Hella Hellas 

It's Greek (softball) to them


At the opening ceremonies of the Athens Olympics this Friday, a handful of athletes marching under the light-blue-and-white-striped Greek flag may need a lyric sheet to sing the national anthem. Among them will be Cal head softball coach Diane Ninemire, an assistant for the Greek team, and Cal left fielder Lindsay James, a native of San Carlos with a Greek great-grandfather. Olympic rules say the host country can field a team in every sport using players of national descent. So thirteen Greek-American women (eleven of them Californians) proved their connection to a Greek ancestor within three generations, earned dual citizenship, and will join two native Greeks in the women's softball competition over the next two weeks. (The men's baseball team is similarly stocked, supported in part by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, also of Greek descent.)

After an undefeated pre-Olympic tour of the East Coast, Team Hellas has played in Europe over the last few weeks and seems ready to take on the stiff competition of Australia, Japan, Italy (which also features American players), and the United States -- 1996 and 2000 gold medalists.

Catch the Greece vs. USA softball game August 19, 2-7 a.m. EDT, on MSNBC. Check NBCOlympics.com/tvlistings or www.internationalsoftball.com/greek.html-- Annika Dukes


Get off bridge, turn left

At the end of the 2003-2004 NFL season, it was a tossup which Bay Area football team was worse. The Raiders limped to a 4-12 record and finished third in the AFC West, enough to trigger massive roster changes. Among the new faces: QB Kerry Collins, veteran defensive lineman Warren Sapp, and offensive tackle Robert ("Me Tarzan") Gallery. Across the bay, the 7-9 49ers were even more decisive in their spring housecleaning. Among the missing: Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens, and Garrison Hearst. QB Tim Rattay and running back Kevan Barlow are still around, but the rest of the team seems to be rookies and first- or second-year men. The Pried and Posed gang meet the Who Saturday evening (5 p.m.) at SBC Park in the opening contest of the 2004 preseason. Raiders.com or SF49ers.com -- Kelly Vance


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