Enough About Canada; Let's Shoot Some Anti-Baseball Terrorists, and Slap a Hockey Puck in the Nuts of Every Nostalgic Writer in New York

Now that Fat Lady Neil Young has sung ("Still rockin' in the free world after some 40 years," observed Bob Costas; "Amen," piped in Al Michaels), William Shatner (true!) has delivered a spoken-word benediction, and every other distantly famous Canuck has set foot north of Mulholland Drive for the first time since Wayne Gretzky married Janet Jones, the MCMXLVIIIth Winter Olympiad is finally behind us, giving weary viewers at least 28 months or so before having to contemplate what new horrors modern plastic surgery will visit upon the once-expressive sportscasters of our youth. So it's time to tip our toques to Canada, loosen our grip on those curling rocks, and get back to the real American pastimes. Which are, in order: baseball, and arming ourselves to the teeth.

Enter Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott, who is none too happy that some unfortunate gun incidents featuring NFL wide receiver Plaxico Burress and NBA swingman Gilbert Arenas have provoked Major League Baseball to officially ban firearms from clubhouses:

"I don't think that everyone else should pay for the mistakes of a few," said Scott, one of baseball's most vocal gun rights proponents. "There is a good reason behind the rule, I can't deny that. The reason is you cannot trust 25 guys in a locker room to have the same respect and training as I do with a weapon. That I do understand. I've carried a gun for 10 years. I've carried them in the locker room, and nobody really knows about it. I know how to handle myself, and I stow it away where nobody really knows about it." [...]

"We have good security," Scott said. "It's hard to get in here. Barring a tactical entry where terrorists come in and hold us hostage, that's about the only thing that could possibly warrant me carrying a gun in the clubhouse. That's highly unlikely, and I admit that. But my personal belief is I don't want to suffer from the poor choices of others."

Careful, Luke–you might be next on Frank Rich's watchlist! [Link via Baseball Primer.]

Speaking of people who, if they were capable of embarrassment, should be maroon-faced after writing confidently in this Sunday's New York Times on subjects they don't remotely understand, Pete Hamill puts the purple back in prose, the fuddy back in duddy, and the New York back in New York, with this godawful, modernity-hating, faux-elegiac review of Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend. Behold the worst opening of any piece of writing you'll read the rest of this month:

A long time ago in America, there was a beautiful game called baseball. This was before 30 major-league teams were scattered in a blurry variety of divisions; before 162-game seasons and extended playoffs and fans who watched World Series games in thick down jackets; before the D.H. came to the American League; before AstroTurf on baseball fields and aluminum bats on sandlots; before complete games by pitchers were a rarity; before ballparks were named for corporations instead of individuals; and long, long before the innocence of the game was permanently stained by the filthy deception of steroids.

In that vanished time, there was a ballplayer named Willie Mays.

He came to a Manhattan ballpark named the Polo Grounds in 1951, when he was 20, to play for the New York Giants.

Hamill should be rung up for the tuff-guy mytho-poesie of that last sentence alone. As for his get-off-my-lawn list, 1) There were more complete games thrown in 1974--the year after Mays retired--than in any season since the 1950s; 2) only two of the 30 Major League Baseball teams still play their home games on artificial turf (a surface that, for all its many sins, produced an exciting, speed-oriented style of baseball); 3) the family of the original owner-operator of the American League's oldest surviving baseball stadium just happened to own something called the Fenway Realty Company; and 4) the only thing "permanently stained" is my eyeballs, from reading so many pieces of nostalgic Nu Journalism over the years about the one sport I'm doomed by birth to follow. Also, read any honest book about baseball in the 1950s and 1960s, then come back and tell me about this pharmalogically pristine sport that Barry Bonds et al are alleged to have ruined.

These are just quibbles; my main beef here, at long last, is with the complete and utter unshuttupability of a Manhattan cultural elite that has been demanding that the rest of us feel their exquisitely described pain for MORE THAN A HALF CENTURY ALREADY for having to suffer the cruel, life-blunting indignity of having having only one Major League baseball team calling New York home for four years between 1958-61. (And that team, the Yankees, won three pennants and two World Series during the excruciating interim.) Here's Hamill:

For me, starting on Page 269, Hirsch reveals a story I never knew: what happened after the Giants and the Dodgers left New York at the end of the 1957 season. Like many others, including my father, I erased baseball from my life that year. I wouldn't read about it. I didn't watch a single game on television. I was embarrassed and embittered by the childish naïveté that had fueled my passion. Like most Giant and Dodger fans, I could never root for the Yankees. So I never saw Mays play for San Francisco. Not an inning.

