PREMIERED 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."

SETTLED 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.

RULED 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.

CANCELED 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.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOFEST (FERRELL) BLOW UP Fans like Old School's Will Ferrell were courted inOrlando COLOR PHOTO: STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS/AP (DANCERS) NASCAR Ballet dancers