The Beat

February 19, 2007

THERE ARE those who believe that President Bush is out of touch, but don't tell that to David Wright. After having dinner at the White House on Feb. 5, the Mets third baseman said, "The President knew everything that's going on with the Mets. The man definitely knows his baseball." Wright was part of a group of players and broadcasters invited to eat and talk baseball with the President, an annual tradition that has been organized by writer George Will since 2001. (Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver, Cubs manager Lou Piniella and Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells were the others in attendance.) The group toured the Oval Office, shared workout tips with Bush over a dinner of roasted lamb and received golf balls embossed with the presidential seal. "Hopefully," Wright told the New York Post, "I can go back to the White House after the season with the Mets."

• Olympic ice dancer Tanith Belbin, 22, now has two partners—Ben Agosto, with whom she won a silver medal at the 2006 Games, and figure skater Evan Lysacek, whom she has been dating since last April. "We've been keeping it quiet," says Lysacek, 21. Both skaters' careers have flourished since they got together. (The pair were friends but, Lysacek says, "something clicked" while they toured together last year.) Last month Lysacek won gold at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, his first national title. And Belbin (left) and Agosto took their fourth straight ice dancing crown. Says Belbin, "At any event we're together, I'm the happiest."

• "It makes women uncomfortable, and it makes blokes who take their son ... uncomfortable." Russell Crowe wasn't discussing his recent box office bomb, A Good Year, when he said that last week but rather his objections to having cheerleaders at Australian rugby games. Last year Crowe bought a majority stake in the South Sydney Rabbitohs, and the team has disbanded its pep squad and will replace the scantily clad women with a mixed-gender drum line. "We are thankful for the time and effort the girls put in," Crowe said. "[But] the focus on game day should be a positive experience for the crowd." Asked how his wife, Danielle Spencer, felt, the actor said, "She likes the fact that game-day entertainment will be multisex."

• Most people know about Arthur Ashe's adult years: his three Grand Slam titles, his civil rights activism, his struggle with AIDS and his death in 1993 at age 49. But actor Nick Cannon (Bobby) is brushing up on Ashe's youth. Cannon, 26, will portray the tennis great in a film focusing on Ashe's "young-man years," when he was a high school tennis, football and basketball star in Richmond and the NCAA's 1965 singles champ while at UCLA. Said Cannon, who is taking tennis lessons, "We want to deal with the rise of Arthur Ashe and how he got to be who he is.... That story needs to be told."

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

A 73-year-old great-grandmother faces a year in jail for allegedly running a $50 Monday Night Football pool at the California Elks lodge where she tends bar.

PICTURE THIS

No, MLS isn't having attendance problems. San Siro in Milan was one of 25 Italian stadiums closed to fans last week because the arenas failed to meet security standards after a police officer was killed in rioting at a Serie A game in Catania, Sicily, on Feb. 2. On Sunday, SI senior writer Grant Wahl was one of the few on hand when Inter Milan (left) beat Chievo Verona. For more on his experience, go to SI.com/wahl.

They Said It

ARTHUR BLANK, 64-year-old owner of the Atlanta Falcons, on the benefits of winning the Super Bowl next year:
"It would get my mother off my back."

PHOTOBOB MARTIN (PICTURE THIS) PHOTOJIMMY CRIBB/WIREIMAGE.COM (BLANK) PHOTOJEFFREY MAYER/WIREIMAGE.COM (BELBIN)

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)