Sports Beat

January 19, 2004

JAMES BLAKE arrived in Australia for the Hopman Cup and the
Australian Open without two things: his luggage and his hair. His
bags were lost somewhere between Los Angeles and Perth, forcing
him to play his first Hopman match in borrowed duds. As for his
hair, he took a pair of clippers to that in late December,
ridding himself in 15 minutes of the dreadlocks he had sported
for three years. "Normally it is the girls getting the hair
questions," he said of the attention his new 'do has garnered. "I
figured it will be a little cooler in the heat, and I like
changing things up." Blake, 24, is looking to cash in on his new
coif: He's auctioning the shorn dreads to raise money for a
Connecticut girls' AAU basketball team coached by a friend.
Bidding on packages that include a lock of hair, a personalized
letter, a tennis racket and an autographed poster will open on
eBay to coincide with the start of the Australian Open. Blake
will also sell locks on www.jamesblaketennis.com.

--There's no room for hanky-panky in Ping-Pong, at least not in
China. Four members of the national table tennis team were
expelled from training for engaging in intrasquad romances. Coach
Cai Zhenhua ordered three women and one man--all between ages 17
and 21--to "carry out deep reflection" when they return to their
provincial clubs. "This is an Olympic year," Cai said, "and we
are facing an arduous task." Yet he did not send all the amorous
paddlers packing. While 19-year-old Bai Yang was banished, her
boyfriend, Ma Lin, the top player in the world, wasn't. Said a
Chinese official, "We let the more important people stay because
they have the heavier burdens and responsibilities."

--Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil's lachrymose ways have rubbed off on
his players. After practice last Friday, Vermeil's wife of nearly
48 years, Carol, pulled onto the team's practice field in a gift
for her husband: a $100,000 Porsche 911. "I love you," she said.
"You've always wanted a car like this, so here it is." That
turned Kansas City's macho men into sobbing softies. "When that
door went up and that beautiful car came onto the field, I
figured they were going to give it to [running back] Priest
Holmes," safety Jerome Woods said. "When she got out and gave him
the keys and said, 'I love you,' I shed a tear. A lot of us shed
tears." Kick returner Dante Hall concurred: "It was beautiful,
man."

--The NFL turned down an offer from Bono to sing a duet with
Jennifer Lopez at halftime of the Super Bowl. The U2 frontman
wanted to perform An American Prayer, which is about the AIDS
crisis in Africa. "We don't believe it's appropriate to focus on
a single issue," an NFL spokesman says.... On Christmas Day the
NBA aired a spot in which the cast members of Queer Eye for the
Straight Guy said why they love the game. Among the reasons they
gave that didn't make the final cut: "Because Charles Barkley is
hot," said fashion expert Carson Kressley.... Hank Williams Jr.'s
performance of the Monday Night Football theme song, Are You
Ready for Some Football?, was named the No. 2 TV moment in
country music history by Country Music Television, behind an Alan
Jackson performance.

COLOR PHOTO: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (PICTURE THIS) PICTURE THIS Madam, you're going to have triplets, and they're all going to be ice fishermen! No, actually, this isn't a sonogram of a woman in Wisconsin; it's a scene of winter sportsmen in Astana, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where the average January temperature is a brisk 0° F. What a system: When you haul out your catch, it's already in the bag--but then so are you. COLOR PHOTO: STEVE GRANITZ/WIREIMAGE.COM/ICON SMI (KING) COLOR PHOTO: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (BLAKE WITH HAIR) Shorn of plenty COLOR PHOTO: REUTERS (BLAKE BALD) [See caption above]

THIS WEEK'S SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

A Catholic high school in Pennsylvania ran an ad for exotic
dancers in its girls' basketball program.

The SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE in the Dec. 22 issue said, "Joe
Theismann and Lawrence Taylor are selling autographed photos of
Taylor snapping Theismann's shinbone in a 1985 game." In fact,
though Theismann and Taylor did sign the photos, they were not
selling them; the photos were being sold by Steiner Sports
Marketing & Memorabilia. SI regrets the error.

--ED.

THEY SAID IT DON KING

Boxing promoter, on learning that Top Rank, the organization run
by rival Bob Arum, has been the subject of a federal
investigation: "I always feel sorry for people who are raided by
the FBI."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)