Last week in Virginia, the Roanoke Ballet Theatre's latest production, NASCAR Ballet. More Biffle and Burton than Baryshnikov, the show was choreographed by Jenefer Davies Mansfield, who isn't a NASCAR fan but thought the popular sport would serve as a good vehicle to bring ballet to the masses. "You've got to go out and find what people want to see and present it in a dance format," she said. The ballet features 30 dancers in shiny unitards festooned with logos of the theater's sponsors. The dancers whirl around a 40-foot oval track for 90 minutes and occasionally collide with each other mid-leap to simulate crashes. Replays are shown on three television monitors hanging above the stage, while commentary is provided by local sportscaster Mike Stevens. To prepare for their roles, the dancers were given copies of NASCAR for Dummies and viewed several Nextel Cup races. The RBT's creative director, Beth Deel, said, "I always thought NASCAR was for guys with beer bellies who ate chicken wings and watched too much TV. Just like ballet, people automatically assume what it is before they really learn about it. My opinion has changed now."
By the family of Brittanie Cecil, their claims against the NHL, the Blue Jackets and Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, for $1.2 million. Brittanie was killed after being struck in the forehead by a deflected shot during a game on March 16, 2002, four days before her 14th birthday. She is believed to be the only fan killed by an errant puck in the 87-year history of the NHL, which made protective nets mandatory in all arenas the following season. Brittanie's parents also filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Children's Hospital in Columbus in February 2003, claiming that doctors failed to diagnose the severity of her injuries. That case is scheduled to go to trial next February.
In favor of the NFL in its quest to keep underclassmen such as Maurice Clarett out of the NFL draft, a federal appeals court in New York City. Clarett, a running back at Ohio State who was suspended for his sophomore season in 2003 for receiving improper benefits, challenged the NFL's rule requiring a player to be three years removed from high school before entering the draft. In February a lower court ruled in his favor. The NFL appealed that ruling, and on Monday the appellate court stayed the lower court's decision, saying it wanted to ensure a more thorough review of the case. In the event the lower court ruling stands, the NFL has said Clarett, who is projected as a mid-round pick, and other underclassmen who declared for the draft could be picked in a supplemental draft.
By the Arena Football League's Orlando Predators, a promotion that would have awarded $500 and a keg of beer to the fan who brought the best inflatable doll to the team's April 9 game. Though the Predators called off the promotion, several fans showed up with adult toys in tow. The AFL fined the team $10,000 for scheduling the event, which might not have been its randiest promotion. Last year the Predators put up billboards that featured a scantily clad woman bent over to snap a football with the catchphrase GET BEHIND YOUR TEAM.