Reflections in a Windy Eye

SAN DIEGO - So, you want to be a sportswriter, eh? Glamour, travel, beautiful women at your beck and call, and all you have to do is watch sports, which you already do, and tell the coaches where they went wrong (which you already do). Wouldn't take but a few minutes after the game, and then, it's Look Out, Pullman!

Well, it ain't necessarily so.

Now, nobody's looking for, or expecting, much sympathy here, so don't think we're feeling sorry for ourselves down here in San Diego as the new year approaches. However, it's not all beer and skittles, either.

Here's a little diary of the day before the 2006 Holiday Bowl.

The weather forecast calls for rain, as your loyal correspondent rolls out of the rack at 7:45 am. A quick peek outside the blackout curtain at the Internet Special Hotel (ISH) reveals that's it's been raining already, but the sky is bright and about 50-50 between blue and puffy clouds.

One of the benefits of the ISH is that it's close to a trolley station, and we at BearInsider are always looking for ways to green up the environment - hence, we publish a website instead of a newspaper. Nothing to throw away. We also don't rent cars - public transit is perfect for us.

Along about 9 am, we head out toward the trolley stop, about a half-mile away. Gambling, the head is uncovered and there's no umbrella tucked into the jacket's inside pocket - mostly because it's already full with 3 cords, 3 extra sets of batteries, a broadcast-quality microphone, and a digital sound recorder.

We're off to find the "Official Hotel" of the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, the Omni, in downtown San Diego at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, in order to cover the important event of the day.

Well, it's rather breezy. Of course, having flown in from the Bay Area around sunset yesterday, we knew that some weather was on its way here. But this is sunny San Diego, and cold, blustery, 41-degree weather and 25+ mph winds from the north suggest to us that the folks cavorting in the hotel pool early today are probably Aggie fans.

The sky overhead is clear and blue, and rain is falling. Well, rain is falling somewhere, and then it's blowing here to San Diego County before it can reach the ground. The footbridge over the San Diego River reveals three astonishing facts in less than 100 feet: 1) there is a San Diego River, 2) the San Diego River contains a substantial amount of water, and 3) it's impossible to tell how much, because of the violent rippling and whitecap action on this 30-foot wide stream.

Although the ISH is but 5 miles from downtown, the peculiarities of San Diego's trolley system require that your intrepid correspondent travel on all three lines - green, blue and orange - to get near the Official Hotel.

It also means standing in the wind a couple of times - the first transfer, near Old Town, between the green and blue lines goes without a hitch, as the blue line train is placidly waiting for us when we arrive.

The swap between blue and orange requires exiting at the Santa Fe Station (now actually an Amtrak station) and walking around the station and across the street. The orange line lets me off at the Convention Center, but not before I've had the chance to meet and chat with Bob Schmidt.

Bob is, for want of a better term, the face of the Holiday Bowl. All bowl games are run as a matter of civic pride, and are almost always not-for-profit corporations. They seek sponsorships so they can give large cash guarantees to their participating teams - Cal and Texas A&M will each have to tote home more than $2 million from San Diego.

That cash gets pooled with the money generated by the Pac-10's other 5 bowl participants, and then split among the conference's squads. Yes, it means Stanford winds up with as much of it as Cal does.

Except the Golden Bears get to have an extra month of practice, which is almost like having Spring Training for Spring Football.

Anyway, Bob is one of the"redcoats", so named because of their hilarious British accents and penchant for eating Toad in the Hole and drinking beer - and because he was wearing a sort of maroon sports coat. I just assumed that was some sort of public punishment peculiar to a border town.

Seriously, the redcoats, a massive group of volunteers, are there all the time. As Rusty Simmons of the Chronicle said,"It was awfully nice to have a half-dozen pleasant people in red jackets guiding us through the Zoo on Christmas morning. I'm sure they have families and could have found something else they'd rather have done." Unfailingly pleasant, they help in any way they can.

Sometimes they do a better job than at others.

Bob exited with me at the Convention Center, right where he told me I should get off the trolley. But as it turned out, the Omni Hotel is not at that particular trolley stop. It is at the next one.