Mays came to New York to play against the Mets more than 80 times from 1962-71, and faced off against the hated Yankees in the classic 1962 World Series. Hamill must be some kinda baseball/Mays fan.

More importantly, when do we ever hear about the broken childhoods and shattered immigrant dreams of Boston Braves fans? Philadelphia is still a great city; how come we don't have to suffer through a thousand literary laments about the prodigal A's, a team that won five times as many World Series titles in their original hometown than the goddamned Dodgers?

Worse yet, for those of us whelped west of the Mississippi River, is that we've been force-fed this would-be ancient-Indian-burial-ground-level set of curses from the Media Industrial Complex in our own damned back yard. Though I can't find the precise offender I'm looking for at this L.A. Times link, my former hometown paper would routinely run op-eds and sports-page thumbsuckers from various sub-Hamills talking about how the very fabric of modern life was forever ruined by two businessmen who thought, gee, maybe I'll move to where the population lives, and play in places that are actually made for modern baseball, and not polo. In a journalism culture that has forever looked anxiously toward Manhattan for validation, it was a way of saying "We're one of you," or at least "Hey, I still haven't met any local writers since moving out here, not that any exist, of course."

I mean, hell, L.A. doesn't even have one professional football team anymore, yet you don't hear people like me complain that my very development was kneecapped by the eternally recurring loss of Nolan Cromwell. Yet here's the MLB Channel last week, re-running that endless baseball shlockumentary from the awful (yet somehow awfully good!) Ken Burns, with its endless string of Stephen Jay Gouldses and Doris Kearns Goodwins decrying the horrid greed and childhood-murdering avarice of baseball owners who didn't respect the Big Apple's birthright to have 19 percent of all Major League Baseball teams compared to the western half of the country's 0.

When watching this 16-year-old production, I was thinking "Well, at least most of these people are getting old and fading away, so maybe there will come a day when I don't have to hear this anymore." But reading Hamill's latest I've come to the opposite conclusion: Boring New Yorkers who know squat-all about baseball will be trying to bum me out about the Dodgers and Giants when I'm on my deathbed, wrapping it all up in a bow of insufferable and inaccurate nostalgia that attempts to validate their mildly sad junior high school days by impugning the greatest-ever sport's greatest-ever players: i.e., the ones playing right the hell now. With more passion even than Hit & Run readers who hate sports want to say to me right about now, I say to you, Pete Hamill: Enough!

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  • changihopicorn||

    I mean, hell, L.A. doesn't even have one professional football team anymore...

    I'm pretty sure Saint Louis would gladly give them back.

  • robc||

    He didnt count the USC Trojans for some reason, which is odd.

  • changihopicorn||

    I'm also a little disappointed in the lack of Big Mac coverage. I mean come on. The steroid using heathen of the holy sport is down in Jupiter right now corrupting our young impressionable up and comers.

  • Steve Smith||

    Amen. One example of the seemingly-perennial self-hating LA Times op-ed on the subject can be found here, btw.

  • ||

    STEVE SMITH NO READ LA TIMES! UTNE READER AND HARPER'S ONLY! STEVE HATE INFERIOR PERIODICALS! GARRHHH!

  • ||

    Not to mention wrigley field.

  • Marc||

    Disco. It's a much more obvious example than Fenway.

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    Get 'em Matt Welch.

  • ||

    lighten up, Francis.

  • ||

    Matt prefers it if you call him Psycho.

  • BakedPenguin||

    And don't touch his stuff...

  • Time Traveller From the Future||

    The best part about New York getting obliterated in the Dozen Bombs incident in 2011?

    No more whiny New Yorkers.

    I mean, lots of things were great. Wiping out the UN, destroying , the simultaneous vaporization of Rudy Giuliani and Bill Clinton, the final elimination of the Yankees . . .

    But wiping out the whiny New Yorker? That was the best.

