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Down in Front, Snoop!

The NHL and NBA are happy to fill seats with famous fans

From the outsidevery little about Oracle Arena, which appears to have dropped out of the skyonto a vast parking lot outside of Oakland, says Hollywood. Until recently thesame was true on the inside, but during the Warriors' shocking playoff upset ofthe Mavericks the crowds at Golden State's home grew as beautiful as any inL.A. Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Owen Wilson, Penny Marshall, Santana, SnoopDogg and Woody Harrelson all cropped up courtside. Last month Snoop (along withLuke Wilson and Rachel Hunter) also took in a Ducks playoff game in Anaheim,adding some star power to another venue generally short on celebrities.

Are these starsreally rabid Warriors and Ducks fans? Maybe, but sports event appearances canalso be as orchestrated as a gig on The Tonight Show. As a Warriorsspokesperson says, having a celeb in the house creates a cool factor:"Suddenly you can look at [a Warriors game] like the place to be."Golden State insists it didn't recruit the stars who've been showing up for theplayoffs. But the NHL, which is desperate for buzz, works hard to get at leastB-list butts into its seats. Last year the league, with the help of LosAngeles--based p.r. firm Rogers & Cowan, created a celebrity recruitingprogram. The NHL has distributed what it calls the ICE Card to some 40 actors,musicians and other celebs; cardholders can call an 800 number on the back toget free tickets whenever and wherever they want.

Nick Lachey(below), Christina Aguilera, Elisha Cuthbert, Rachel McAdams and Oscar winnerCuba Gooding Jr. are among the cardholders. The NHL also created an"entertainment advisory board" (it includes movie producers JerryBruckheimer and Barry Josephson) to brainstorm ways to make games andbroadcasts more fun for fans. It's hoped that both efforts will make a sportthat has trouble attracting attention feel hip again. "We are in theentertainment business," says NHL senior vice president of communicationsBernadette Mansur. "Everybody needs to remain relevant."

Book Watch

A BASEBALL player appears on the cover of Frank Deford'sthoughtful new novel, The Entitled, and the subtitle is A Tale of ModernBaseball. But don't expect many tobacco-stained scenes--hardly any pages aredevoted to action on the field. The book revolves around two very different menwho exist in a cushy world and the uneasy alliance they forge when one isaccused of a heinous crime. It's a plot that would have worked with rock starsor actors or hedge fund analysts.

But baseball is the book's setting, and the reader isbetter for it. Few writers understand the game as well as Deford, SI's seniorcontributing writer and a six-time National Sportswriter of the Year. Hissmallest observations speak volumes about the characters: When we learn thatCleveland Indians manager Howie Traveler makes sure that his uniform pants areworn "just so, bloused in the middle ... the way God intended baseballplayers to look" instead of all the way down to his shoes we can guess whatkind of manager--and man--he is: old school, moral, humble.

Traveler never quite fit as a player, partly because hislegs are too short and partly because he was "a man of moderation and someerudition." He thrives as a manager, though, at least until his star, JayAlcazar, is accused of rape and Traveler realizes he witnessed a scene thatcould put Alcazar away. As Traveler struggles with his conscience, Deford usesa series of beautifully written flashbacks to tell Alcazar's backstory,revealing another, more sympathetic side to the slugger. That sets up asatisfying conclusion to what's more than a terrific baseball book. It's aterrific book, period.

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ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (SNOOP)

GOLDENTOUCH

New Warriors fans include stars like Snoop, Kate Hudson and OwenWilson.

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ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (WILSON AND HUDSON)

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MICHAEL HICKEY (LACHEY)

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