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Sports Beat

Singles is not the main event at the Hopman Cup in Perth. On Jan.
7, Australia's Lleyton Hewitt and Belgium's Kim Clijsters were to
oppose each other there in a mixed doubles match, fresh off their
old-fashioned engagement. "We're calling it the love match around
here," tournament director Paul McNamee said. "Tickets for it
sold out almost immediately." Hewitt, who was No. 1 in the world
in 2001 and '02, and Clijsters, who is now No. 2, have been
dating for nearly four years. Just before Christmas, Hewitt, 22,
dropped to one knee during a boat trip in Sydney Harbour and
offered his beloved a solitaire diamond engagement ring, among
other jewelry. "He took me out for a dinner and produced all of a
sudden a ring and earrings," Clijsters, 20, said. "I was so
happy, I didn't know how to react." Eventually she said yes.

--Not many outside linebackers from Southwest Mississippi
Community College make headlines, but then again, not many
outside linebackers from Southwest Mississippi Community College
marry Britney Spears. Jason Alexander, Britney's 22-year-old ex,
played the 2000 and '01 seasons at SMCC. (He's now a junior at
Southeastern Louisiana but has given up football.) "He was a
decent player," says Bears coach Dom Green. "He was a physical
guy. Looked like a bodybuilder."

--Say this about Packers fans: They're appreciative. After the
Cardinals beat the Vikings on Dec. 28 to give Green Bay the NFC
North title, Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt invited Cardinals
receiver Nathan Poole, who hauled in the game-winning pass as
time expired, to be his guest for Sunday's playoff game against
the Seahawks, which Green Bay won 33-27. Poole, 26, was greeted
at the airport by Schmitt, who presented him with a key to the
city. The locals continued to heap praise--and presents--on him
as he watched the game, first from seats on the 50-yard line and
then from a suite. Some ran into the stadium's souvenir shop to
buy trinkets for him. Poole wound up with so much booty, he had
to ship it home. "Fans were saying, 'We love you. Come play for
the Packers,'" says Poole, who has been cut four times by the
Cardinals. "This is why I didn't give up on football."

--Among all the pregame ceremonies of the bowl season, perhaps
the most touching tribute was performed at the Rose Bowl for an
audience of one. USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, on
the field before the showdown between USC and Michigan,
discreetly sprinkled a few of the ashes of her deceased father in
the Michigan end zone. Jim Brennan, who died last August of brain
cancer, at 77, was a devoted fan of the Wolverines, and Christine
paid her respects while players were warming up on the field.
"The kick I got out of doing this was knowing how much my father
would have loved it," says Christine. "For me it was pure joy."
... In what is destined to become the greatest album of songs
sung by wrestlers since 1995's Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot
Band, Columbia Records is releasing WWE Originals on Jan. 13. The
CD has 17 tracks, though five feature nothing but "Stone Cold"
Steve Austin speaking about beer. ("Don't that taste good?" he
asks in one cut.) The other 12 tracks, all written for the
grapplers, include Rey Mysterioso's Rico Suave-ish rendering of
Crossing Borders and I Don't Suck (Really), which Kurt Angle half
sings and half speaks.


COLOR PHOTO: TONY GENTILE/REUTERS (PICTURE THIS) PICTURE THIS Well, what can we tell you: It's a leap year. On New Year's Day, Riccardo Russi was one of several daredevils who dived off Rome's Cavour Bridge into the Tiber. Before Russi's 55-foot dive, the river's muddy water was doused with sparkling wine as part of a tradition that dates to 1946, when a Belgian stunt artist named Mr. Okay leaped off the bridge.



More than 100 runners wearing headlamps competed in an
underground marathon in the caves of Valkenburg in the


LSU defensive end, in an ESPN interview after the Tigers won the
Sugar Bowl: "People are going to start respecting LSU--if you
don't, we're going to hit you in your mouth."