    (Why, no, of course not everybody from New York was in the city at the time. It was forty-one months before the last few were hunted down and shot.)

  • ||

    Cannot stand those shitheads that still whine about the Giants and Dodgers leaving for the West Coast. The basic fact is the Yankees were far more popular, attendance sucked for the Dodgers and Giants and the fans should have attended more games if they wanted to keep the teams. After the move to California, attendances doubled and they started outdrawing the Yanks.

  • Syd Henderson||

    The Dodgers weren't drawing all that badly, but the Giants' attendance was pretty bad.

  • Almanian||

    "It's just never been the same since the collapse of the Roman Empire. How I miss when we'd have two, sometimes three Lions vs. Christians matches in one day.

    But no more, ever since the Christians turned to something called 'baseball'. The pussies."

    One of Hamill's Relatives - 10 AD

  • ||

    This piece reads like a love-letter to Goerge Will or something. Are you guys having an affair?

  • Rhywun||

    my main beef here, at long last, is with the complete and utter unshuttupability of a Manhattan cultural elite that has been demanding that the rest of us feel their exquisitely described pain for MORE THAN A HALF CENTURY ALREADY for having to suffer the cruel, life-blunting indignity of having having only one Major League baseball team calling New York home for four years between 1958-61

    So… pay less attention to the Manhattan cultural elite already. There's another 6.5 million of us New Yorkers that don't give a shit about any of that crap anymore. Most folks' I-hate-New-York feelings are informed by a NYC that doesn't even exist. We don't all inhabit a Woody Allen movie, y'know. There's more to us than the NYT and Ken Burns.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    ye olde denizen of NYC, Episiarch, didn't exactly help when he insisted that what 99% of the world calls "pizza" is, in fact, not pizza.

  • Rhywun||

    Well, he's right about that. And in fact, the pizza outside Manhattan is vastly superior to anything in Manhattan.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Like I said, that's why the rest of the world hates New Yorkers.

  • Rhywun||

    Because of pizza? Geez, people have thin skin.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Giuliani, Bloomberg and Spitzer don't help. And the pizza thing is just part of a larger attitude.

    There was a very common bumper sticker when I first moved to Orlando that read "We don't give a shit how you do things in New York". That about sums it up.

  • The Expatriate||

    There was a very common bumper sticker when I first moved to Orlando that read "We don't give a shit how you do things in New York". That about sums it up.

    You know what's more obnoxious than arrogant New Yorkers? Ignorant, full- of-class-envy rednecks bitching about New Yorkers.

  • Rhywun||

    I think that says more about Orlandoites than New Yorkers.

    Anyway... as a proud New Yorker, I apologize for inflicting Giuliani, Bloomberg and Spitzer on the national consciousness... but even that crapitude isn't enough to drive me out of a place I love.

  • ||

    Totonno's, baby. Totonno's.

  • ||

    This is something where the New Yorkers are right. The pizza I had in Brooklyn was a completely different experience than the pizza I have had anywhere else. Not saying that it's the only good pizza in the world, because god knows Chicago deep dish is delicious, but Totonos and Grimaldis were the best thing that has ever happened to me.

  • prolefeed||

    What is it about sports that turns otherwise bright,interesting people into insufferable pedants?

    I did like this line (written 16 minutes before the end of the month, at least in DC): "Behold the worst opening of any piece of writing you'll read the rest of this month"

  • Rhywun||

    What is it about sports that turns otherwise bright,interesting people into insufferable pedants?

    "Us vs. them"? Kinda like politics... Yah, I don't get (team) sports either.

  • affenkopf||

    With more passion even than Hit & Run readers who hate sports want to say to me right about now, I say to you, Pete Hamill: Enough!

    I love sports! That's why I ahte baseball. *scnr*

  • Mythical Canadian Libertarian||

    That might be the best opening paragraph I've read this year.

  • Kyle Jordan Prime||

    Damn Welch. I half expect to read something like "Pete Hamill found dead. Stabbed 178 times with a Grapefruit spoon." as a headline after reading this.

    Chillax mang. Besides, you'll have plenty to be mad about when the Dodgers choke again this year.

  • BakedPenguin||

    IIRC, he's an Angels fan anyway.

