She was the focus of a national uproar after she dropped her towel in that titillating Monday Night Football promo in November, but what no one knew until last week was that Desperate Housewives star Nicolette Sheridan wasn't working with her intended leading man. MNF analyst John Madden had been cast in the part eventually played by Eagles receiver Terrell Owens. ABC thought it would be funnier to have Madden as the object of Sheridan's affection, but at the last minute the broadcaster said he didn't have time to film the spot. Housewives executive producer Marc Cherry also revealed that Sheridan's towel drop was a late addition to the script. "I feel really bad about it," he said. "I didn't realize that Monday Night Football was such a family viewing experience."

■ In November, Mike Piazza closed on a $4.2 million apartment in Manhattan's Tribeca, up the street from P. Diddy. The Mets catcher will have someone to share it with. Piazza is scheduled to marry former Playmate and Baywatch star Alicia Rickter (above) on Saturday in Miami. Tommy Lasorda, Piazza's godfather, is scheduled to attend the nuptials, as are former Mets John Franco, Al Leiter and Todd Zeile.

■ Ashlee Simpson--whose sister, Jessica, and brother-in-law, Nick Lachey, are pals with USC quarterback Matt Leinart (SI, Jan. 24)--is speculating that her ties to the Trojans had something to do with her being roundly booed after performing at halftime of the Orange Bowl. "I was facing the Oklahoma Sooners, which had a bigger crowd on hand," said Simpson. "I was rooting for USC, and they played a clip [of her saying she was pulling for the Trojans]. So maybe it was those people that didn't like me." ... Historically, former Saved by the Bell cast members haven't had much pull at the box office--remember Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls? But Spike Lee has confidence in Mario Lopez, who played A.C. Slater on Bell, to carry his new project, The Goal. The story focuses on a boy from the slums of Rio de Janeiro who becomes the best soccer player in the world. The Goal will feature appearances by Brazilian stars Romario, Ronaldo, Denilson, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos.

■ President Bush may have figured the Hook 'em Horns salutes he and his family flashed to the Texas marching band on Inauguration Day might not thrill folks in Oklahoma, but it turns out Sooners fans weren't the only ones disturbed. In Norway the hand gesture--which is made by grabbing the middle and ring fingers with the thumb while extending the index finger and the pinky and has been used by Longhorns fans since 1955--is considered a salute to Satan. Last Friday a Norwegian daily ran a picture of a horns-flashing Jenna Bush under the headline SHOCK GREETING FROM BUSH DAUGHTER .... Major League Baseball is holding open casting calls in six cities to find die-hard fans to star in their "I Live for This" ad campaign. The search started at Fenway Park last Saturday and will hit ballparks in St. Louis, Houston, New York, Anaheim and L.A. over the next two weeks. Those fans chosen will be flown to Miami next month to shoot the commercials.... Former NFL wide receiver Michael Westbrook--who in 1997 was fined $50,000 for punching Redskins teammate Stephen Davis during practice--will fight former Giants running back Jarrod Bunch next month in a pay-per-view competition called King of the Cage.


A University of Calgary professor plans to study why women flash their breasts at hockey fans.


Pacers forward, to a heckler who told him he sucked during a recent game in Houston: "Yeah, but I get paid a lot to suck."

COLOR PHOTOHERMANN J. KNIPPERTZ/AP (PICTURE THIS) PICTURE THIS You can lead a horse to water ... or offer him a pull from your squeeze bottle. After leading Borussia Moenchengladbach to a 1--0 win over Arminia Bielefeld in his debut with the German team, goalkeeper Kasey Keller made sure Juenter, the side's mascot, was hydrated. Before the American's arrival Borussia didn't do much horsing around: It's in 15th place. COLOR PHOTORON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (POLLARD) COLOR PHOTOPACHA/CORBIS (RICKTER)

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