitalized about 10 days ago in Geneva for pulmonary complications, the family said in a statement. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Ponti worked with well-known directors, including Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard and David Lean.

Born near Milan in 1913, Ponti studied law and worked as a lawyer before making his move into film production.

He was nominated for an Oscar as producer of "Doctor Zhivago" in 1965. Other well-known films produced by Ponti included "Blow-Up," "The Cassandra Crossing," "The Verdict" and "The Squeeze."

Ponti was married to his first wife, Giuliana, when he met Loren, who was almost 25 years younger than he, in about 1950.

They tried to keep their relationship a secret in spite of huge media interest, while Ponti's lawyers went to Mexico to obtain a divorce.

Ponti and Loren were married by proxy in Mexico in 1957 — two male attorneys took their place. The couple only found out about their marriage when the news was broken by a society columnist.
Barbaro suffers significant setback

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. - Barbaro has suffered a significant setback in his recovery from laminitis, with damaged tissue removed from the Kentucky Derby winner's left hind hoof.

Barbaro was being treated aggressively for his discomfort and is in stable condition, according to a statement released Wednesday morning by the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center.

The tissue was removed Tuesday night.

"Things were marching along pretty smoothly until this," Barbaro's co-owner Gretchen Jackson said. "We've been there before with him. He's a horse that wants to live."

The setback comes one week after a new cast was placed on Barbaro's laminitis-stricken left hind foot to help realign a bone.

It was the first dose of bad news after months of progress that included owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson and chief surgeon Dean Richardson talking about releasing Barbaro from the hospital as soon as the end of the month.

"It's sad that's he's had a setback because he was marching along toward living outside the hospital," Jackson said. "The only thing we care about is that he's not in pain."

Barbaro had become uncomfortable on his left hind foot and a cast was removed after some new separation on the inside portion of his hoof was found.

Barbaro shattered his right hind leg in the Preakness on May 20. In mid-July severe laminitis, a potentially fatal disease caused by uneven weight distribution in the limbs, resulted in 80 percent of Barbaro's left hind hoof being removed.

"I was there yesterday and it was obvious he was not comfortable in that foot," Jackson said. "The easiest and best way to work on Barbaro is when he's laying down. They had to wait until he was laying down and when they removed the cast, they discovered some reason for him feeling pain."

Just over a week ago, Richardson said Barbaro's right hind was getting stronger and should eventually be healthy enough to allow the colt to live a comfortable, happy life.

But he also warned: "Barbaro's left hind foot, which had laminitis, remains a more formidable long-term challenge. The foot must grow much more for him to have a truly successful outcome."

January 09, 2007

(2) Florida 41, (1) Ohio St. 14

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Not even close.

Florida -- yes, Florida -- owned the field it wasn't supposed to be on, embarrassing Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and No. 1 Ohio State 41-14 on Monday night to run away with the college football national championship.

Chris Leak and Tim Tebow showed off coach Urban Meyer's twin quarterback system to perfection as the No. 2 Gators became the first Division I school to hold football and basketball titles at the same time.

Now, only one question remains: What about Boise State, the last undefeated team left standing?

The Broncos stunned Oklahoma on the very same field in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day, while Florida and the Buckeyes finished with identical 13-1 records.

Former Gators star Emmitt Smith did the chomp on the sidelines, punctuating the amazingly easy victory. That left Florida, Wisconsin and Louisville each with one loss, and surely will renew calls for a playoff system.

Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, then it quickly fell apart for the Buckeyes. He hobbled off minutes later with an injury and by the time he returned for the second half on crutches, Florida led 34-14.

Leak, maligned for never winning the big one, completed 25 of 36 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. The Rambo-like Tebow threw for one TD and powered into the end zone for another.

Smith, meanwhile, joined a long list of Heisman Trophy quarterbacks -- Jason White, Eric Crouch and Gino Torretta, among them -- to fall apart in bowl games. He was just 4-for-14 with one interception and never showed off his elusive running.

Instead, defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss made it a miserable night for Smith. Linebacker Earl Everett got into the act, too, running down Smith despite missing his helmet.

Florida won its second national title, adding to the one Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel brought home in 1996 under coach Steve Spurrier with a 52-20 romp over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

This time, the man in charge was the 42-year-old Meyer, once a .200 hitter in the low minors in Atlanta's farm system. Since then, he's made a rocket rise in the coaching ranks, topped off by a title in his second year at Florida.

The Bowl Championship Series added an extra game this year to determine a champion. Some fans were certain Michigan deserved to be here, that is until it got pounded by Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

This game had no name -- perhaps now it might be the Meyer Bowl, at least for a year.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel's team looked as if they belonged at the Holiday Bowl, because it took this night off. Given 51 days to prepare, and favored by a solid touchdown, the Buckeyes were confused from the get-go once Florida got the ball.

In the first football matchup between these schools -- they've both played the sport for 100-plus years -- the Gators emphatically stopped Ohio State's 19-game winning streak.

The Buckeyes beat a pair of No. 2 teams earlier in the season, defending champion Texas and Michigan. They were no match for Florida's speed, strategy and style.

