After being suspended for refusing to play in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to the Sonics on Jan. 11, Magic guard Steve Francis (above). Orlando was trailing 103-87 with a little more than three minutes left when coach Brian Hill told Francis to replace Hedo Turkoglu. Francis, Orlando's second-leading scorer, had words with the coach before Stacey Augmon checked in as Turkoglu's replacement. Last Thursday the Magic said Francis was banned indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the team." Francis--who was suspended for three games by the NBA last season for kicking a courtside photographer--was reinstated on Monday. He missed two games, both of which the team lost.
By NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue (page 58), that the Saints will play all of their home games next season in the Superdome. Tagliabue and the Saints urged the state to expedite the reconstruction of the stadium, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Owner Tom Benson had done little to quell speculation that he would relocate the team after Katrina, but Tagliabue said the Saints' return to New Orleans won't be for just a single season. " Mr. Benson already has committed beyond 2006," the commissioner said. "It's a multiyear effort. The commitment is unequivocal."
At age 35, two-time Olympic swimming silver medalist Eric Namesnik, from injuries suffered in a car accident on Jan. 7. Namesnik, a standout at Michigan from 1989 to '93, finished second in the 400-meter IM at the 1992 and '96 Games. He was on his way to a practice at the Wolverine Aquatic Club in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was coach, when his car skidded out of control in icy conditions.
Of Alzheimer's disease, former major league reliever Paul Lindblad, 64. In a 14-year career the lefty pitched in two World Series, was part of a combined no-hitter and was the last pitcher to face Willie Mays, whom he retired on a groundout in the 1973 World Series. Lindblad's best year was 1975, when he went 9-1 as part of a strong A's bullpen that featured Rollie Fingers. On the final day of that season Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Lindblad and Fingers no-hit the Angels. Lindblad had one of baseball's more peculiar hobbies: bringing a metal detector to the park to prospect for loose change. "I've found quarters and even halves after a big night in the ballpark," he said.
Of complications from a staph infection, Rams broadcaster and former wide receiver Jack Snow, 62. In an 11-year career with the Rams, Snow (above) pursued the ball fearlessly and caught 340 passes. "He was one of the few guys we had that would go across the middle and catch that football," former teammate Deacon Jones said. "He was tough, tough as nails." Snow, whose son, J.T., is a first baseman for the Red Sox, became a broadcaster in 1992 and called his last game on Nov. 20.
The PGA Tour's executive vice president for international affairs, former LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw. In September, Votaw, 43, stepped down as commissioner after seven years on the job, during which attendance rose by more than 20%. He was criticized, however, for his romantic relationship with golfer Sophie Gustafson, to whom he is engaged. PGA commissioner Tim Finchem said Votaw would be in charge of strengthening the Tour's international profile.
By Costello, a 3-year-old Alaskan malamute, the top three awards at the American Kennel Club's fifth annual national championships in Tampa. Costello took the Best in Show, Best Bred by Exhibitor and Viewers Choice honors; it's the first time the same contestant has won all three titles at the nation's only all-invitational dog show. Costello (above), who was handled by Sandra d'Andrea, took home $80,000 in prize money.
Because he was once again overlooked by Hall of Fame voters, Goose Gossage. Last week writers elected Bruce Sutter--who had fewer saves, wins and strikeouts than Gossage--to the Hall. Gossage, 54, who has been on the ballot since 2000, told the New York Post that Sutter deserved to be enshrined, but he felt the two men who helped revolutionize the closer position should have gone in together. And he challenged the writers who didn't vote for him to a debate on his merits. "I'll take on any writer, anywhere, on any show, and I will bury him," he said.
By a newspaper reporter posing as a wealthy sheikh into criticizing several of his players, England national team soccer coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. The Swede was lured to Dubai by Mazher Mahmood--better known as the "fake sheikh," an undercover reporter for News of the World--ostensibly to discuss a role as a consultant at a soccer academy. Over the course of the trip (during which Eriksson stayed as guest of the sheikh at a seven-star, $3,000-a-night hotel), Mahmood told Eriksson he was considering buying a team in England, and Eriksson, who has two years left on his contract, said he'd be willing to quit his job to work for him. Eriksson also called defender Rio Ferdinand "lazy" and said star striker Wayne Rooney came "from a poor family" and had a bad temper. The remarks were plastered over the tabloids in England, while Eriksson's agent said the coach was the victim of "scurrilous entrapment."