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In Wilbon's World

Not hard to root for Big Easy

After covering the Super Bowl game for 19 straight years for The Washington Post, this is the fourth consecutive game I've watched in my hotel room after doing the Sunday pro basketball show on ABC.

It still feels strange watching on television, hearing the play-by-play and commentary, seeing the shockingly overrated commercials, seeing halftime acts when I'm not writing a column on deadline. After doing the ABC pre-game show for the Orlando-at-Celtics game (do the Celtics look on the verge of trouble or what?) I drove (okay, was driven) 95 minutes from ESPN's Bristol, Conn., studios back to New York to watch the game and order Chinese food from the best Chinese restaurant in the city, Shun Lee West. Anyway, I don't miss not being at the game. I've seen enough of them in person. I miss the access after the game, but I can still have observations from afar ...

I've never been as happy for a team that's not one of my own winning a championship.

But I've been to New Orleans maybe 20 times in my life for Saints games. The team went from dreadful to pretty darned good in the late 1980s when I was The Post's pro football writer. It took me no more than two, three games there to realize what the Saints mean to New Orleans, even back when people were wearing bags over their heads. They adored the Saints and felt about the Saints in a way I've never seen people feel about their team outside of Green Bay.

The folks who wanted the Saints to leave after Katrina and play some place other than the severely damaged Louisiana Superdome didn't understand how desperately people along the Gulf Coast needed the team, the players, the big event that Sunday afternoons were.

Except when the Saints played their Bears in the 2006 NFC Championship game, I've consistently rooted for most if not all things Louisiana since Katrina. People whose homes were devastated and loved ones killed in the storm have told me the Saints were their salvation. They were completely serious.

So those of us who've observed the relationship over time weren't really surprised when the "Who dats" were seen getting off flights at Miami International Airport on Saturday morning. They had no tickets and in some cases just enough money to check into a hotel to be around the revelry. In case you didn't know, the hotels in New Orleans were sold out. All the rooms or close to it, in the big hotels anyway. The parties from Miami to New Orleans will be something to behold and no fans of any sport, not the Red Sox pre-2004 or Cubs fans, are more deserving of feeling like champions.

-- The hype over the commercials is something I don't understand. For the third straight year I watched every second on TV and didn't turn down the sound once and the commercials were junk. I don't even remember any of them, or the products, or any storylines or jingles and anything remotely imaginative. People like Kornheiser go on and on and on about the commercials and I don't get it. Do people who rave about the commercials think they're the cool kids in school because they can talk about something other than the game? Oooooooh. The only one that made me smile, even remotely, was the one late in the fourth quarter with Charles Barkley for Taco Bell. (It probably was just Charles and not the product.)

-- The Who wasn't for me. I did recognize a couple of their songs, like "Pinball Wizard," which I associate more with Elton John even though I know it belongs to The Who. And the song from "CSI: Miami" that has that rather cool scream. The lead singer just seems like he's done, dude...like he's got nothing left but he's out there 'cause he likes being a rocker in his 60s.

I'm wondering at this point whether Janet Jackson's breast-baring wardrobe malfunction a few years ago (might have been the last game I attended) means that only old rock groups are allowed to play halftime at the Super Bowl. Question: And I mean this as a question, not a criticism (not yet anyway). Have there been any black people, any R&B, any soul since Miss Jackson? Is the punishment that old white men who own football teams will never have anything but old rockers for the rest of time? This isn't a criticism of Commissioner Roger Goodell, mind you, because I happen to know that Goodell (and no, I won't tell you how I know) would have Beyonce be the halftime entertainment if he was the God of All Super Bowl entertainment. I'm just saying, is there a ban on R&B? If so, how long? And did I miss somebody at halftime that I should be remembering?

-- I love that Sean Payton went for it on fourth and goal from just outside the one. I didn't like the running play; why not have your best player, Drew Brees, throw the ball? But I did like the guts it took to pass up the field-goal attempt and go for it. It's that sense of daring I wish the Colts had exhibited back in December when they gave up the undefeated season against the Jets.

