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Posted: Thursday November 2, 2006 10:28AM; Updated: Thursday November 2, 2006 11:36AM
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Ben Roethlisberger
Does Ben Roethlisberger need a timeout?
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1. A Pittsburgh-area first-grader won a contest to take Steelers receiver Hines Ward to school on Tuesday. Ward planned to talk about the importance of staying in school, but all the kids wanted to know was when Ben Roethlisberger would be given a timeout.

2. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is now OK after he fell ill while watching his granddaughter's performance of the musical Cabaret on Sunday at the University of North Carolina. It seems that Steinbrenner was overcome at seeing yet another low-budget production succeed.

3. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has demanded that his mom stop using his picture in campaign commercials for a Texas appeals court because of their fractured relationship. Gee, let's hope this doesn't hurt her "family values" platform.

4. Au revoir, gopher: The Calgary Stampeders host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a CFL playoff game this Sunday and are evidently quite serious about establishing a home field advantage. In fact, on Tuesday the Stampeders banned Roughriders mascot Gainer the Gopher from attending the game, evidently fearing Gainer's power to rally Roughriders rooters. (Say that three times fast.) No word if the Stamps planned to extend the ban to the gopher's friends, the harmless squirrel and the friendly rabbit. But now it seems that Calgary received so much ridicule that it has reversed course and will now allow Gainer to come after all. Still, since Calgary officials will only let Gainer sit in the stands rather than prance on the sidelines like a huge-headed gopher should, Gainer might sit this one out by choice. Stay tuned!

5. Michigan State has announced that coach John L. Smith will not return next season. That means Spartans fans soon won't have Smith to slap himself around anymore

6. Quote of the week: We've long wondered when an athlete who tested positive for drugs would actually cop to the charge rather give some variation of the "my dog ate the ingredient list on my supplements" defense. We didn't think that pioneer of forthrightness would be Guillermo Mota. The pitcher had many scratching their heads about how he couldn't get anyone out earlier this season for the Indians before suddenly emerging as a key reliever for the Mets down the stretch. As it turns out, he may have had some pharmaceutical help; on Wednesday he was suspended for 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy. More shocking was what Mota had to say: "I have no one to blame but myself. I used extremely poor judgment and deserve to be held accountable." Let's hope Mota isn't tossed from the players' union for such disarming honesty.

7. The Knicks and former coach Larry Brown have reached a settlement of the $40 million remaining on Brown's contract after the team fired him. Terms were not disclosed, but essentially the Knicks will be paying Brown to not coach the team. Which really isn't much different from last season.

8. A player agent has been accused by federal immigration agents of illegally smuggling Cuban baseball players into the country. But the agent claims that the players are really Dominicans, in what legal experts call the "Kramer defense."

9. Wednesday's news that Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka publicly announced his intention to pitch in the majors was no surprise. What was shocking, though, was the nugget about how Matsuzaka first rose to prominence in Japan. In 1998 the pitcher was the star of the Japanese national high school baseball tournament, a major event in the country. First he threw 250 (!!) pitches in Yokohama High's 17-inning quarterfinal victory. The next day he came in to get the save in a semifinal victory. The following day he threw a complete-game no-hitter to win the championship game. Hmmm, maybe that's why some scouts say that Matsuzaka has more mileage on his arm than most 26-year-olds. Could you imagine how MLB executives would freak out if a highly touted American high school senior threw that many pitches in a three-day span?

10. New Mexico State preview: The Aggies (2-6) know that time is getting short to turn around a season that started with such promise. The first order of business is to flush the memory of last week's 48-21 loss to Nevada, in which star quarterback Chase Holbrook (second in the nation in total offense) was knocked out of the game to prepare for Saturday's home game against San Jose State (5-2). "We have to come back this week and show that's not who we are," says junior center James Farrelly (i.e. my cousin). "The Nevada game isn't what we've been all year. That can't happen again. A game like that brings the program down when we're trying to build it up." Holbrook is expected back in action as the Aggies chase their first win against a Division I-A opponent since 2004.

Reader submissions: Please send your entries for Friday's all-reader edition by Thursday afternoon. Plenty of good spots are still available. Thanks in advance for all your contributions.

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