    And the Dodgers aren't going to choke, they're going to suck. They got rid of Juan Pierre, but had to keep money-pit Manny, attitude and all. There's a "Chavez Ravine" joke in there somewhere, but I can't crack it.

  • Kyle Jordan Prime||

    Cool. It was more of just a general shot in the dark dig. I'm not a big baseball fan. I like the Angels and the Mariners but I only pay attention really during the playoffs and World Series. I'm the same way with basketball.

    And before anyone gives me shit for liking both the Angels and Mariners I'd just like to say that for some reason, I tend to like teams that are either in the same division or fierce rivals across the board and I don't know why.

    The Flyers and Devils in Hockey.
    Lakers and Suns in basketball.
    And by far the worst and the one I get the most shit over...

    The Steelers and the Ravens.

  • Warty||

    You like the Ravens? Fuck you, you scumfucking shiteater prick. I hope your dogs drown in the bathtub or something.

  • Warty||

    The Steelers are nearly as loathsome, but at least they have a right to exist. Fuck you again.

  • ||

    It is not Baltimore's fault that the NFL allowed the Browns to be owned by a degenerate welfare queen.

  • Warty||

    Who took Baltimore's free money to avoid having to sell the team so that his cokehead son could inherit it, but was still in enough debt that he had to sell the team 8 years later. And don't forget that Art Modell was a vocal opponent of Baltimore's expansion bid in 1993. So, because of Shithead, Jacksonville got a decent team that can't fill its seats, Baltimore got a good team at the cost of its dignity (boo hoo, we lost the Colts, boo hoo...go Ravens!), Cleveland got an incredibly shitty team that everyone pretends is the old one that we loved so much, and Art got to play at being an NFL owner for a few more years. What a deal for everybody.

  • ||

    It is a sorry ass story. To think the NFL is run so pathetically that they have teams in Nashville and Jacksonville but no team in LA. They don't really have a business model beyond stealing from the tax payers and suckering TV networks to overpay for their rights.

    Their day is coming though. With high def TV and satellite, I have no idea why anyone would pay for a ticket that wasn't in the lower level between the 20s. They have all these huge stadiums that I think no longer fir the business model of the league.

  • Warty||

    The huge stadiums wouldn't be a problem if they would just lower the prices to where your average drunk idiot football fan could afford to go to more than one game a year, though.

    I'll be mildly shocked if there's not a lockout in 2011. Some of the owners can see what's coming.

  • ||

    I think there is going to be one and they are going to be shocked at how much damage it does to their brand. This is not the 90s anymore. People have other options. I bet kids play more Madden than they watch NFL. And for those millionaire bastards to lock out after ripping off the tax payers like they have and in this economy is going to finally be the last straw. I don't think they are going to come back to the same business they left when they locked out.

  • ed||

    Hiring The Who to play the Super Bowl halftime diversion indicates that NFL management is looking to the past--the comfortable Boomers--instead of the current and future generations. It doesn't bode well for the league's long-term viability, but they have a cash cow now and they're milking it for all it's worth.

  • Ghost of Schrödinger's cat||

    I apologize to the planet on behalf of every Canadian on that Theory of a Nickel Creed concert last night.
    After Neil Young, it went to shit.

  • ||

    Anyone else remember that old public service announcement featuring Willie Mays warning of the dangers of blasting caps? I was one of those guys who had a thousand baseball cards when I was a kid featuring the greats of the time - Willie, Roger, Mickey, Don Drysdale and a boatload of others. Of course, I threw them all out at 18 or 19 along with all my other childhood stuff. What an idiot.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ha! I sold mine (about 1,000) for $10. Five years later, I realized I'd had some individual cards worth about ten times that much.

    Same with my vinyl record collection, but at least that was for beer money, so it was a necessary sacrifice.

  • ||

    rbenchley: you're half right. While the Giants were losing money, the Dodgers were financially A-OK. The main reason behind their move was, believe it or not, the desire to build a baseball stadium at Atlantic Yards. While they were able to get the land and permissions needed (especially since, at the time, the LIRR was a private company), Robert Moses didn't like the idea of a baseball stadium near tons of mass transit, yet difficult to access by car. Instead, he proposed building what would eventually become Shea Stadium. The Dodgers balked at moving to Queens, while Moses held firm at no stadium near mass transit. Enter LA stage left with free land for a new stadium if the Dodgers moved. Moses called their bluff, and away they went.