The trolleys run every 15 minutes so I have to walk. And when the wind-chill factor is nearing 35 degrees with the wind is squarely at my back - I manage a brisk walk.

About eight blocks away, I found the Omni, checked with the front desk, went back across the street to an annex where the room was set up for the "Final Press Conference with the Coaches", which gives it a bit of luster it probably didn't quite deserve.

We wait, patiently, while camera crews come in and prepare for the great event. There's a bunch of microphone checks, and people standing in front of the room holding up sheets of paper so the cameras can be white-balanced. Of course, eight cameras means eight people holding up a sheet of paper, one at a time, because there's apparently a Federal Law, or a natural law, against all cameras being white-balanced at the same time. So, a seemingly trivial moment actually becomes a solid 10 minutes of entertainment.

There's no coffee.

The PR director for the bowl gets up (he, too, wears a red coat, but isn't quite so helpful as Bob) and reminds us that once the press conference finishes and our pulse rates return to normal, we can head on "just across the street" (actually about a 10-minute walk) to the Convention Center where we are cordially invited to "cover the US Bank Kickoff Luncheon for the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl."

Bowl PR guys talk like that.

The coaches arrive and we have a press conference. There's a photograph somewhere near this column to prove that they and I were all actually in the room together.

And then the blooper of the day happens. Ah - I think - if only there was a Ray Ratto here to do this justice.

Dennis Franchione decides, in a moment of inspired lunacy, to take his tongue completely off its leash and utters the following words about his 6-foot, 275-pound locomotive, Jovorskie Lane.

Says Coach Franchione, "He's a ballerina."

Perhaps Coach Fran didn't call him a "ballet dancer" for fear we might mis-hear him and think he said "belly dancer."

OK, I'm going to assume that the kid himself doesn't have any gender identity issues, and that he probably didn't describe himself as a "ballerina" at any point in his college career.

Franchione then goes on to let us know that Lane is, always has been, and always will be a running back at A&M, because "his high school coach asked him about playing tight end and Jovorskie didn't come to practice the next day."

Wow. If the kid's that sensitive imagine what's going to happen when he hears he's been called a ballerina.

Then, Jeff Tedford takes the microphone, and in the midst of contradicting everything Coach Fran just said (think: "No, YOU da man!"), Tedford graciously agrees with Franchione that it's been tough to put together an appropriate scout team because "all my 275- pound players are defensive linemen; I don't have any ballerinas."

On that sprightly note, we headed out to the Convention Center, a truly massive building that spans about 5 city blocks along the San Diego Harbor waterfront. There's a large concrete staircase in the center, and PR Director Redcoat told us to go toward that to get to Ballroom 20, where they "hoped to find some folding chairs and perhaps a box lunch" for the members of the media who chose to cover the event.

When we arrived at the building, a helpful series of redcoats happily directed us to the far southern end of the building for entrance. Remember, that's about 3 long city blocks away, in the wind. Fortunately, when we got down to the end of the building, the A&M band was blatting merrily into that wind, while helpful bartenders were pouring $10 shots of Irish Whisky at 11:15 a.m.

We entered the building only to learn that, in fact, Ballroom 20 was 3 blocks back the way we came. In other words, exactly where we first sought assistance. No, I mean EXACTLY where we first sought assistance. As in, 6 feet away from where we sought assistance.

At last we entered ballroom 20. There were at least 200 tables set, plus a huge dais across the front of the ballroom. The media tables, er, folding chairs, were not yet in evidence.

Of course, the real tables were full of well-heeled fans who decided it was worth $50 per person to sit at a table with 7 other $50 ticket buyers and two players from either Cal (left side of the room) or A&M (right side of the room).

The bands occupied the walls on the far left and far right sides.

Cal's band played all the regular stuff you would expect them to play - the fight song and such. It was a fine performance, well received by the crowd as they filed in.

The A&M Band dresses like Marine Corps Recruits - in green fatigues with the sort of hats normally seen adoring the heads of employees at Krispy Kreme, but made of the same khaki green fatigue material as the uniforms.

They play military music. Aggie fans were welcomed into the room with a rousing chorus of "Green Berets", and later were serenaded by the theme song of the Confederacy in the Civil War, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."

