Pat's Reporter Blog

Remembering Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001

Friday, September 13th, 2013
Patrick Newell

We’re two days removed from the 12th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, and I retraced my steps to that Tuesday morning – a unremarkable start to my day in every way until all hell broke loose.
Coming off a Monday night of sports, I had my usual array of soccer games to report; moreover, Tuesdays during the fall we publish our weekly football contest, and I typically spent a few hours on Monday evening going through all of the entries, writing up a small article with the results of the contest, and then typing in the picks for our experts to appear in the Tuesday edition. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe we had moved to a two-section paper in 2001, and my deadline to finish the sports section was 8 a.m. Prior to that, I had the same deadline as the front section — 10 a.m. With this new schedule, I would arrive for work in the 6:30 a.m. range (I have picked up a little speed, and now it’s around 6:40 a.m.), to design my three pages for the sports section integrating national news, local news, and complementing that with a standings and statistics page. Following my deadline, I would catch up on paperwork, and go through my schedule for the upcoming evening. Considering I was to return to work around 4 p.m. for a long evening of attending and reporting games, it was my norm to exit the Sun’s premises before 9 a.m. Moments before I was about to leave, word came of a commuter jet striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Our publisher, Dick Snyder – whose office was located down the hall from us in the Pennysaver building here in Norwich – stepped into our office to notify our staff of the plane crash. I was off of my deadline, so I (and a few other employees), trekked to Dick’s office for more information. I believe Jeff Genung, our editor, even left his desk for a few moments to take a look at the news on Dick’s television. Rumors were rampant regarding the source of the attack, and as TV reporters were trying to make some sense of it all – and as the burning North Tower was on screen – what looked like a toy airplane crashed into the South Tower. My own speculation after the first plane hit the North Tower was that it was a flight gone awry.. After the second crash, all of us in Dick’s room knew something was terribly wrong. Little did we know how wrong. Three daily papers serve part or all of the Chenango County area, and ours was the only one to have up-to-date reporting of the 9/11 attacks. Such is the benefit of a late-morning/early afternoon newspaper. Watching the tragedy unfold before my eyes – and millions of others – I wonder if this is what TV viewers felt when they saw Jack Ruby step out of a crowd and shoot Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald was being transported to another jail.

While I was already entrenched in the newspaper business in 2001, our three current reporters were still in school, while current editor Brian Golden was in early 20s and at least seven or eight years away from his first newspaper job. Here are the remembrances of the current staff:

Ashley Biviano: “I was in 8th grade. It happened during math class, but they never told us. I went to English class, and still not a word until the bell rang, when the teacher said, “Oh, the Twin Towers fell down.” In the cafeteria, one kid was running around yelling how someone was going to bomb the school. Then, in Mr. Telesky’s class, we finally got to turn on the TV to see what the heck everyone was talking about. Mr. Telesky was awesome.”

Shawn Magrath: “I was in 10th grade. I watched the second plane strike the South Tower exactly as I walked into my second period Earth Science class.”

Kevin Doonan: “I was in seventh grade Spanish class, in my middle school at Chambers and West Street in Manhattan. I remember the white rain choking the air, the confusion, and the terror. More than anything I remember the quiet calm between explosions and the placid certainty of death.”

Brian Golden (Note- this is an excerpt of a column Brian published regarding the attack): “I remember sitting in the living room of my apartment, drinking coffee, reading a book (probably Tolkien), and waiting for a typical day of carpet installation … power stretchers, staple guns, seam irons, stair tools and tackstrips included.
Hearing my phone ring shortly before 9 a.m. was certainly no warning, in and of itself. Knowing full well it would be either my father (on his way to pick me up for work) or Adam (Bosworth, we typically spoke mornings to discuss all things related to our band), I was completely unprepared for what followed. I received a call from Adam, who had a strange strange note of hysteria in his voice I’d never heard before, immediately related the news that – just moments before – a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Having no cable at the time, I immediately flicked on the radio, just in time to hear, in a strange sort of terrible harmony, Adam and whatever newscaster was on the air at the time begin screaming “NO” and for a pilot unseen to turn the plane. And that’s when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower. I remember spending the rest of that day in a kind of haze.”
What are your memories of that day? Feel free to share with us.