It's the same sense of daring Payton displayed on the opening on-sides kickoff of the second half. I don't want to draw conclusions unnecessarily from one game, but it seemed the Saints played with that spirit all night and the Colts, while they played with great purpose, weren't up to that emotional level...Of course, if Manning isn't picked off and takes the Colts down for 24-24, then I can't write that sentence, perhaps. But Gregg Williams' defense played with just that level of energy and held the Colts' offense to 17 points, which is triumphant and something most of the experts didn't think could be done. Brees, Payton and Williams should share MVP honors for the game because their contributions were so outsized.

By

Michael Wilbon

 |  February 7, 2010; 10:14 PM ET  |  Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Don't let the haters get you down Mike, as a white guy from Idaho who still believes that "And the Band Played On" was one of the best sports columns ever written, I read you in part to learn about race issues viewed through the sports lens. And for those of you that do not, as I do, live on the Gulf Coast, the Super Bowl win will change some perceptions about NOLA, and the conventions, conferences and tourism will keep increasing and some who left may come home.

Posted by: scrub1 | February 10, 2010 11:21 AM
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Have there been any black people, any R&B, any soul since Miss Jackson?
------------

I dunno Wilbon, have there been any hispanics, asians, pacific islanders, middle easterners?

Why is it only gotta be about the African American minority with you, Wilbon?

And as the previous poster pointed out, PRINCE at the SB in 2007. Shoots your stupid racism-theory out of the water.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | February 9, 2010 7:24 PM
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I was leery when I heard The Who was to be the halftime entertainment. For me, it's been hard to think of them as a believable rock band ever since John Entwhistle passed. Instead, I think what we get is what Pete Townshend once described as "The Who on Ice" or just Roger and Pete. Although I would agree that it wasn't a compelling performance, I don't think it was horrid. I think Roger can still sing some, just not like he could in his prime. The Won't Get Fooled Again" scream is not something he can pull off any more. Still, Mr Wilbon's comment that "the leader singer is done" was unnecessarily harsh.

Posted by: jpw0527 | February 9, 2010 2:39 PM
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Great piece, but one glaring oversight...

"It took me no more than two, three games there to realize what the Saints mean to New Orleans, even back when people were wearing bags over their heads. They adored the Saints and felt about the Saints in a way I've never seen people feel about their team outside of Green Bay."

Haven't been to Pittsburgh since 1972, Wilbon? Or am I missing something? The Steelers may have competition from the Penguins, but the intensity and devotion of the Steeler fanbase is unsurpassed.

Posted by: observer9 | February 9, 2010 2:10 PM
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As a fan of rock music, I've gotta agree with Mike here. The Who is FORTY YEARS past their prime. There are few acts that are going to stand up when they are FORTY YEARS past their prime...and the Who are not among them. All my white friends in their 50s and 60s who I have talked to agree with me on this: the Who were an embarassment! Sure, they would be fine to see a rock revival...but on the biggest stage in the world? No!

Posted by: merryslav | February 9, 2010 10:49 AM
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Hmm, I'm an older white guy who love the Who, Springsteen, and the Stones, but it's hard to believe that more contemporary groups can't be found to play the Superbowl. Great game though. By the way I hear that next year it will be a supergroup with Jerry Garcia, Lowell George, and Rick Danko.

Posted by: dfish1 | February 8, 2010 5:21 PM
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Thought I might share what my analysis and prediction was regarding Saints/Colts. I sent the below email to my network and address book at 6PM Sunday night just before kickoff time.

I waited until then because I did not want anyone benefiting from (gambling)based on my philosophical/spiritual view. Enjoy:

Something is happening here that only a few of us realize regarding the NOS:

1. This is more than a football game to the Saint players. They have been given a mandate from their people and they will not settle for less. The pressure they(Saints) face is not the Colts & Manning, that's the easy part, failure is not an option. They look at the Colts and see the Army Corps of Engineers. This isn't going to be pretty because they expect and accept the collateral damage that will take place.

2. The NOS is on a mission and the train has left the station. Anyone (Colts) that
dare step in front of this moving train, well you know the rest. Understand, the people in the NO feel like the rest of America treated (Govt.) and look at them like second class citizens, in America? They have been mad for a long time and this is one venue where they can deliver a message that has been lost on America. They are determined to get our attention and resolve.


3. Now for the football part. The Saints are resilient and they understand that sacrifices will have to be made. Let it all hang out is their mantra, and they are fine with it because they came to terms with this fact pre-season, check their track-record. Payton will be hard pressed reading a defense that acts like a 'shape shifter' and 'chameleon.' Drew will be like a neurosurgeon picking apart the Colt cancer in his way.