Methinks they take their football a tad seriously in eastern Texas.

Cal fans were clearly louder than A&M fans, but then again, they were also a lot more chipper looking. Maybe College Station is in one of Texas' famous dry counties…because your loyal correspondent can report that the streets and sidewalks and saloons of the Gaslamp Quarter were pretty much 100% occupied by Aggie fans Tuesday night (along with three Cal beat writers, a restaurant hostess from St. Petersburg - the one in Russia, with such a cute accent! - and three young ladies from the Cal Athletics Department.)

As the MC (Mr. PR Director Redcoat) went through the entire dais introducing the great and near great, Coach Fran received polite applause from the A&M faithful, while Coach Tedford and AD Sandy Barbour received raucous applause.

Lunch was served. Nice spinach salads with mushrooms and hard-boiled eggs followed by a sirloin steak, roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables. All washed down with Pepsi products. Cal, as you may know, is a Coca-Cola school, right down to the bottled water given free of charge to the media covering events.

This was inspired genius, however, since about midway through the steaks, there was a regular stream of A&M fans coming over to tables full of Bearents and players asking "are you gonna drink you Dr. Pepper? No? Would all y'all mind if we did?"

For the moment, détente.

A&M's interim president got up and pointed out that, about eight years ago, they had a planning session to set up a campus-wide vision of where they wanted to be in 2020. Their role model, as it turns out, was Cal. The reason he's interim president is that A&M's past president was tapped in early November to become Secretary of Defense.

Coach Franchione, later in the program, wondered why anyone would give up a head coaching position to become a defensive coordinator. It's not an Aggie joke, but it does give you some of the flavor of "being there."

A most deserving high school senior in the San Diego area (4.3 GPA, captain of football and track teams, member of the baseball team, donates time to Salvation Army and builds housing with Habitat for Humanity in Tijuana) won the $10,000 scholarship that the bowl committee hands out. While he was up there to receive it, the bowl sponsor, Pacific Life Insurance, and the luncheon sponsor, US Bank, each incremented the total by $5,000. As that segment was wrapping up, an "anonymous" redcoat came up to the foot of the dais and handed up an envelope, which contained a pledge for an additional $5,000 for the thoroughly flabbergasted young man.

His name is Brandon Berbach. Remember it, because as he said, "I've got a rooting interest in tomorrow's game, because I've applied to Cal."

The teams then each showed their highlight reel from this season - well produced, exciting, moderated by Chris Fowler of ESPN (who tried to josh with the audience about getting an e-mail on his Blackberry from ESPN headquarters that they were adding $5,000 to the scholarship pool --- NOT --- just kidding, Fowler said). Fowler allowed that Cal (and A&M, too) did not get the national attention they deserve for their programs, and that they'd each get a lot of love from ESPN on Thursday night.

Franchione and A&M got reasonable applause.

Jeff Tedford and the Cal film received a standing ovation.

Even Fowler had to acknowledge the significant difference between rooting factions.

A&M's captains were interviewed on stage, and talked about Cal's great big-playmakers, a "great running back and a great receiver, and their quarterback's not bad, either." The first of two gentle periods of booing ensued. The second happened when Fowler pointed out that ESPN College GameDay had not yet made it to America's most beautiful football venue in Strawberry Canyon, but Fowler invited the booing directly and got what he asked for.

Cal's captains, Erik Robertson and Desmond Bishop, were also interviewed. Robertson recounted that when he committed to Cal, which was 1-10 that year, he was asked why. "I told people that my high school team was 0-10 in my junior year and made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade in my senior year. I thought Cal could do the same. My prediction was pretty accurate."

Desmond Bishop then did the nearly unthinkable. He thanked, and credited for his success at Cal, in this order:

His defensive linemen
His coach, Bob Foster
His teammates
And - get this - the "writers who are out there all the time to cover us."

Imagine that. Thanking the writers.

That, my friends, is why we do this. It's not the glamour. It's not the travel, or the bevies of beauties, or the chair-less food-less luncheons. It's the gratitude, and the knowledge that we're just doing what you (imagine) you'd like to do.

And it's not even taxable.