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First-week gridiron notes

Monday, September 9th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Greene’s Dave Gorton filled in as interim varsity head coach last season directing the Trojans to a win over Whitney Point. Gorton helmed Greene in Tim Paske’s stead, and Paske eventually stepped down as head coach following an eighth straight winning campaign. Gorton inherited a fair number of returning players, but knew a lot of young players – sophomores and even a few freshman – would not only have to fill varsity spots, but likely play prominent roles this season. Knowing you’re the “new guy” directing a winning program, outside scrutiny is a given, but Gorton and his staff have eschewed and perhaps ignored the expectations of outsiders. “The focus, whether you are a first-year head coach or a veteran coach is the kids,” Gorton said. “We want to control what is in our power to control, and that is our preparedness and effort. The entire coaching staff is focused on the players, and any pressure we feel is intrinsic because we want them to have a chance to be successful on every play.” So far, so good for Gorton, his staff, and the collective varsity unit. Greene throttled Bainbridge-Guilford on the road, 37-0, Friday night. The offense had one drive in which it drove 95 yards on 19 plays, it ran 69 plays overall, and held B-G to just two first downs for the game and 18 total plays. Linemen Wyatt VanderBunt, Alex Kozisky, Nick Adams, Phil Nelson and Jeff Pornbeck controlled the game, Gorton said. Third-year quarterback Joe Beckwith was nearly perfect, running back Joel Roselle was his physical self, and first-year defensive coordinator, John Martinson, had the Trojans’ defense well prepared forcing three turnovers and negative total yards until the third quarter.

Oxford’s 32-14 loss to Dryden was not nearly as bad as it looked. From this writer’s perspective, the Blackhawks’ Friday game was a veritable nailbiter as it was the only local grid contest decided by less than three touchdowns. In losing by 18, Oxford had three drives stall inside the Dryden red zone with untimely penalties conspiring against those possessions. Clearly, moving the ball was not much of a problem for Oxford. The Blackhawks ran for 284 yards and passed for 112. Those are numbers that usually end in victories. “We had some guys out there playing their first varsity games, and we were a little wide-eyed and bushy-tailed,” said Oxford coach Ray Dayton. “But I like what I saw and I liked our effort. We played snap to whistle.” Sophomore running backs Nick Neer and Jon Heggie led the Oxford ground game with 105 and 80 yards rushing respectively. Sophomore quarterback Angelo Gonzalez finished with 112 yards passing on 6 of 11 attempts. The Blackhawks square off with the always-tough Walton Warriors Saturday. Walton edged Whitney Point, 18-16, in its first game.

Saturday at the PGA Championship

Monday, August 12th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Thank you to Stacy Gage, who had an extra ticket to the PGA Championship for Saturday’s round at Oak Hill Country Club. Kids were admitted free, so Stacy and his son Alex invited me and my stepson Joseph to come along for the ride.
It was the first major golf championship I attended, and the “rare” sporting event in which I was not working as a reporter. Honestly, I felt a little naked without my notepad and camera, but it was worth the trip. For those who watched the tournament this weekend, if the total sum of your golf viewing experiences has been spent in front of your television, then you’re not coming close to getting the complete picture.
Just imagine yourself striking the ball as well as you can hit it. Okay? Picture its trajectory, its distance, then its accuracy. The ball follows its intended target, and reaches its intended destination. You feel pretty good inside as that experience happens maybe once or twice a round – if you’re lucky!
For the typical PGA golfer – especially those competing in the fourth major championship of the year – that “perfect” shot for us is the norm for them. Our little foursome had the opportunity to watch some professional golfers hit balls from the practice facility before their respective rounds. One ball after another was pounded perfectly, and depending on the club selection, each shot ended a few feet apart at almost the same distance. I was reminded over the weekend: This is their job, and the professional golfer puts in eight-hour days on the golf course as we do at our designated jobs. Considering that – and as much as I love my job – playing golf for a living would not break my heart.
Near the end of the day, we perched ourselves in the amphitheater on the 13th hole (see link below) where thousands of people lined the banks to create an electric atmosphere oohing and ahhing with every putt. A Saturday afternoon at a major championship under perfect weather conditions…it just doesn’t get any better than that.


