Frank Deford

Writer and commentator Frank Deford is the author of sixteen books. His latest novel, Bliss, Remembered, is a love story set at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and in World War II. Publishers Weekly calls it a "thought-provoking...and poignant story, utterly charming and enjoyable." Booklist says Bliss, Remembered is "beautifully written...elegantly constructed...writing that is genuinely inspiring."

On radio, Deford may be heard as a commentator every Wednesday on NPR's Morning Edition and, on television, he is the senior correspondent on the HBO show RealSports With Bryant Gumbel. In magazines, he is Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated.

Moreover, two of Deford's books — the novel Everybody's All-American and Alex: The Life Of A Child, his memoir about his daughter who died of cystic fibrosis — have been made into movies. Two of his original screenplays, Trading Hearts and Four Minutes, have also been filmed.

As a journalist, Deford has been elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. Six times Deford was voted by his peers as U.S. Sportswriter of The Year. The American Journalism Review has likewise cited him as the nation's finest sportswriter, and twice he was voted Magazine Writer of The Year by the Washington Journalism Review.

Deford has also been presented with the National Magazine Award for profiles, a Christopher Award, and journalism Honor Awards from the University of Missouri and Northeastern University, and he has received many honorary degrees. The Sporting News has described Deford as "the most influential sports voice among members of the print media," and the magazine GQ has called him, simply, "the world's greatest sportswriter."

In broadcast, Deford has won both an Emmy and a George Foster Peabody Award. ESPN presented a television biography of Deford's life and work, "You Write Better Than You Play." A popular lecturer, Deford has spoken at more than a hundred colleges, as well as at forums, conventions and on cruise ships around the world.

For sixteen years, Deford served as national chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and he remains chairman emeritus. Deford is a graduate of Princeton University, where he has taught in American Studies.

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Sweetness And Light
1:29 am
Wed May 20, 2015

The Other Sacred Thing Tom Brady Squashed: Sportsmanship

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks to the sideline during this year's Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.
Christian Petersen Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 10:09 am

Sport may be dismissed as inconsequential child's play, but there is, in counterpoint, the ideal that sport is our best model for human fairness and equality — a Garden of Eden with competition. But, of course, there are snakes in this athletic garden. Rules will be broken.

To my mind there are, in ascending order, three kinds of transgressions. The first is the most simple: transgressions committed in the heat of the action, instinctively, because of frustration, failure or anger. There are referees to tend to that misconduct.

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Sweetness And Light
3:03 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Athletes Want To Talk To Fans Without Meddlesome Sports Journalists

Derek Jeter attends the launch party for his new website, The Players' Tribune, on Feb. 14 in New York City. The site is a platform for athletes to talk directly to fans.
Timothy Hiatt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 8:25 am

It's interesting to note the major differences in the way the media deals with sports stars and entertainment celebrities in public.

When entertainment personalities are interviewed, they are dressed to the nines, and the interrogation consists mostly of compliments. Athletes, however, are interviewed all grubby and sweaty, and primarily, they are rudely asked to explain themselves. Why did you strike out? How could you have possibly dropped that pass?

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Sweetness And Light
1:54 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Boxing Fans Shift Focus To Small Men, Big Money

The MGM Grand marquee is reflected in an escalator with advertising for the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, which will take place Saturday in Las Vegas.
John Locher AP

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 6:51 am

It was long an article of faith among sport cognoscenti that nothing in athletics approached the sheer electric drama and glamour of a heavyweight championship fight.

Well, if you missed it, they had one of those in no less a shrine than Madison Square Garden on Saturday. You could have watched it on plain old TV if you were not already analyzing the NFL draft, following the NBA or NHL playoffs or watching the baseball season unfold. Poor, ignored heavyweights.

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Sweetness And Light
1:48 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Bruce Jenner's Long History Of Clearing Hurdles

Decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner throws the javelin during an Olympic competition in Montreal on July 30, 1976.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 22, 2015 7:03 am

In an interview airing Friday on ABC, Bruce Jenner is expected to announce that he is transgender, though he has made no such acknowledgment.

As the public awaits his presumed revelations, Jenner is still invariably and glibly identified by his paternal connection to the Kardashian clan. It's presented almost anecdotally that he won the gold medal for the Olympic decathlon — the 10-event classic of track and field athleticism — in 1976. But back then, he was a glorified champion and called "the world's greatest athlete."

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Sweetness And Light
2:23 am
Wed March 25, 2015

'Borland Effect' A Fumble For Football? Deford Says It Will Pass

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, center, during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif. Borland announced that he will retire after just one season to protect himself from brain injuries.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 6:18 am

Once again, the question of the NFL's pre-eminence — even existence — has been raised with the retirement of Chris Borland, a very good player, who has walked away from the game and millions of dollars at the age of 24 in order to preserve his health, or more specifically, his brain.