The Buckeyes looked completely flummoxed by Florida's frenetic offense at the outset. Trying to match up with the Gators' shifting formations, they often jumped around at the line and still were out of position.

Leak gladly took advantage of the confusion, picking wide-open receivers at will and hitting his first nine passes. Criticized most of his career for a lack of fire, the guy with the soft, green eyes seemed real comfortable.

Meyer's gadgets made it easy pickins for the Gators. They came out in a five-wide set after Ginn's return and Leak hit Dallas Baker with a tying, 14-yard touchdown pass.

The next time they touched the ball, the Gators let Leak, Tebow and scatback Percy Harvin all take direct snaps from center. Harvin later tucked it under his right arm -- the one with a lion tattoo -- and powered for a 4-yard TD.

A flanker reverse by Andre Caldwell helped Florida move to a third-and-goal at the 2 as the first quarter ended. When the second period began, Meyer immediately reached into his bag of tricks.

Florida put three running backs directly behind Leak -- a power-I-plus -- and gave the ball to the last one. DeShawn Wynn scored on the first play of the quarter, plunging into the end zone right in front of the Gators' band, for a stunning 21-7 lead.

Ohio State returned to its roots and ran the ball. Antonio Pittman's 18-yard burst made it 21-14 with 13:32 left before halftime.

Undaunted, the Gators came back with something totally out of character, even for them -- field goals.

Chris Hetland was only 4-for-13 on kicks this season, and his longest was 33 yards. But Meyer said he would trust him in this game, and Hetland made good, from 42 and 40 yards on the next two possessions.

Hetland's second kick came after Tressel showed a little early desperation, gambling on fourth-and-1 at his own 29 and saw Chris Wells stuffed.

The Buckeyes got the ball on their 20 with less than two minutes left before halftime and were determined to see a score before the break. They did -- by Florida.

Moss sacked Smith and forced him to fumble, and the Gators took over at 5. Tebow ran twice up the middle, then faked a quarterback draw, rolled to the left and tossed a 1-yard TD pass to Caldwell.

At 34-14, fans on both sides were stunned as the teams ran to the locker rooms.

January 05, 2007

Bill Cowher resigns as Steelers coach

PITTSBURGH - Bill Cowher resigned as the Pittsburgh Steelers' coach Friday, stepping aside to spend more time with his family one year after winning the Super Bowl title he had chased since 1992.

The 49-year-old Cowher left with one year left on his contract following an 8-8 season that was a disappointment, especially after last season: The Steelers became the first team to win three playoff games on the road and then the Super Bowl as a sixth-seeded AFC team.

"History will look back on Bill Cowher as one of the great coaches of all time," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said.

January 03, 2007

Family, friends gather to remember Ford

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Gerald R. Ford was remembered Wednesday as a man not afraid to laugh, make tough decisions or listen to the advice of his independent wife in eulogies delivered during a funeral at the church the couple attended for six decades.

An honor guard carried the casket inside Grace Episcopal Church, where Ford's defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and Ford's successor, Jimmy Carter, recalled his public service.

His widow, Betty, wiped away tears as she sat with the couple's four children and more than 300 dignitaries and family friends, including Vice President
Dick Cheney and golfing legend Jack Nicklaus.

"He was one of us," Rumsfeld said, "And that made him special and needed in a dark and dangerous hour for our nation."

Rumsfeld, who recently left his post as
President Bush's defense secretary, remembered Ford as a courageous and steady leader who healed the nation after Watergate.

Rumsfeld said the Navy is considering naming a new aircraft carrier after Ford, a Navy veteran. A decision is expected later this month.

"How fitting it would be that the name Gerald R. Ford will patrol the high seas for decades to come in defense of the nation he loved so much," he said.

Carter described the close personal friendship he and Ford developed over the years.

"I relished his sound advice," Carter said as his wife, Rosalynn, cried. "I want to thank my predecessor for all he did to heal our land."

Thousands of flag-waving mourners lined the roads under sunny skies as the motorcade bearing Ford's casket traveled between his presidential museum and library in downtown Grand Rapids to the church, before returning to the museum, where Ford was to be buried later Wednesday.

The funeral service capped six days of official mourning, including services in California, ceremonies at the nation's capital and a 17-hour viewing Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at the museum.

The viewing had to be extended Wednesday until nearly noon so everyone in line could pay their respects. Some 57,000 mourners waited hours to file past the flag-draped casket during the night. Some stopped and made silent prayers.

"We're here to honor him," said Philip Bareham of Lansing, who was the last person to view the casket and whose parents were among Ford's earliest supporters and political allies. "We just love this family. They are so down-to-earth."

Ford represented Grand Rapids in Congress for 25 years. His family had belonged to Grace Episcopal Church since the early 1940s.

Richard Norton Smith, an author, presidential historian and former director of Ford's museum and library, reminded mourners how important Ford's hometown was to him.

"Grand Rapids returned his affection many times over," which was "unforgettably demonstrated by the tens of thousands who stood in line for hours outside the museum, braving the cold to assure that his last night was anything but lonely," Smith said.