©Copyright 2006, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


BearTerritory.net Top Stories

\r\n","mobileBody":"

Well, it ain't necessarily so.

Now, nobody's looking for, or expecting, much sympathy here, so don't think we're feeling sorry for ourselves down here in San Diego as the new year approaches. However, it's not all beer and skittles, either.

Here's a little diary of the day before the 2006 Holiday Bowl.

The weather forecast calls for rain, as your loyal correspondent rolls out of the rack at 7:45 am. A quick peek outside the blackout curtain at the Internet Special Hotel (ISH) reveals that's it's been raining already, but the sky is bright and about 50-50 between blue and puffy clouds.

One of the benefits of the ISH is that it's close to a trolley station, and we at BearInsider are always looking for ways to green up the environment - hence, we publish a website instead of a newspaper. Nothing to throw away. We also don't rent cars - public transit is perfect for us.

Along about 9 am, we head out toward the trolley stop, about a half-mile away. Gambling, the head is uncovered and there's no umbrella tucked into the jacket's inside pocket - mostly because it's already full with 3 cords, 3 extra sets of batteries, a broadcast-quality microphone, and a digital sound recorder.

We're off to find the "Official Hotel\" of the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, the Omni, in downtown San Diego at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, in order to cover the important event of the day.

Well, it's rather breezy. Of course, having flown in from the Bay Area around sunset yesterday, we knew that some weather was on its way here. But this is sunny San Diego, and cold, blustery, 41-degree weather and 25+ mph winds from the north suggest to us that the folks cavorting in the hotel pool early today are probably Aggie fans.

The sky overhead is clear and blue, and rain is falling. Well, rain is falling somewhere, and then it's blowing here to San Diego County before it can reach the ground. The footbridge over the San Diego River reveals three astonishing facts in less than 100 feet: 1) there is a San Diego River, 2) the San Diego River contains a substantial amount of water, and 3) it's impossible to tell how much, because of the violent rippling and whitecap action on this 30-foot wide stream.

Although the ISH is but 5 miles from downtown, the peculiarities of San Diego's trolley system require that your intrepid correspondent travel on all three lines - green, blue and orange - to get near the Official Hotel.

It also means standing in the wind a couple of times - the first transfer, near Old Town, between the green and blue lines goes without a hitch, as the blue line train is placidly waiting for us when we arrive.

The swap between blue and orange requires exiting at the Santa Fe Station (now actually an Amtrak station) and walking around the station and across the street. The orange line lets me off at the Convention Center, but not before I've had the chance to meet and chat with Bob Schmidt.

Bob is, for want of a better term, the face of the Holiday Bowl. All bowl games are run as a matter of civic pride, and are almost always not-for-profit corporations. They seek sponsorships so they can give large cash guarantees to their participating teams - Cal and Texas A&M will each have to tote home more than $2 million from San Diego.

That cash gets pooled with the money generated by the Pac-10's other 5 bowl participants, and then split among the conference's squads. Yes, it means Stanford winds up with as much of it as Cal does.

Except the Golden Bears get to have an extra month of practice, which is almost like having Spring Training for Spring Football.

Anyway, Bob is one of the\"redcoats\", so named because of their hilarious British accents and penchant for eating Toad in the Hole and drinking beer - and because he was wearing a sort of maroon sports coat. I just assumed that was some sort of public punishment peculiar to a border town.

Seriously, the redcoats, a massive group of volunteers, are there all the time. As Rusty Simmons of the Chronicle said,\"It was awfully nice to have a half-dozen pleasant people in red jackets guiding us through the Zoo on Christmas morning. I'm sure they have families and could have found something else they'd rather have done.\" Unfailingly pleasant, they help in any way they can.

Sometimes they do a better job than at others.

Bob exited with me at the Convention Center, right where he told me I should get off the trolley. But as it turned out, the Omni Hotel is not at that particular trolley stop. It is at the next one.

The trolleys run every 15 minutes so I have to walk. And when the wind-chill factor is nearing 35 degrees with the wind is squarely at my back - I manage a brisk walk.