  • ||

    The liberals never mention that. The owner of the Dodgers wanted to build the Astrodome in New York at the terminus of the Long Island Railroad. All of his middle class fans had moved to the burbs and he wanted to go to a place where they could still come in and watch. Flatbush was turning into a war zone in the late 50s. People were not going to come. And great liberal hero urban planner Robert Moses is the guy who killed the plan and pushed the Dodgers to Los Angeles. But you never hear that. All you hear about is how the avarice and greed of the Dodgers killed puppy's and ruined childhoods. Liberals are the best about re--writing history.

  • Steve Smith||

    I have never heard Robert Moses described by any liberal as a "great liberal hero." He was an autocrat, no more a liberal than J. Edgar Hoover.

  • ||

    He was a big government liberal and believed in all of the great society changing things of the 1960s. He was a total liberal in every sense of the word.

  • Steve Smith||

    Except, of course, for integration and open housing; Moses was an opponent, which was a big reason Lindsay and Rockefeller were able to dump him, a fellow Republican, in the mid-60's. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find evidence that Moses supported any of LBJ's Great Society legislation.

  • Eric||

    "Atlantic Yards" isn't a place -- it's Bruce Ratner's marketing concept. What you mean is the Vanderbilt railyard, or the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Terminal. The Dodger wanted to build across the way from the site at which Ratner wants to build "Atlantic Yards" -- on a site that's now occupied by Ratner's underperforming Atlantic Center mall.

  • ||

    I just wanted to take a moment and say "Fuck baseball". It's the most boring sport in human history. Curling is faster-paced and has more thrills.
    On the other hand, it does keep congress occupied every now and then, so I guess that's a plus.

  • ||

    There was a very common bumper sticker when I first moved to Orlando that read "We don't give a shit how you do things in New York".

    New York California works just fine, for me.

    I wonder if that sniveling douchebag Hamill thinks New York should have stolen a few million from the taxpayers to build a new state-of-the-art stadium with which to bribe the Dodgers to stay?

  • iowahawk||

    As someone who spent 4 years a youth baseball coach, I can say with complete confidence that there is no longer a single child in the United States who plays the sport voluntarily.

    Seriously. When's the last time you saw a group of kids playing a pickup game of baseball without adult supervision? Basketball, football, lacrosse (around here anyway) -- sure. I am convinced the only reason baseball still exists is because of fathers like me who feel an annoying cultural obligation to entrap our sons to an inane byzantine pastime whose popularity has been in continuous decline since 1927.

    I have to admit I was relieved when my own son finally grew a sack at age 10 and asked to quit baseball to spend more time with his skateboard, guitar and XBox. I was starting to worry about him for a while there.

  • ||

    I used to play baseball in vacant lots as a kid. And played that way, it is a great game. Little league has pretty much destroyed the game in this country.

  • Warty||

    I never liked playing baseball, I just liked hitting things with a club. Soccer was pretty fun as a kid, though, because I got to run around and knock over smaller kids. Plus, there were orange slices at the end.

  • ||

    Football was always and still is my favorite sport. The problem is that it is too violent to play for a lifetime. And also, you have to deal with endless dickhead coaches.

    If I ever have kids I am getting them to play golf or tennis. You can play both sports for your entire life. And being individual sports, you never have to deal with sitting on the bench watching the coaches son play or kiss ass to some jackass little league coach. It is all about you and your ability.

  • Warty||

    Oh yeah, I loved playing football in high school, but I didn't play in college because I didn't want any more concussions, football coaches are assholes, and, to be honest, I hate football players because they're so stupid. Even just 4 years of football left me with some creaky body parts. I can't imagine what 15 years of it will do to you.

  • ||

    I played it for nine years through high school. And I have some misaligned parts of my back to show for it. I probably could have played small college football. But it wouldn't have been on scholarship. And God knows what problems I would have now. Most of the NFL guys basically destroy their bodies. I once met the great Earl Campbell. Great guy to meet. But, he could hardly walk.