I'm going to enjoy looking at Payton's face, and his whining, Ala Tennessee Heisman Trophy snub, what a 'baby diaper' he was. Its been a while since I've seen it.

Seriously. This game has nothing to do with 'Beat the Colts' but everything to do with 'beat the world' and 'Hear Our Cry.'


Ben Carter
carter.associates@att.net
Timor

Posted by: carterassociates | February 8, 2010 5:06 PM
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"Michael Wilbon: Hell yes. Holding Peyton Manning and the Colts to 17 points in a dome...?"

You know I love ya like anotherbrother Mike but...ummm
when did this occur...and where the hell was I???
and ps...from a lifelong rocker who has seen the Who
more times than he actually remembers: they KILLED
IT! You ARE NOT going to find someone to do a better
12 minutes than that anywhere!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: da28fan | February 8, 2010 3:20 PM
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if i were gregg williams, i would come to dc, find snyder, and wave that gold ring he's about to get in his face. just another move that made cerrato and snyder look like total idiots.

Posted by: mdoughtie22 | February 8, 2010 1:52 PM
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I wish people'd stop restricting the joy to the city limits of New Orleans. The Saints are and always have been a Louisiana team-- the whole state feels the buzz right now.

Terry
-------------------------------------------

And Mississippi too. The Saints is unofficially the team for both Louisiana and Mississippi.

Posted by: forgetthis | February 8, 2010 1:41 PM
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I agree with Wilbon. At this point, I would even go with a Garth Brooks, country halftime set over the old geriatric rockers. They remind me of senior citizens that missed curfew at the retirement home. Even though Prince is younger than the WHO, he does qualify for an AARP card. Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction has been responsible for the lack of R&B at halftime.

Posted by: Carole5520 | February 8, 2010 1:17 PM
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MIke, I love your sports writing, but please leave the music critique to the professionals in that field. The Who may be a little older (and 2 members have died), but that way go we all eventually. They were one of the greatest bands ever, and their songs still hold up musically. I stopped reading at "The Who wasn't for me," followed by a rather deliberate display of ignorance about their classic discography.

Posted by: irasciblecurmudgeon

---------------------------

I agree about the Who in regards to their place in history in classic discography.

But watching them perform last night was like watching Willie Mays when he played for the Mets. All-time greats in their day, but that day has clearly passed.

Posted by: js_edit | February 8, 2010 1:06 PM
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Prince may be Black...be he is not,never was anything close to R&B,sorry to burst anyone's bubble about that one.

By the way it was Johnny Rivers not Johhy....I meant to type...it was late here in the Golden State.

Posted by: petebowling1 | February 8, 2010 12:34 PM
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I wish people'd stop restricting the joy to the city limits of New Orleans. The Saints are and always have been a Louisiana team-- the whole state feels the buzz right now.


Terry

Posted by: TerryElliott | February 8, 2010 11:15 AM
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Hey MRODIFER did you selectively miss "Have there been any black people" at the beginning and "Is the punishment that old white men..." at the end of what you singled out? I guess it is too early for you, have some coffee before you post next time......

Posted by: franklinone | February 8, 2010 10:38 AM
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"And I mean this as a question, not a criticism (not yet anyway). Have there been any black people, any R&B, any soul since Miss Jackson? Is the punishment that old white men who own football teams will never have anything but old rockers for the rest of time?"

Geez oh flip, Wilbon! Can't you write ANYTHING anymore without putting race into play?? Did you selectively forget one of the best Super Bowl half time shows done by Prince so you could play the race card yet again? I used to be a fan of yours years back, you know back when you actually wrote good columns about SPORTS. Now it's the same 'ol same 'ol with you and it is truly sad, actually pathetic to see you're but a shell of what you once were, a good sports writer. What a shame........

Posted by: franklinone | February 8, 2010 10:32 AM
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Hmmm. I keep looking, and maybe my ability to discern words on paper is hampered.....but I don't recall seeing Wilbon mention anything about race in this piece. I saw mention of types of music, for sure -- rock and R&B, I believe. And since those are the terms HE ACTUALLY USED, then he's exactly right. Prince is not R&B, his music is a creative Heinz57 (not a bad thing, in his case). True, he's the only non-"classic rock" type of act in recent years. But the point is valid, on its face. The bigger question is who, other than, say, Stevie Wonder, has the combination of demographic span (appreciation across multiple generations and genres) and the well-developed skill of mounting a big spectacle? It's early, my brain isn't coming up with other performers -- but I'm sure there are some.

