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Starting Lineup

By Dan Steinberg and Desmond Bieler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 14, 2005; Page D02

It's that special time of year when tender hearts are set aflutter, although the exploits of the Sawx and Pats have had Bostonians feeling the love for months. No wonder the New England Confectionery Company felt inspired to add a batch of sports-inflected sayings to its conversation hearts. While searching in vain for a "Where R U Bruins?" treat, we did come across some NECCO nostrums, old and new, that seemed especially sweet:

"Love My Team," Nats fans: Upset by long delays in ordering partial season ticket plans over the Internet. But really, what else would you expect from a team whose idea of a high-speed connection is Vinny Castilla-to-Nick Johnson?

"All-Star," Karl Malone: NBA great officially retires. Malone had considered an offer to join the Spurs, but ultimately decided he wanted to spend more time with Kobe's wife.

"Wise Up," Reggie Miller: Another league long-timer decides this season will be his last. Miller knew it was time to go when he played the Knicks and found himself offering heartfelt condolences to Spike Lee.

"Love Life," Kimberly Bell: Goes on Geraldo Rivera's show to accuse Barry Bonds of having an extramarital affair. Wonder if the Ehrlich administration put her up to it .

"[Heart] Of Gold," Kevin McHale: Takes over wretched Timberwolves, only to lose his home opener to the Bulls. So his reign has thus far been extremely brief and unpleasant to look at . . . sort of like his Celtics uniform.

"Be My Hero," Chris McCray: Guard makes six crucial free throws in overtime to give Terps a comfortable cushion over Duke. Turned out to be the rare College Park cushion that didn't go up in smoke.

"Be a Sport," NHL Leaders: Get it over with already. We haven't heard this many cancellation rumors since the debut of "I, Max."

"#1 Fan," Abe Pollin: Transforms Wizards' practice into a party for team's two all-stars by interrupting with loud music, revelers and a giant cake. But he raised eyebrows by also including a #23 piñata.

"Dream Team," The Game and Matt Leinart: Rapper recruits Heisman-winning QB for upcoming video. Should be a wonderful partnership -- not many people are better than Game at catching bullets.

"Fit For Love," Brits: Survey finds 65 percent approve of Prince Charles's engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles. Twenty-five percent disapproved on grounds that they really didn't want to imagine those two on a honeymoon.

"Be True," Jason Giambi: Apologizes for "a lot of distraction." That's nice Jason, but let's cut to the chase -- how often did you let Jose Canseco inject "distraction" into your buttocks?

Benched: Curt Schilling's Bloody Sock, Donovan McNabb's dry heaves, Shaune Bagwell's tattoo, GoDaddy's ads, Tom Sizemore's Whizzinator.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company