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SPORTS BEAT
January 12, 2004
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.
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January 12, 2004

Sports Beat

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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 Sea-hawks, 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 Suaveish rendering of Crossing Borders and I Don't Suck (Really), which Kurt Angle half sings and half speaks.

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