To play in Super Bowl XLI, Chicago defensive tackle Tank Johnson (above). Following a December arrest on firearms charges—his third arrest in 18 months—Johnson, 25, was told he could not leave Illinois. But last week a Cook County judge allowed him to travel to Miami for the Super Bowl. (Both of the Bears' playoff games were at home.) Judge John Moran said "dire consequences will result" if Johnson breaks the law in Florida. Said Johnson's lawyer, "He is a young man who is right now having the opportunity of a lifetime." Johnson's trial is expected to begin on Feb. 8.
By the NFL, its drug-testing policy. The league will now test 10 players per team per week, up from seven, and will screen for more substances, including EPO. The NFL came under criticism this season when San Diego's Shawne Merriman made the Pro Bowl despite being suspended for four games for failing a drug test. (Merriman blamed a tainted supplement.) Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney told the AP, "I got to know [Merriman] at the Pro Bowl [in 2006], and I know he's a good guy. But what kind of message is that if you get away with cheating and you still reap the benefits?"
For the first time, Lynn Watson and Trail Blazers assistant trainer Geoff Clark. In 2005 Clark, who had enrolled in a bone-marrow donor registry when he was in college, learned he was a perfect match for Watson, who was suffering from acute lymphoblast leukemia and in need of a stem cell transplant. That September, Clark, 40, donated 15 million stem cells, which were harvested in a four-hour procedure and transplanted into Watson, 32. Last Thursday, Watson—whose cancer is in remission—drove with her family from their home in Santa Fe, Texas, to have lunch with Clark. "As a trainer we have an opportunity to help people but rarely to this magnitude," says Clark. "If Lynn needs me to do it again, I would."
By Gilbert Arenas, that if he played against Duke, he'd score "84 or 85" points. The Wizards guard was cut from Team USA last summer by Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, and he vowed revenge on Coach K's Team USA assistants, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni and Portland's Nate McMillan. Arenas scored 54 against the Suns on Dec. 22, prompting D'Antoni to joke, "I can't wait to see what he does against Duke." Arenas responded last week on his blog, writing, "I'll give up one NBA season to play against Duke.... At Duke, they got soft rims. I'd probably score 84 or 85. I wouldn't pass the ball.... It would be like [an] NBA Live or an NBA 2K7 game, you just shoot with one person." Arenas plays McMillan's Trail Blazers on Feb. 11.
That he will return to the ring, former WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, 35. He abdicated his title in 2005 when he retired, citing chronic knee problems. During his time off Klitschko, who says he feels better, mounted an unsuccessful bid to become the mayor of Kiev. He is targeting an April return against WBC champion Oleg Maskaev. Says Klitschko, whose brother, Wladimir, is the IBF heavyweight title holder, "My vision is for my brother and I to be champions together. We want to make history."
And charged with marijuana possession, Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph—the ninth Cincinnati player arrested in the past nine months. Joseph was the passenger in a car driven by a woman who was pulled over for weaving and driving with a suspended license. He is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 5 to answer misdemeanor charges that carry up to one year in prison. Also last week, Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Henry, who has been arrested four times in the past 14 months, served two days in jail for letting minors drink in his motel room last July. The Bengals lost their final three games of the season to finish 8--8 and miss the playoffs.
And charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, Al Unser Jr. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner allegedly sideswiped a car on an interstate in Las Vegas. (Neither driver was injured.) Unser, 44, was pulled over and failed several field sobriety tests.
Bright orange for the Tennessee--Duke women's basketball game, the torso of Volunteers men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl (right). The 46-year-old coach spent the game leading cheers in the Tennessee student section. He was joined by his son Steven (a walk-on player), three other players and a manager, whose chests spelled out go vols. (The elder Pearl was the v.) Several of Pearl's contemporaries praised his spirit, if not his physique. "It was a wonderful thing to see," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "Well, not his body, but the excitement he has for basketball." (Tennessee lost to the top-ranked Blue Devils 74--70.)
After being kidnapped in Baghdad, well-known Iraqi boxer Hassan Hadi, 42. Hadi, a Shiite, was abducted from his car on Jan. 22 on a street in a Sunni stronghold, and his body was found four days later. He had been hanged. His murder was the latest in a spell of attacks aimed at sports figures, which has resulted in the murder of Iraq's Olympic wrestling and cycling coaches. Several other athletes and coaches have been targeted for ransom or retaliation, and approximately 30 members of the country's Olympic committee have been missing since they were kidnapped last July.
Damon at the Wall ...
The Yankees are at the forefront of baseball's foray into the untapped Chinese market
BASEBALL'S QUEST for more customers—not to mention middle relievers—is expanding far and wide. New York Yankees officials took off for Beijing on Sunday to strike an alliance with the Chinese Baseball Association. Like most any multinational corporation, baseball sees a huge growth market in the 1.3 billion consumers in China.
The Yankees, whose contingent is headed by president Randy Levine and G.M. Brian Cashman, claim to carry the flag for all of MLB. Said Levine, "We want other teams to become part of it. This is about growing the game in China and using the Yankees' tradition and brand to get it going." In the short term Levine foresees sending Yankees coaches, trainers and scouts to China, building a training academy there and inviting Chinese players to the Yankees' spring training facilities as early as 2008. (China is showing symptoms of baseball fever; there are two fledgling six-team leagues, and the country competed in the World Baseball Classic last spring.) In the longer run baseball sees a huge pool of new talent and fans, exhibition and regular-season games in China, and possibly a Pacific Rim division of MLB.
Said one AL G.M., "It's definitely the next great frontier, with the [player] payoff 15 to 20 years away. You'll see five teams [with a presence] there within the next two years. But if MLB coordinates the effort over there, it will benefit more teams."
20 Percent decrease in the number of penalties in NFL games in 2006 from the previous season, the first decline since 2001.
28 Margin by which No. 4 North Carolina beat No. 17 Arizona last Saturday (92--64), the worst home loss for Lute Olsen in his 24 years coaching the Wildcats.
11 Consecutive seasons in which Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has won at least 30 games, an NHL record.
$592 million Value, according to Forbes, of the Knicks, the NBA's most valuable franchise for the second year in a row.
$40 million Amount the Knicks lost last year.
The Clemens Watch
Roger Clemens hasn't announced his 2007 plans. Who's leading the race to sign him—the Astros, Yankees or Red Sox? The update:
AFTER THROWING OUT the first pitch at the University of Texas alumni baseball game last Saturday, Clemens told The Daily Texan he hadn't decided if he will play. But he added, "The only reason why I'd continued to play was because of my teammates calling me." One player sent the message that he'd like to see Clemens back in the Bronx. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano last week changed his number from 22 to 24—clearing the way for the Rocket to reclaim the number that graced his pinstripes for seven seasons.