The man the Pittsburgh Steelers call Fu isn't worried about starting against the New York Jets on Sunday. It's the finishing part that concerns him.
Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, the running back with the long name and the even longer hair--he wears it in a bun on the back of his head, Hawaiian-style--will replace the injured Jerome Bettis. "Oh, yeah, I'm ready to go," Fuamatu-Ma'afala said. "This is my fourth year, and I'm ready. In my first or second year, I might have said I was ready, but I really wouldn't be relaxed.
"Now, when they told me I was going to start, I said, 'Cool, that's fine.' I'm not all jittery like I might have been a couple of years ago."
The native Hawaiian's first start this season probably can't go any worse than his last start, on Oct. 22, 2000, against the Browns. Replacing injured fullback Jon Witman, he broke a foot on a 20-yard run and was finished for the year.
Trivia time: Which two players share the Laker record for offensive rebounds in a game?
Opposite viewpoint: Those days of enjoying an unbeaten season seem far away for Detroit Lion rookie Jeff Backus.
In 1997, he started as a freshman on Michigan's 12-0 national championship team. Now, he is a left tackle on a team that is 0-11.
"I've thought about that a couple times," Backus said. "My first year in college was a national championship, and my first year in the pros isn't going well at all.
"But I'm trying to look at it in a positive manner. I accomplished everything so early at Michigan that it was hard to savor it. This experience is going to make it even sweeter when we get to the top here."
Worthy recipient: Don Mattingly will receive the Thurman Munson Award on Jan. 31 from the Assn. for the Help of Retarded Children. Mattingly played for the Yankees from 1982-95, winning the 1985 American League MVP award.
Previous honorees include Yogi Berra, Lou Piniella, Paul O'Neill and Bernie Williams.
History lesson: For one day next year in Scotland, golfers will be able to play the 600-year-old Old Course at St. Andrews as it was originally designed--in reverse.
The St. Andrews Links Trust has announced that on April 1--April Fool's Day--golfers can start on the first tee, then play to the 17th green and continue around the course clockwise.
The Old Course was traditionally played clockwise until the end of the 19th century when Tom Morris, custodian of the links, created a new first green. For many years, the course was played over both circuits on alternate weeks. As recently as the 1970s, it was played in a clockwise direction for one month every winter.
Trivia answer: Magic Johnson and Vlade Divac, with 13.
And finally: Managing a baseball team has never been a secure occupation but Katsuya Nomura, 66, manager of the Hanshin Tigers in the Japanese Central League, has come up with a new wrinkle.
Nomura resigned recently after his wife Sachiyo was arrested for tax evasion. "Under the circumstances, I have no alternative but to step down," he said.
Nomura's wife was arrested on suspicion that she evaded corporate and personal income taxes estimated at more than $1.73 million. It probably didn't help Nomura that the Tigers have finished last for three consecutive seasons.