Draped over the back of one pew at the funeral was a blue blanket with the letter "M" emblazoned on it, symbolizing Ford's alma mater, the University of Michigan, where he played football for national championship teams in 1932 and 1933.

Many of the mourners at the museum and lining the roads during his funeral procession on Wednesday wore Michigan hats and sweat shirts in his honor.

Ford, who became president after Richard Nixon resigned, died Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 93.

January 02, 2007

Ford state funeral moves to Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The nation remembered Gerald R. Ford on Tuesday for what he didn't have — pretensions, a scheming agenda, a great golf game — as much as for the small-town authenticity he brought to the presidency.

The state funeral for the 38th president began with an elaborate service at Washington National Cathedral, then moved to Grand Rapids in Ford's final homecoming. The marching band from the University of Michigan, the school where he played football, greeted the White House jet carrying his casket, members of his family and others in the funeral party.

The service in Washington unfolded in the spirit of one of its musical selections — "Fanfare for the Common Man" — as powerful people celebrated the modesty and humility of a leader propelled to the presidency by the Watergate crisis that drove predecessor Richard Nixon from office.

"In President Ford, the world saw the best of America, and America found a man whose character and leadership would bring calm and healing to one of the most divisive moments in our nation's history," President Bush said in his eulogy.

Bush's father, the first President Bush, called Ford a "Norman Rockwell painting come to life" and pierced the solemnity of the occasion by cracking gentle jokes about Ford's reputation as an errant golfer. He said Ford knew his golf game was getting better when he began hitting fewer spectators.

Ford's athletic interest was honored, too, in the capital and in Michigan. At the Grand Rapids airport that bears Ford's name, the Michigan band played the school's famous fight song, "The Victors," as Ford's flag-draped casket was transferred to a hearse.

He had played center for the Wolverines in their undefeated, national championship seasons in 1932 and 1933 and turned down several pro football offers to go to law school at Yale instead.

In Grand Rapids, which the Nebraska native adopted as his hometown and represented in Congress for a quarter century, Ford's presidential museum opened its doors for a brief service and then an 18-hour public viewing, stretching overnight, before his burial Wednesday afternoon.

Jimmy Carter, the Democrat who defeated Ford in 1976 and became his friend, not only attended the Washington service with the two other living ex-presidents, the elder Bush and Bill Clinton, but came to Grand Rapids on the plane with Ford's family and his remains.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, delivering one of the most emotional tributes of the day, spoke as if addressing Ford directly, in remarks at the museum. "You were an incredible human being," said Granholm, a Democrat. "You were a paradoxical gift of remarkable intellect and achievement wrapped in a plain brown wrapper."

Under towering arches of the cathedral in the morning, Henry Kissinger, Ford's secretary of state, paid tribute to his leadership in achieving nuclear arms control with the Soviets, pushing for the first political agreement between Israel and Egypt and helping to bring majority rule to southern Africa.

"In his understated way he did his duty as a leader, not as a performer playing to the gallery," Kissinger said. "Gerald Ford had the virtues of small town America."

Another eulogist, NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, said Ford brought to office "no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance," an oblique reference to the air of subterfuge that surrounded Nixon in his final days.

In his homily, Episcopalian minister Robert G. Certain touched on the fractious debate in the church over homosexual relationships, and said Ford did not think the issue should be splitting Episcopalians. He was Ford's pastor at St. Margaret's Church in Palm Desert, Calif.

"He asked me if we would face schism after we discussed the various issues we would consider, particularly concerns about human sexuality and the leadership of women," Certain said. "He said that he did not think they should be divisive for anyone who lived by the great commandments and the great commission to love God and to love neighbor." On a national day of mourning that closed most of the government as well as financial markets, the cortege brought Ford's casket to the cathedral in blustery winds that blew off the hats of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, and members of the honor guard outside the service.

White-gloved police officers lined the route passing the White House to the cathedral; light, subdued crowds watched the cortege.

Inside, more than 3,000 people mourned the man who was charged with restoring trust in government after Nixon's downfall. They remembered an unassuming leader who was content with his congressional career until history called him to higher office.

President Bush escorted Ford's widow, Betty, down the aisle of the great stone cathedral, which stretches nearly the length of two football fields and has soaring towers, 215 stained glass windows and an organ with 10,650 pipes.

Carter engaged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an animated conversation while waiting for the funeral party. Rice also chatted with Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and at one point the three ex-presidents — Carter, the elder Bush and Clinton — shook hands.

Among others at the cathedral: Nancy Reagan, who mourned her husband Ronald there in 2004; former Secretary of State
Colin Powell and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a presidential prospect for 2008.

Thousands of average Americans had filed into the Capitol Rotunda over two days and a night to pay final respects.

Funeral services were held there for former presidents Eisenhower in 1969 and Reagan in 2004, and ex-President Wilson is buried there.

Ford died at 93 on Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

He was appointed vice president by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew, who resigned in a bribery scandal stemming from his days as Maryland governor. After Nixon resigned, Ford assumed the presidency for 2 1/2 years.

A month after taking office, Ford pardoned Nixon for any Watergate crimes he might have committed.