Posted by: mrodifer | February 8, 2010 10:31 AM
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MIke, I love your sports writing, but please leave the music critique to the professionals in that field. The Who may be a little older (and 2 members have died), but that way go we all eventually. They were one of the greatest bands ever, and their songs still hold up musically. I stopped reading at "The Who wasn't for me," followed by a rather deliberate display of ignorance about their classic discography.

Posted by: irasciblecurmudgeon | February 8, 2010 10:16 AM
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Come on, man. Prince was one of, if not the best halftime show in the past decade. Just because he plays a guitar doesn't make him white. Don't try to create a race issue where there isn't one. You're better than that.

Posted by: braninc | February 8, 2010 9:27 AM
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Mike, I am happy for the Saints to have finally won a Super Bowl. It is a big momnent in EVERY franchise.

That being said, I am tired of the angle that this is somehow going to change the city. Mardi Gras is this week, between that and the Super Bowl celebration, people will party in the streets. But come next week, nothing will have changed.

The city will be exactly as it was last week. Winning the Super Bowl won't get parts of the ghetto rebuilt. It won't put anyone who's unemployed back to work, not permenantly anyway.

Be real Mike, you often are. This is just a good win for a historically bad franchise. Nothing more.

Posted by: jimbo561 | February 8, 2010 9:21 AM
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Posted by: jberkemeier | February 8, 2010 9:11 AM
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It's ironic that Wilbon forgot about Prince playing the halftime show - maybe the best one I've seen in years, complete with the Florida A&M band - because it was a Super Bowl that his Bears were playing in.

http://www.veoh.com/browse/videos/category/music/watch/v389304XGYhx25k for the big finish.

Posted by: jberkemeier | February 8, 2010 9:09 AM
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Uh, Jay-Z holding the Trophy in the opening, Queen Latifia and then the Who! That would be 2 to 1. If you are counting...

And, NEWSFLASH, there are blacks that enjoy The Who also! Even young black males!

Posted by: anonthistime | February 8, 2010 8:58 AM
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Hey Wilbon, didn't you see Stevie Wonder playing punch-buggy????

Posted by: anonthistime | February 8, 2010 8:39 AM
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The Who was alright. I get the spirit of what Wilbon is trying to suggest, but it still comes off as race-baiting...oh, I'm black. However, more "contemporary" acts would be nice

Can't believe Wilbon forgot that Prince was halftime entertainment a couple years ago..probably the best performance of Purple Rain since the movie!

Posted by: noel5150 | February 8, 2010 8:12 AM
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I wonder if musicians think of themselves as white and black? Or maybe just as musicians. Prince wasn't any better than the Who. I'll take Lady Gaga any day, and I'm OLD!

Posted by: voldenuit123 | February 8, 2010 8:04 AM
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Yeah the Who weren't as good as Bruce last year. Old rockers should sit in their rockers. But where is the young talent that can step it up and put on a decent 12 minute act? Country music? Hip hop? Alt? Tony Bennett? Are we that devoid? The Eagles?
Wasn't Williams the Redskins D coach? BTW we love the Skins.

Posted by: anti1 | February 8, 2010 7:36 AM
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"Lead singer"? You don't even know Roger Daltrey's name?! Yes, his voice has lost something, but the guy is nearly 66. Criticize if you want but show some respect.

And yeah, as someone said, Prince did the halftime show a couple years ago. Do you have a quota for halftime performers?

Posted by: Sean100 | February 8, 2010 7:32 AM
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Oh Michael, Michael, come on now, the commercials were funnier than you admit, Charles' wasn't so great, and I'll agree a little bit on the Who, but how did you forget Prince ? I like your writing alot, but quit with this whining. And how could you miss sticking to Snyder that Williams just won a Super Bowl ring ? Come on, now, lighten up.

Posted by: trawler | February 8, 2010 6:48 AM
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"A Hockey town." Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

And I'm sure the person that is Queen Latifah, by any name, has a lot more talent in 1 finger nail, than most of you ever had. Ignorant people always put down things they don't understand.