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Sweetness And Light
1:09 am
Wed March 18, 2015

News From The Charity Stripe

Arizona State fans showcase their Curtain of Distraction during a game against UCLA on Feb. 18 in Tempe, Ariz.
Rick Scuteri AP

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 10:23 am

It's the venerable custom in tennis and golf for the crowd to be still and quiet when players hit their shots.

Now, since even ordinary baseball batters have some success hitting against 98 mph fastballs with 40,000 fans standing and screaming, do you really believe that great athletes like Novak Djokovic or Rory McIlroy couldn't serve or putt with a few thousand fans hollering? If they'd grown up playing tennis or golf that way, that is. When disorder is a sustaining part of the game, players, in effect, put it out of their minds. Hear no evil, see no evil.

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Sweetness And Light
1:35 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Deford: NCAA Fans Continue To Drink Deeply Of The (Sports) Spirits

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, right, speaks with an official during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 28
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 5:41 am

OK, after an eight-year investigation, the NCAA hit Syracuse University and its basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, with all sorts of penalties for academic and recruiting violations. Normally in sports media, nobody is particularly surprised whenever any coach is caught, so a great deal of speculation was then diverted to how this might affect Boeheim's "legacy."

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Sweetness And Light
1:34 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Alex Rodriguez Is Back, For Better Or Worse

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez watches from the dugout during an intrasquad game at a spring training baseball workout Monday in Tampa, Fla.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 3:27 pm

One of the very best old-time sports columnists was named Jimmy Cannon. He wrote after Hemingway, tough-guy style, and Jimmy had a lot of original devices, too. One was an occasional column he'd do in what I called the second person impersonal. For example, my favorite was about an aging hitting star when he was in a slump. Cannon began: "Your name is Stan Musial and all your bats are broken."

Now, that's how you start a column. And so, in honor of Jimmy Cannon: Your name is Alex Rodriguez, and nobody likes you.

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Sweetness And Light
2:11 am
Wed February 25, 2015

An Uneventful Week In Sports Could Still Go Down In History

Kurt Busch drives during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 2, 2014. Busch was recently suspended indefinitely amid domestic violence accusations.
Larry Papke AP

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 12:42 pm

Sometime in the future, when the Winter Olympics are being held in the tropics, in Zimbabwe, because there are no other dictators that want them and Robert Mugabe promised the International Olympic Committee he'd build an artificial ski mountain, historians will study what happened in sports during these last few days in February of 2015.

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Sweetness And Light
2:38 am
Wed February 18, 2015

John Calipari Gets The Best Out Of His One-And-Done Bench

Kentucky's Aaron Harrison and coach John Calipari watch from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi on Jan. 6. Kentucky won 89-86 in overtime.
James Crisp AP

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 8:27 am

You may have your Bill Belichick and another Super Bowl, you may salute Mike Krzyzewski and his over 1,000 college basketball wins or you may even worship at the altar of Joe Maddon, who's the latest savior ballyhooed to lead the Cubs to heaven above. Forget them all. In the here and now, there is only one coach who stands tallest.

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Sweetness And Light
1:42 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Dear Aging Athletes: Say Hello To Goodbye

Tiger Woods on the ninth hole during the second round of the Phoenix Open last Friday, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Woods, who'll turn 40 this year, is making Frank Deford wonder: How does an athlete know when to retire?
Rick Scuteri AP

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 7:13 am

When Fred Astaire was 69, he gave up dancing, explaining: "At my age, I don't want to disappoint anyone, including myself." All great athletes should keep that quotation up on their bathroom mirror.

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Sweetness And Light
12:58 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Frank Deford To The NBA: Who's On Worst?

The Atlanta Hawks' Mike Scott scores over the Detroit Pistons' Greg Monroe in a game Monday. The Hawks are currently leading the NBA's Eastern Conference.
Dave Tulis AP

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 6:58 am

Even with free agency, our professional leagues show a reliable sort of sameness from year to year. Oh sure, each season there are a few teams that surprise, but mostly, changes in the standings are evolutionary. That said, I don't believe I've ever seen a league that looks so cockeyed as the NBA is this year.

First of all, it's just plain weird to see the two historically glamorous franchises, the Celtics and Lakers, both down near the bottom of the standings, while up top are teams that previously were nondescript also-rans.

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Sweetness And Light
1:39 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Crowning The 33rd-Best Football Team In America

The Yale football team in an undated photo. Commentator Frank Deford finds it curious that a sport as brutal as football became popular among the academic elite.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 10:35 am

So, we finally have our first official college football championship, and something like 50 million or so fans will be watching to see whether Oregon or Ohio State is the 33rd-best team in the country. This statement makes me, I admit, both perfectly accurate and infuriatingly facetious.