About eight blocks away, I found the Omni, checked with the front desk, went back across the street to an annex where the room was set up for the \"Final Press Conference with the Coaches\", which gives it a bit of luster it probably didn't quite deserve.

We wait, patiently, while camera crews come in and prepare for the great event. There's a bunch of microphone checks, and people standing in front of the room holding up sheets of paper so the cameras can be white-balanced. Of course, eight cameras means eight people holding up a sheet of paper, one at a time, because there's apparently a Federal Law, or a natural law, against all cameras being white-balanced at the same time. So, a seemingly trivial moment actually becomes a solid 10 minutes of entertainment.

There's no coffee.

The PR director for the bowl gets up (he, too, wears a red coat, but isn't quite so helpful as Bob) and reminds us that once the press conference finishes and our pulse rates return to normal, we can head on \"just across the street\" (actually about a 10-minute walk) to the Convention Center where we are cordially invited to \"cover the US Bank Kickoff Luncheon for the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.\"

Bowl PR guys talk like that.

The coaches arrive and we have a press conference. There's a photograph somewhere near this column to prove that they and I were all actually in the room together.

And then the blooper of the day happens. Ah - I think - if only there was a Ray Ratto here to do this justice.

Dennis Franchione decides, in a moment of inspired lunacy, to take his tongue completely off its leash and utters the following words about his 6-foot, 275-pound locomotive, Jovorskie Lane.

Says Coach Franchione, \"He's a ballerina.\"

Perhaps Coach Fran didn't call him a \"ballet dancer\" for fear we might mis-hear him and think he said \"belly dancer.\"

OK, I'm going to assume that the kid himself doesn't have any gender identity issues, and that he probably didn't describe himself as a \"ballerina\" at any point in his college career.

Franchione then goes on to let us know that Lane is, always has been, and always will be a running back at A&M, because \"his high school coach asked him about playing tight end and Jovorskie didn't come to practice the next day.\"

Wow. If the kid's that sensitive imagine what's going to happen when he hears he's been called a ballerina.

Then, Jeff Tedford takes the microphone, and in the midst of contradicting everything Coach Fran just said (think: \"No, YOU da man!\"), Tedford graciously agrees with Franchione that it's been tough to put together an appropriate scout team because \"all my 275- pound players are defensive linemen; I don't have any ballerinas.\"

On that sprightly note, we headed out to the Convention Center, a truly massive building that spans about 5 city blocks along the San Diego Harbor waterfront. There's a large concrete staircase in the center, and PR Director Redcoat told us to go toward that to get to Ballroom 20, where they \"hoped to find some folding chairs and perhaps a box lunch\" for the members of the media who chose to cover the event.

When we arrived at the building, a helpful series of redcoats happily directed us to the far southern end of the building for entrance. Remember, that's about 3 long city blocks away, in the wind. Fortunately, when we got down to the end of the building, the A&M band was blatting merrily into that wind, while helpful bartenders were pouring $10 shots of Irish Whisky at 11:15 a.m.

We entered the building only to learn that, in fact, Ballroom 20 was 3 blocks back the way we came. In other words, exactly where we first sought assistance. No, I mean EXACTLY where we first sought assistance. As in, 6 feet away from where we sought assistance.

At last we entered ballroom 20. There were at least 200 tables set, plus a huge dais across the front of the ballroom. The media tables, er, folding chairs, were not yet in evidence.

Of course, the real tables were full of well-heeled fans who decided it was worth $50 per person to sit at a table with 7 other $50 ticket buyers and two players from either Cal (left side of the room) or A&M (right side of the room).

The bands occupied the walls on the far left and far right sides.

Cal's band played all the regular stuff you would expect them to play - the fight song and such. It was a fine performance, well received by the crowd as they filed in.

The A&M Band dresses like Marine Corps Recruits - in green fatigues with the sort of hats normally seen adoring the heads of employees at Krispy Kreme, but made of the same khaki green fatigue material as the uniforms.

They play military music. Aggie fans were welcomed into the room with a rousing chorus of \"Green Berets\", and later were serenaded by the theme song of the Confederacy in the Civil War, \"When Johnny Comes Marching Home.\"

Methinks they take their football a tad seriously in eastern Texas.