A lot of the old singers that had their heydey need to sit down, from the Beach Boys to the Ojays to the God awful Rolling Stones.

Posted by: Supporter51 | February 8, 2010 6:21 AM
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Hey Wilbon, guess what? you are writing for Washington DC. Who the hell cares about the Saints or the Colts? Your ego is too big for this city. We are now a Hockey town. If the skins were not the biggest joke in the NFC, maybe we would care. But who cares about this game. We just had the biggest regular season win in this city for a professional franchise. The Caps are our team now, and this comes from the biggest die hard skins fan in this city. I love my hometown, so stop writing on a national stage about stories that we don't care about in Washington, or get off the Post and go to ESPN or Chicago. You are no longer one of us.

Posted by: tony28 | February 8, 2010 2:17 AM
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"The parties from Miami to New Orleans will be something to behold and no fans of any sport, not the Red Sox pre-2004 or Cubs fans, are more deserving of feeling like champions."

You can be happy for NO without uttering something half as dumb as that statement.

The Saints are babes in the woods compared to the Red Sox misery pre-2004 (or the Cubs misery today).

Posted by: dell4 | February 8, 2010 2:10 AM
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Game was GREAT...no matter who won,one of the best ever.

The Who...I never got them when the were supposedly hot,sorry Daltry never could sing...2 or three songs do not a legend make...BUT it's time to stop giving time and money to people like Jay-Z for whatever it is he supposedly does,giving people who cannot sing,who cannot pronounce words,cannot carry a tune a stage as large as the opening of the biggest show on TV is sad...it's time to stop calling rap music and just say what it is,very,very poor poetry for people who cannot sing and who cannot write music.
R&B at the super Bowl...Amen...Smokey,Gladys,Johhy Rivers...etc

Posted by: petebowling1 | February 8, 2010 2:05 AM
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The game was on CBS -- which owns 3 CSI franchises, the original, CSI New York, CSI Miami. Sounds like (by the playlist at half-time) the theme of EACH is by The Who, so maybe the band played at a discount for the event, given the royalties they get from CBS. That's smart stuff, in this economy.

Posted by: Xlnt | February 8, 2010 1:15 AM
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"shockingly overrated commercials" - I thought the Denny's chickens were a hoot (my wife asks me not to say that things are a hoot because it dates me, but the very fact that I'm so old makes me cranky).

And Michael, if you don't get the shivers at some point during "Won't Get Fooled Again", you need a chiropractor.

Aside from that, this was a great column.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 8, 2010 12:41 AM
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The Who was great, with Wilbon it sounds like another black versus white thing again and if that's the case he had Queen Latifa, what a stupid name, at the beginning of the Super Bowl but her singing was awful. When is her 15 minutes of fame up? I hope soon.
I also like how Wilbon drops that he was driven around and gets to eat the best Chinese food in the world. I am so thrilled to here about how great your life is especially since I have no job since Obama took over.

Posted by: gadadavida | February 8, 2010 12:39 AM
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Michael, your game commentary is right on, but I have three points of contention:

1. Prince played the halftime show 2 years after Janet Jackson. Agree, though, that next year's game is crying out for Stevie Wonder. It's been mostly white since Janet.

2. You've gotta go easy on the musical commentary; you're out of your element. Specifically, your ignorance of the Who makes you look silly. "Won't Get Fooled Again" is an iconic song of the 1970s. To call it "that song from CSI" is like calling "A Little Help From My Friends" "that song from the Wonder Years."

3. Most important: Shun Lee West is NOT the best Chinese restaurant in New York. It's not even in the top 300. New York has 3 vibrant Chinatowns-- in Manhattan, Brooklyn and, most of all, Queens. There isn't one single restaurant on the Upper West Side that comes within sniffing distance of these neighborhoods' highlights. That would be like me saying the best blues in Chicago is found at the House of Blues in the Gold Coast. Not a chance! Not when you've got the Checkerboard Lounge... or even Buddy Guy's for that matter.

Michael, you're one of the best sportswriters we have, but your world is getting much too small. If you want to be a music/food/cultural critic, you've gotta break out of the world of steak houses and American Idol and then start opining on these things.

Just tough love from a great admirer of your work... take it or leave it!

Posted by: drischord | February 8, 2010 12:37 AM
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Prince, 2007.

Posted by: SammyT1 | February 8, 2010 12:37 AM
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