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Member-Guest begins with a splash

Friday, August 2nd, 2013
Patrick Newell

Morning round participants at the Canasawacta Country Club Men’s Member-Guest tournament – yours truly included – completed their opening 18 holes under a steady rainfall. No, it never quite reached downpour status, but it was a steady drizzle that had rain gear flying out of players’ bags. As for me, I decided to forgo riding in the paid-for golf cart to avoid the misty pelts of water that soak driver and passenger en route to the next shot. Thanks to a tip from Bob Branham, I hung towels over the spokes (or whatever they are called) within my expanded umbrella, and dried my hands and clubs with dry towels before every shot. Plus, I could angle the umbrella down to avoid oncoming rain. My waterproof shoes proved they are NOT waterproof, but other than that, I stayed dry. Sixty of the 98 teams trudged through the morning round, and nearly a dozen were at level or under par. Seems like we have some good mudders in the field. Leading the way after 18 holes – no surprise – are back-to-back champions Tim Carson and Scott Seiler. Seiler’s younger brother – Todd – along with Bryan Smith share the lead with Carson-Seiler after firing matching 66s. Stay tuned for more tournament coverage this weekend, and follow me on Twitter @evesunpat.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, July 19, 2013

Friday, July 19th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Just a short blog entry today as I head off to Virginia for a vacation. By my records, it’s my first week off in 54 weeks, so the design of the sports pages will rest in the capable hands of our editor, Brian Golden. Unlike our previous editor who admittedly eschewed most things sports related, Brian is indeed a sports fan – when he can actually spare a second or two. If you any urgent sports news, give Brian a shout next week.

I remember clear as a bell holding my son Elijah moments after he was born. He had what looked like a misshapen head, and he was a little yellow (jaundice, the doctor said). Well, that eight-pound, four-ounce newborn is now 18 years old, a high school graduate, and was sworn into the U.S. Air Force. (See Twitpic link below) Thursday afternoon in Syracuse. He is currently waiting for his job to book, then he will take off to San Antonio for basic training. I listened to people tell me how fast kids grow up, and didn’t pay much mind to it. Now I know.

Photo here of Elijah:

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Chenango County Amateur First-Round Scores

Saturday, June 15th, 2013
Patrick Newell

AFTON – The following are first-round scores from the Chenango County Amateur Golf Tournament contested Saturday at Afton Golf Club, a par-72 layout. Canasawacta Country Club will host the final round of tournament play Sunday morning.
(Overall scoring irrespective of division)
Bob Branham–71
Bryan Evans–71
Brenon Maynard–71
Dave Riley–71
Rick Ferris–72
Tom McCarthy–73
Edd Jenkins–74
Eric Walling–75
Mark DeMellier–76
Sal Testani–76
Jim Wysor–76
Ryan Johnson–77
Hal Skillin–77
Colin Fraser–78
Joe McBride–78
Patrick Newell–78
Wayne Emmons–80
Jim Johnson–81
Steve Upton–82
Butch Muserallo–84
Cliff Tamsett–85
Ernie Muserallo–86
Lou Guzzetta–88
Mark McLaughlin–93
Rich Latham–WD
Chuck Gardner–WD

Sports Editor’s Playbook, June 4, 2013

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Public speaking is not my forte. I will admit that, primarily since it something I rarely do. I have always preferred to remain inconspicuous, and leave the spotlight to the athletes, coaches, and teams that I cover.
Last week, Art Rigas, AD for Norwich High School, phoned me with a request. He asked if I would be available to speak at the senior athletics banquet, sponsored by the NHS Student Athletic Council. After reviewing my schedule to make sure I didn’t have another commitment, I emailed Art back and said my evening was clear. Almost immediately, I started writing my speech. Over the past five days, I wrote and rewrote different passages, and even rehearsed it three or four times. Tonight, (Tuesday, June 4), I delivered my first public speech in 10 years. With the exception of two or three extemporaneous remarks, below is the text of my speech to the NHS Class of 2013:

I want to thank the Norwich athletics department for asking me to speak to the Norwich senior athletes from the class of 2013. I know some of you here have probably sat through at least 10 banquets, and have heard dozens of speeches. I promise (really) to keep this brief.
I did a little math when I thought of the year 2013. Subtracting 18 years, my guess is that most of the senior class was born in 1995. Can I get a little nod from the seniors if I have that right? Interesting parallel, at least to me. Guess when I started writing sports for The Evening Sun… yeah, 1995.
In that respect, the Norwich seniors and I have shared a journey together over the past 18 years, and that is one reason why I have a special affinity for this year’s class. The other reason the seniors are special to me is that my son, Elijah, is part of this graduating class.
My son started out playing youth sports 12 or 13 years ago, and that is when I was introduced to many of you for the first time. Hard to believe now, but “I” actually towered over 6-foot-3 Kyle Edwards, and was more solidly built than 200-pound Grant Brightman. Is Levi Lorimer here? I don’t think I was EVER bigger than you.
When I think of the young men and women in this class who played sports, I have visions of a flashback montage in which I see all you swinging a bat, kicking a soccer ball, shooting a basket on the lowered rim at the Y, or grabbing someone’s flag in flag football at Kurt Beyer Park. I see it as clear as day, yet that was at least 10 years ago. Wow, has it been that long?
Little did I know at that time, this group of seniors would help change the perception of Norwich sports. When you hear people around town discuss Norwich sports, the common remark is, “Norwich is a basketball town” or “Norwich is a football town.”
Yes, we Norwichians love our basketball and we love our football, but Norwich sports is much more than that. The tennis teams, the golf team, the swimming teams – all had winning seasons. In just about every sport, you can point to a bright spot, one in which, YOU, the seniors, have made a difference.
In 18 days, your job at Norwich High School will be complete. To many of you, moving on from Norwich cannot happen soon enough. Speaking for the parents and adults here tonight, it feels like time has passed far too quickly.
When you get to my age, you have the benefit of hindsight, and I’d like to share a couple of things I learned after high school and college. First, listen to your mom and dad.
I went to college, got degrees in accounting and business management, and was following that career path. I was working at a local insurance company when my mom passed on a job listing Wanted: Evening Sun Sports Editor. It gave the details of the job and how to apply. At that point, I was in my mid 20s, and although I had been reading the paper for years and years, I NEVER looked at the ads. I was skeptical about the job listing, but my mom encouraged me to give it a shot. She knew sports had always been my passion, and this was my chance to get my foot in the door. If it wasn’t for my mom, I never would have gotten this job. So thank you mom.
The second point I wanted to make goes back to that word – passion. Now that I’ve been a working adult for 20-plus years, I have learned the key distinction between working a job and pursuing a career. My suggestion to all of you, find a career you are passionate about. Do you want a job where you are looking at the clock? Or do you want a career where you don’t wear a watch? By the way, no watch here.
All of you are here tonight because you played sports, and now that got this far, I presume you weren’t doing it to make someone else happy, you were doing it because it made you happy. You probably didn’t notice it, but along the way, you picked up some valuable life skills such as teamwork, setting and achieving goals, self-discipline, and time management. Just by playing playing sports, you have created a great foundation for future success. I wish all of you here the best of luck in whatever you do. Thank you.

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, May 17, 2013

Friday, May 17th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Norwich junior Matt Murray may be the most versatile runner in Norwich track and field history. He already has multiple school records in indoor and outdoor track and field. Just this season, his times from 100 meters to 1,600 meters would place him in the top five or six in all of Section IV in every event except the 110-meter hurdles. That is one event he has yet to post a time. What runner can compete on even footing with sprinters and distance runners? I said to myself a couple of years ago – and anyone else within earshot – runners such as Chad Noelle of Greene come around once in a generation. Noelle won state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and was also the best 800-meter performer in Section IV. He has the best times in those three events in Chenango County history, and is now competing at the University of Oregon as a standout distance runner. In the distance events, Noelle has no equal, yet Murray is that transcendent athlete with the uncanny tools to excel in any event he enters. Murray, a junior, will be among the favorites to win a state championship next month. Treasure this athlete, folks, as we have never seen a local high school track athlete with his all-around capabilities.