Certainly, no one would dispute that even the most miserable of the 32 NFL teams is far superior to any collegiate squad, but at the same time, a great segment of America will be deeply invested in watching what is, essentially, the equivalent of Triple-A baseball.

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Sweetness And Light
1:24 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Deford: It's Hard To Write A Christmas Story About Sport

A sculpture at Britannia stadium in the English city of Stoke-on-Trent commemorates the Christmas Truce, a legendary soccer game played between German and British troops in December 1914.
Rui Vieira AP

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 6:02 am

Several years ago, I wrote a sports Christmas story. It was about a greedy basketball superstar who, imbued with Yuletide cheer, helps save his small-market franchise.

A big-time producer wanted to make a TV movie out of it. So off I went to Hollywood to turn my story into a script and thereby, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, make a killing.

Let me tell you: It's hard to write a Christmas story about sport.

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Sweetness And Light
2:15 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Be Thankful This Year For The San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Miami Heat in game five of the NBA finals in June.
Ashley Landis EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 6:53 am

Has there ever been a team in any sport in the United States that everybody loves as much as the San Antonio Spurs? Sure, there have been popular teams — the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cowboys when they were America's team and not Jerry Jones' team, Notre Dame — but all those teams engendered almost as much hate as love.

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Sweetness And Light
1:49 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Outside Of The Games, Are Sports Corrupt?

The executive committee of FIFA — the international organization that regulates soccer — was so suspected of taking bribes that FIFA ordered its own internal investigation. It's no surprise, says Frank Deford, that it found no wrongdoing.
Kirill Kudryavstev AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 7:03 am

We so regularly excuse the chicanery of sport. We fans suspect that our team is just as guilty as whatever ooze bubbles to the surface elsewhere, so let it go lest we be the next one caught. For us privileged to actually be down in the rabbit hole, the sins have been so present for so long, they simply become accepted as a benign part of the landscape. Hey, it's all just fun and games, so go along, be a — well, be a good sport.

Only, every now and then ...

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Sweetness And Light
1:32 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Americana: Hot Dogs, Apple Pie And Football?

Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Karlos Dansby celebrates during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns won 22-17.
David Richard AP

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 5:02 pm

Every election suggests change, so given all the scandals involving football, now's an appropriate time to envision what reforms might be forced upon the sport. Well, I'll tell you: It's tough to mess with football.

Now, to begin with, from hindsight, it was probably misleading to call baseball "the national pastime." The claim was, essentially, based almost entirely on the fact that baseball was the only team sport that boasted a professional presence. The World Series was our World Cup and the Olympics rolled into one.

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Sweetness And Light
3:00 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Start World Series Games Earlier; Let Us Sleep

Fans cheer during the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park.
Rob Carr Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 8:48 am

Let me ask you a question: No matter what the sport, if you could only see the start of a game or the finish of a game, which would you prefer? Of course, any fool would choose to see the finish of the game.

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Sweetness And Light
2:33 am
Wed October 22, 2014

College Football's Big Ten Conference? Try The Littler Ten

Brandon Wells of the Mississippi State Bulldogs takes the field before a game against the Ole Miss Rebels last year.
Stacy Revere Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 8:24 am

Nothing in sport reflects the changing demographics of the country more than college football — most especially the decline of the Big Ten Conference and the ascendance of the Southeastern Conference.

Big Ten territory represents steel mills and coal mines, blue collars and black smoke, where America's pigskin heroes used to be weaned on frozen fields. But the SEC, in the growing Sun Belt, has completely taken over. Mississippi State is the No. 1 team in the country. Excuse me: Mississippi State? This is like Antiques Roadshow soaring to the top of television ratings.

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Sweetness And Light
1:39 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Nonprofit NFL Seeks Super Bowl Volunteers, Again

Super Bowl volunteer Ben Schreiber distributes fan guides for Super Bowl XLVI festivities in 2012.
Chad Ryan CSM/Landov

Originally published on Wed October 15, 2014 12:18 pm

That familiar old preface we so often hear — usually from long-winded people — is: "To make a long story short." I've noticed lately that that expression has become more common, but, to make a long story short, it's been shortened to just "long story short." I'll even bet it's gotten initialed in the text universe to LSS.

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Sweetness And Light
2:58 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Goodbye To All That: Farewells In Sports

Rulon Gardner took off his shoes to symbolize his retirement after defeating Sajad Barzi, of Iran, during the men's Greco-Roman 120kg wrestling bronze medal bout at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 6:04 am

No, no, I promise: This is not about Derek Jeter. May bats fly down my chimney and trolls enter my door if I inflict any more Derek Jeter farewell upon you. But, of course, I am a sentimental creature, and the player whose name dare not be spoken again did gush forth memories of other grand finales.

