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Original Issue

Sports Beat

The WUSA may be history, but its steamiest soccer siren, Heather
Mitts, is alive and kicking. Mitts, 25, the former Philadelphia
Charge defender who last year was voted the sexiest WUSA player
in a poll, has been hired as a sports anchor by the
NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. But don't expect Mitts, who worked
as an analyst for ABC and ESPN during the 2003 Women's World Cup,
to go too hard on the Eagles--especially not on backup
quarterback A.J. Feeley, whom she's been dating for about a year.
"That would be tough," she says. "I would never jeopardize our
relationship for anything."

--The NFL may have prevented Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil from giving
kicker--and fellow oenophile--Morten Andersen a rare bottle of
Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon from Vermeil's cellar (the
intractably sober league said the $500 California wine would
constitute a performance bonus that wasn't specified in
Andersen's contract), but Andersen will still get to do some
sipping as a reward for his game-winning kick against the Raiders
on Nov. 23. Vermeil promised the 43-year-old Andersen that they
would "share a glass at my house" after the season, and last week
at practice Andersen's teammates gave him a $2 bottle of Boone's
Farm, screw-off cap and all.

--Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui and tennis star Andy Roddick
were the only athletes featured in People magazine's 2003 Sexiest
Men Alive issue. (Non-Pittsburgh pirate Johnny Depp was named the
sexiest.) ... Rallying his team from a 17-point fourth-quarter
deficit to beat the Seahawks 44-41 two weeks ago wasn't enough to
get Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright a game ball. Coach Brian
Billick instead gave it to Wright's wife, Nicole, who went into
labor with the couple's second child three hours after the game.
(They named her Trinity, after the character in The Matrix
movies.) "As I told the players, I don't want to hear about
pain," said Billick, a father of two, referring to childbirth. "I
don't want to hear about 'I'm hurt' because you have no concept
of it." ... Newly anointed IMG model Maria Sharapova (The Beat,
Dec. 8) will be among the featured pros at the annual Chris Evert
Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic, which has raised nearly $11 million
since 1989 to fight drug abuse and to assist neglected and abused
children in South Florida. Sharapova, Lisa Raymond, Xavier
Malisse and Vince Spadea will be joined on the courts by Matthew
Perry, former president George Bush--who at age 79 still plays
regularly--and supermodel Frederique at the Delray Beach Tennis
Center on Dec. 6-7.... After the gaudy silver jerseys they wore
on opening night were widely panned (and immediately abandoned),
the Mavericks have hired clothing designer (and all-round hip-hop
mogul) P. Diddy to come up with an alternative jersey for next
season.... Ever wonder what a poet laureate does? Andrew Motion,
who holds the title in Britain, has been tapped to select the
country's Chant Laureate--the fan who writes the best soccer
chant. The winner gets a $17,000 subsidy to attend matches.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK (RING OF FIRE) PICTURE THIS No, he wasn't performing a tribute to Johnny Cash. Utah's mascot, Bear, was just doing his job when he nearly fell into a burning ring of fire between quarters of the Jazz-Supersonics game at the Delta Center last Friday. This bear didn't end up smokey, though; he made it through his trademark trick, and his fired-up team (page 56) went on to a 98-81 victory over Seattle.




Belgium's Kim Clijsters, the world's No. 2-ranked women's tennis
player, has withdrawn from the 2004 Olympics because she wouldn't
have been allowed to wear her sponsor's apparel.


Rockets sophomore center, talking to a small group of reporters
in the Houston locker room last Friday: "Thanksgiving just
passed, so you should probably know what I'm thankful for: LeBron