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Original Issue

Sports Beat

SOME HOCKEY fans are seeing a familiar face on Fox's reality
matchmaking show Married by America. Jill Nicolini, a 25-year-old
Islanders hostess, is one of five contestants who is placing her
romantic future in the hands of the TV-watching public. Viewers
paired her with a bachelor named Kevin, who, though he'd never
seen her, gave Nicolini an engagement ring on Monday night's
episode. The show will follow them--and four other
couples--through its finale on April 14, at which time Jill and
Kevin will decide whether to get hitched. Nicolini, who was Miss
Long Island in 2002 but gave up the crown when it was revealed
she had appeared in Playboy, does in-game promotions and
giveaways for the Islanders. "We all love her here," says team
spokesman Chris Botta. "We'll all be watching."

--Do you believe that USA Today list of the Top 10 Hardest Things
to Do in Sports? Neither do we. So SI's Bill Scheft--who also
writes for David Letterman--created a list of the Top 10 Really
Hardest Things to Do in Sports:

10. Sitting behind Yao Ming at a movie.

9. Telling former Islanders goalie Billy Smith that his hairpiece
is on crooked.

8. Hearing the phrase "Down in front!" at an Expos game.

7. Assuming Vin Baker's contract.

6. Getting your cellphone to ring at the absolute height of
Tiger's backswing.

5. Settling out of court with Al Davis.

4. Spotting the 76ers' Allen Iverson at a Yanni concert.

3. Buying Midol at the Augusta National gift shop.

2. Overhearing someone say to Don King, "That's very interesting.
Go on."

And the No. 1 Really Hardest Thing to Do in Sports....

1. Finding a couple of opposing teams who say they "really like
each other."

--George Foreman looks like a man who knows about cheeseburgers,
which is why ConAgra hired him to market a line of "packaged meat
products." Foreman was the third-highest-paid sports pitchman
last year ($27.5 million), behind Michael Jordan ($30 million)
and Tiger Woods ($70 million).... This sounds like a touching
couple: Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley and Heather Mitts, a
defender for the WUSA's Philadelphia Charge, are dating. "There's
nothing I don't like about him," says Mitts, who was named the
league's sexiest player in a poll.... Celebrity
author David Wells (Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls,
Backaches and Baseball) was fined $100,000 by the Yankees for
things he said in his book. Despite Wells's backtracking before
Perfect's publication, the final version still asserts that Wells
was half drunk when he pitched a perfect game and alleges that up
to 25% of big leaguers take steroids.... When Chris Webber hit
the big 3-0, on March 1, his team didn't come through (the Kings
lost to the Spurs at home), but one teammate did. After the game
Vlade Divac surprised Webber with a gift of a limo, charter jet
and ringside seats for the Roy Jones Jr.--John Ruiz fight in Las
Vegas.... NASCAR's getting hipper. The circuit's newest sponsor
is Vokal, the clothing line owned and marketed by the rapper
Nelly. A Vokal logo will be on Andy Houston's hood this weekend
in Darlington.


COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AP (MARATHONER) PICTURE THIS As marathons go, this one wasn't fast, but it was memorable. Using only his hands, Bob Wieland, a 57-year-old Army vet who lost his legs when he stepped on a booby trap in 1969 in Vietnam, finished the L.A. marathon last Saturday in 173 hours, 45 minutes--a little more than a week. (He slept for just 11 hours.) A crowd of 100 people, including some fellow marathoners, cheered him across the finish line.




The Reverend Jesse Jackson said he has evidence the Masters is
named for the "white male slave masters" who used the Augusta


Michigan State basketball coach, after being asked whether he
wakes up at night believing his team will suddenly live up to his
preseason expectations: "Yeah, I do. But sometimes I wake up and
think Halle Berry is right around the corner, too."