I wanted to publicly bid a fond farewell to one of the classier young coaches and teachers, who is leaving the area at the conclusion of this school year. Rick Mohrein, varsity basketball and baseball coach at G-MU, is headed to Charlotte, N.C. with his wife after accepting a similar job to his current post at G-MU. Rick suffered through a paucity of victories this past year, but he was always upbeat and saw the positives to build on. Rick, who is about 6-foot-4, was a standout basketball and baseball player for Afton during his high school playing days. Although he surely does not remember me, I remember him. Afton had some respectable basketball teams during Rick’s playing days, and Afton’s baseball teams were always competitive, particularly against Class D competition. Best wishes to Rick and his wife in the next phase of their lives.

I was at “Meet the Candidates” night at Stanford J. Gibson Elementary School in Norwich earlier this week as the public had the opportunity to listen to the thoughts of the seven prospective Norwich School Board candidates. One candidate, Bruce Braswell, presented a consistent theme in which he believed we should not cut any programs (read opportunities) for kids. The extracurricular activities are essential to rounding out the character of an individual. Music, sports, and the arts are also about passion, self-motivation, and often, working well with a team. I wholeheartedly agree with keeping opportunities available to kids, so I was dismayed when I learned that Bainbridge-Guilford plans to cut one of its sports programs – tennis. The tennis program’s inherent cost is a relative blip in any school’s overall budget scheme. Tennis is one of the most cost-efficient programs, particularly at B-G. Kids provide and maintain their own equipment; team members bought their own uniforms this year; the kids self-officiate their own matches, and the coach drives the team bus. The tennis courts require little maintenance at this time, and the same nets have been in place for 10 years. The only overhead is the purchase of tennis balls for the season. The tennis program is also coed, and it is not suffering from lack of interest, nor is it non-competitive. The Bobcats finished with a 6-4 record with the majority of the starting lineup returning next year. Unfortunately, there may not be a next year, and this is a disservice to the kids.

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The golfing gods get the last laugh