  • K-Y||

    I keep wishing for someone to introduce wight-classes in football, where normal size people can play with hits and tackles and not fear death or paralysis.

  • Ed Zacharias||

    Something like this sort of exists already.

    It's called "Sprint Football"

    Maximum weight of 172 pounds.

    They have it at the service academies, some of the ivies, and maybe a couple others.

    But it doesn't seem to be growing in popularity.

  • iowahawk||

    I played organized baseball when I was a kid, but we still played extra games in vacant lots. Somewhere around 5th grade, football pretty much had eclipsed it.

    In some respect organized kid leagues lead to better athletic skills. The kids who stay in baseball now get drilled and trained and nutritioned and instructed to the point they're undoubtably much better prepared than the typical farm-fresh pitching phenom of 1938. But all that overcoaching kills any native interest they have in the game itself.

    You know why there's so many Dominicans in MLB? Because the kids there still play it voluntarily.

  • Kiwi Dave||

    You chaps should've stuck with cricket. Baseball only caught on after the Civil War.

  • ||

    In some respect organized kid leagues lead to better athletic skills.

    But the sandlot game produces much better debating skills, fostered by the incessant arguing over the Rules of Play.

  • matt2||

    I'm just going to leave this comment (recommended by 1700+ NYT readers!) from the Frank Rich story here:

    While the Republicans aren't embraced by this movement, they feed it, purposefully making it thrive. Some of them do it outright. Some more subtly. But they all feed it because it helps them achieve their overriding objective of undermining Obama, the President of the United States of America, for their own self-interests. And sadly they can feed it at will, because the Republicans can say virtually anything they want, however unsubstantiated, and can be assured they will never be called to account by our "free press".

    Even you, Mr. Rich, while one of the consistent voices against the rhetoric and misinformation, chose to hold the Obama Administration to a much higher standard of accountability. And while, in theory, that would be great, in reality, you feed their anger as well. If you want to criticize Obama, fine. But do it in context. Because you will find where he does something unfitting with who he said he was, it is, I think, for good reason. He understands how dysfunctional we are. Don't you think that was the reason for the summit on healthcare? Dissed by the press because it lacked drama, but an accomplishment for the exact same reason? Healthcare reform shouldn't be dramatic. It's boring in the details. But he held the summit because in one year the national media failed entirely to present the country with anything but inflammatory soundbites. He had to come up with a forum to put the facts on the table because the media entirely failed to do so. I wonder if we are worthy of him sometimes.
  • ||

    The people are unworthy of their government.

  • ||

    The people are unworthy of their government.

  • ||

    Frank Rich is an insane, shrieking old harridan.

  • ||

    Harridan. Good word. I like that.

  • ||

    H A double-R I

    D A N spells HARRIDAN

  • ||

    Eventually the Proles will be excluded from live sporting events entirely; stadiums will be nothing but skyboxes.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Matt, I think I like it better when you write about the stimulus.

  • Joshua||

    What is this baseball that you speak of?

  • ||

    You can be sure that if the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim set out for greener pastures next season, Matt and Crazy Pete would happily buy new hats, shirts and rally monkeys, toast Arte Moreno's savvy business acumen and never bore the living shit out of their kids, grandkids or readers with stories about Garret Anderson prowling the outfield at the Big A.

  • Rhywun||

    After Neil Young, it went to shit.

    +1

    "great liberal hero urban planner Robert Moses"

    I too don't think he's anyone's "liberal hero" anymore. He pioneered all the tactics that today's liberals espouse for their grandiose schemes, but the goal was everything that today's self-professed liberal stands against. I'm sure Moses would be all for the present Atantic Yards scheme, and while there are some liberals supporting it (i.e. union workers), most liberals seem to be against it.

    Anyway, I find Moses fascinating and have been meaning to read Robert Caro's doorstopper about him--just haven't got around to it yet.

  • JB2||

    Thank you, Matt. The Hamill piece was deeply annoying for many reasons - but none more than the millionth iteration of Brooklyn Dodger nostalgia. How did these insufferable assholes take over every discussion of the history of baseball? They don't even like baseball! If they did like baseball, then maybe the Dodgers would've gone to more games at their beloved Ebbets Field and the Dodgers would've had better attendance and they'd still be playing in Brooklyn.

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