Cal fans were clearly louder than A&M fans, but then again, they were also a lot more chipper looking. Maybe College Station is in one of Texas' famous dry counties…because your loyal correspondent can report that the streets and sidewalks and saloons of the Gaslamp Quarter were pretty much 100% occupied by Aggie fans Tuesday night (along with three Cal beat writers, a restaurant hostess from St. Petersburg - the one in Russia, with such a cute accent! - and three young ladies from the Cal Athletics Department.)

As the MC (Mr. PR Director Redcoat) went through the entire dais introducing the great and near great, Coach Fran received polite applause from the A&M faithful, while Coach Tedford and AD Sandy Barbour received raucous applause.

Lunch was served. Nice spinach salads with mushrooms and hard-boiled eggs followed by a sirloin steak, roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables. All washed down with Pepsi products. Cal, as you may know, is a Coca-Cola school, right down to the bottled water given free of charge to the media covering events.

This was inspired genius, however, since about midway through the steaks, there was a regular stream of A&M fans coming over to tables full of Bearents and players asking \"are you gonna drink you Dr. Pepper? No? Would all y'all mind if we did?\"

For the moment, détente.

A&M's interim president got up and pointed out that, about eight years ago, they had a planning session to set up a campus-wide vision of where they wanted to be in 2020. Their role model, as it turns out, was Cal. The reason he's interim president is that A&M's past president was tapped in early November to become Secretary of Defense.

Coach Franchione, later in the program, wondered why anyone would give up a head coaching position to become a defensive coordinator. It's not an Aggie joke, but it does give you some of the flavor of \"being there.\"

A most deserving high school senior in the San Diego area (4.3 GPA, captain of football and track teams, member of the baseball team, donates time to Salvation Army and builds housing with Habitat for Humanity in Tijuana) won the $10,000 scholarship that the bowl committee hands out. While he was up there to receive it, the bowl sponsor, Pacific Life Insurance, and the luncheon sponsor, US Bank, each incremented the total by $5,000. As that segment was wrapping up, an \"anonymous\" redcoat came up to the foot of the dais and handed up an envelope, which contained a pledge for an additional $5,000 for the thoroughly flabbergasted young man.

His name is Brandon Berbach. Remember it, because as he said, \"I've got a rooting interest in tomorrow's game, because I've applied to Cal.\"

The teams then each showed their highlight reel from this season - well produced, exciting, moderated by Chris Fowler of ESPN (who tried to josh with the audience about getting an e-mail on his Blackberry from ESPN headquarters that they were adding $5,000 to the scholarship pool --- NOT --- just kidding, Fowler said). Fowler allowed that Cal (and A&M, too) did not get the national attention they deserve for their programs, and that they'd each get a lot of love from ESPN on Thursday night.

Franchione and A&M got reasonable applause.

Jeff Tedford and the Cal film received a standing ovation.

Even Fowler had to acknowledge the significant difference between rooting factions.

A&M's captains were interviewed on stage, and talked about Cal's great big-playmakers, a \"great running back and a great receiver, and their quarterback's not bad, either.\" The first of two gentle periods of booing ensued. The second happened when Fowler pointed out that ESPN College GameDay had not yet made it to America's most beautiful football venue in Strawberry Canyon, but Fowler invited the booing directly and got what he asked for.

Cal's captains, Erik Robertson and Desmond Bishop, were also interviewed. Robertson recounted that when he committed to Cal, which was 1-10 that year, he was asked why. \"I told people that my high school team was 0-10 in my junior year and made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade in my senior year. I thought Cal could do the same. My prediction was pretty accurate.\"

Desmond Bishop then did the nearly unthinkable. He thanked, and credited for his success at Cal, in this order:

His defensive linemen
His coach, Bob Foster
His teammates
And - get this - the \"writers who are out there all the time to cover us.\"

Imagine that. Thanking the writers.

That, my friends, is why we do this. It's not the glamour. It's not the travel, or the bevies of beauties, or the chair-less food-less luncheons. It's the gratitude, and the knowledge that we're just doing what you (imagine) you'd like to do.

And it's not even taxable.


©Copyright 2006, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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