Friday, May 10th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Golf stories, like fishing tales, get longer, more dramatic, and heroic with each retelling They also bore the heck out of listeners by the fifth or sixth time they are recounted. Just as a fisherman is wont to exclude those dismal days with nary a bite, the average golfer spends precious little time at the 19th hole regaling his bar mates with the day’s mishaps and foibles. No one really cares, they’ve all been there.
Channeling my inner golf raconteur, here is yet another golf story. If you’re already hitting your mental snooze button, you can bypass the rest of this blog.
A truism of all amateur golfers: You’re never sure what will happen before you tee off. How well – or how poorly – you play is a mystery until you have actually played a few holes. And day to day, the level of play can swing (pun intended) wildly. Another axiom of golf: The higher one’s handicap, the greater (potential) disparity in play from day to day.
So Tuesday night, I was matched in my league against Canasawacta Country Club’s biggest tournament winner, Robert Branham. The two biggest tournaments at C.C.C. are the men’s member-guest and the club championship. Between those two, Bob has between 30 and 35 career wins. No one else is even close to that number of titles. Now in his mid-50s, Bob is still the titular golfer by which all other C.C.C. members measure themselves. This was my opportunity to show Bob that I not only can write a decent game, but also play a fair game of golf. Referring to truism one, my strong tee shot on the first hole was not a precursor of good things to come. In fact, I managed to hack it up pretty good, and Bob took me to the woodshed in a lopsided victory. I think Bob summed it up best late in the round: “This isn’t your best display,” he said.
If Bob could have seen me the next day. Actually, if anyone had seen me play, they would have noted the 180-degree turn. After finishing my morning responsibilities at the newspaper, I had a few hours until I had to return for my afternoon/evening shift. I resolved to make an adjustment in my golf game based on feedback from Bob and my playing partners. For this one day, the fine-tuning worked beautifully. Shots headed in their intended direction, and I even dropped a few putts outside of gimme range. Rain was intermittent on Wednesday morning, and for a portion of my round, the wet stuff held off. Toward the end of my 10-hole exhibition, the misty rain finally took hold. Playing the fourth hole – the number one handicap hole on the course – I resolved to finish up soon, and hoped I could close strong. Teeing off on the 464-yard hole, I hit my best drive of the short round. If you have played C.C.C., you know that if a drive does not reach the 200-yard mark from the green, your second shot is a blind one. Fortunately, I drove it past the 200-yard mark, and could see the flagstick. Pulling a six-iron from the bag, I made solid contact. From that far away, it’s hard to figure the depth of where the ball will land on the green, and my ball hit about 35 feet above the hole. The green slopes heavily downhill from the back to front, and as I walked toward the hole, the ball slowly trickled back down the hill settling 20-25 feet above the pin. A precarious position given the severity of the slope. I didn’t care, it was the first time this season I had hit the green in two shots. I looked around the course as I studied the putt. The skies were heavily overcast and grey, and no one – and I mean no one – was in sight. Later, as I walked back to my car, I would encounter the only other players on the course that day. Those players, however, were on the opposing side of the course.
My next shot was mano–a-mano with my ball and putter up against a fearsome green and a tiny four-inch cup waiting for a ball to eventually drop. Looking at the slope of the putting surface, I estimated a direction to hit the ball, and resolved to just nudge the ball forward, and allow it to trundle downward. I hit the putt softly, and in hindsight, probably had time to pull out my cell phone and videotape the 10-second trip to the hole. Watching my dimpled friend’s travels, it quickly crossed my mind, “hey, I didn’t botch this right off the bat.” The ball was seemingly magnetized to the cup, and into fell into the bottom. As the ball reached the cup, I raised my putter, a la Tiger Woods, and fist-pumped as if I had just holed the winning putt at the Masters. Just as it was 30 seconds earlier, no one saw that putt go in. I hit my two best shots on that hole all year, and capped the hole with my best putt. Fittingly, no one saw it, I’m sure no one reading this really cares, and I promise, I won’t tell this story again.
The golfing gods got the last laugh – again.

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, May 3, 2013

Friday, May 3rd, 2013
Patrick Newell

Congratulations to Greene varsity baseball coach Steve Burghardt, who won his 300th career game last weekend against Whitney Point. Burghardt is in his second stint with the Trojans. In his first go-around, he won multiple Susquenango Association championships, and to my knowledge, at least three Section IV titles. Burghardt was his typical understated self when asked about his achievement earlier this week. “I’m 60 years old, so what’s that, five wins a year? No big deal,” Burghardt said.

The baseball and softball regular seasons are drawing to a close within the next week-plus. And it’s a darn shame as we’re now approaching the best weather of the spring. Thursday was a sunny 80 degrees with a light breeze, and Wednesday was carbon-copy weather. Since the beginning of April, local clubs have taken to the diamond in chilly, windy, and usually inclement weather conditions. One coach told me that his team played half of its season over the previous two weeks, and his regular season will end next week. For schools whose record does not qualify for the postseason, their 2013 baseball/softball season will be over before May 10. Total length of season for those clubs, according to my records: Five weeks.
The first baseball and softball games reported in The Evening Sun this spring were played on April 4. Along the way we have seen numerous postponements and rescheduled games due to poor weather. Figuring in rescheduled games, we’re 28 days removed from those first games, and the season is nearly over. Does that feel like a real varsity sports season? Especially in comparison to the length of the fall and winter sports seasons? The season is shoved down our throats as if it is a sprint to the finish line. Meanwhile, only the best teams get to enjoy some of the better weather that is heading our way the next few weeks. Let’s analyze this year’s spring sports season: Practice began in early March – indoors every day – running nearly four weeks until the start of the regular season. The regular season lasts five weeks, and the postseason (league, sectional, and state playoffs) will last approximately another four weeks. Over those 12 or so weeks, one-third of the time kids are not even practicing outdoors, and in the final third, most of teams are either ineligible to play based on record or are eliminated from the postseason in the first week. In the end, baseball and softball players are getting short-changed in the spring sports season.

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