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Sweetness And Light
2:19 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Is The NFL Too Big To Fail?

The NFL has had a lot of bad press lately. But it doesn't seem to have any impact on sponsors or fans.
AJ Mast AP

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 5:50 pm

There has been a crowded docket in our preeminent sport. Let's take just three cases. The defendants: the NFL, Roger Goodell and football itself.

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Sweetness And Light
1:33 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics

Commentator Frank Deford advises the White House press office not to let the president be photographed in a golf cart again.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 6:53 am

There's been much criticism of the president lately, even within his own party, that he's too detached and withdrawn, not combative enough anymore. This can be explained completely with a sports analogy: We elected a basketball president, but then we ended up with a golf president.

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Sweetness And Light
1:33 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Deford: Frankly, Hot Dogs Best Served At The Ballpark

Between innings, racing sausages entertain Milwaukee Brewers fans.
Christian Petersen Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 9:52 am

Let's boldly confront the greatest mystery in all of sport: Why do hot dogs always taste better at the ballpark?

Baseball food has, of course, taken on a much greater variety since 1908, when "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" only celebrated peanuts and crackerjack. But it is another enduring mystery of sport why fans eat during a baseball game, while the preferred mode of cuisine for football is before the game, out in the parking lot — tailgating.

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Sweetness And Light
1:26 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Amateurism's Dying Hour

Former University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson graces the cover of NCAA Football 14.
EA Sports

Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 6:02 am

There have been two recent major developments regarding big-time college athletics. While both are tremendously significant, the conclusions in both cases were foreshadowed and there don't appear to be any devils in the details.

The Big Satan — amateurism — took the hardest hit. And understand, most important of all: This is only the beginning. Many more changes in the NCAA and its anachronistic rules lie ahead.

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Sweetness And Light
2:59 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Deford: Is Goodell Good Enough To Lead The NFL?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference in May. Goodell's handling of concerns about concussions and controversies surrounding players has led commentator Frank Deford to wonder whether Goodell is up to the job.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Wed July 30, 2014 11:59 am

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's piddling suspension of Ray Rice of the Ravens for a mere two games for Rice's apparent violent attack upon his then-fiancee, now wife, has been met with shock and disappointment.

But for now, never mind Ray Rice. The larger question is whether Goodell is good enough to serve as the leader of the NFL.

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Sweetness And Light
1:28 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Deford: NCAA Says Amateurism Is Alive And Well, But The Jig Is Up

Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson at practice for the 2014 NCAA men's college basketball tournament. Commentator Frank Deford says that, despite NCAA claims to the contrary, most college players are not typical students — "their job is to play a sport."
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 10:48 am

Amateurism is dead, revealed so in the trial against the NCAA now in progress in Oakland, Calif., U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken presiding. Before her skeptical eyes, amateurism has been laid out naked on a courtroom slab for a jury of all fans to see that it has no beating heart.

Amateurism, Judge Wilken has been told in the case, commonly known as the O'Bannon trial, nobly protects college athletes from being exploited by evil outsiders — so the NCAA knighthood was created in order that colleges could tie up athletes all by themselves.

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Sweetness And Light
1:26 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Deford: How To Host A Sports Extravaganza That Won't Break The Bank

Remodeling the National Stadium Mane Garrincha in Brasilia, Brazil, for the FIFA World Cup cost the Brazilian government $900 million.
Eraldo Peres AP

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 8:22 am

You know, it is the 21st century, and it is possible to acknowledge that and make both the World Cup and the Olympics more affordable. The current waste and opulence simply aren't defensible anymore.

For the soccer pooh-bahs to demand that Brazil build new stadiums, costing billions of dollars, is unconscionable. How much more logical to utilize existing stadiums in neighboring countries, in large cities like Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Santiago.

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Sweetness And Light
1:39 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Will A Triple Crown Win Save Horse Racing? Don't Bet On It

Even if California Chrome wins Saturday's Belmont Stakes, most Americans are too disconnected from horses to flock to the race track, says commentator Frank Deford.
Al Bello Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 6:32 am

At the start of a movie these days, how often do you read: "Based on a true story?" But if a movie was made about California Chrome, whether or not the horse wins the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, it would read: "Based on a dream."

Because the colt — of the most undistinguished heritage, bred by neophytes and trained by a kindly septuagenarian –– well, the whole thing is a ridiculous reverie.

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Sweetness And Light
1:36 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Don't Overlook The Unsung Umpire; Referees Can Be Pretty, Too

Referee Mendy Rudolph officiates a Knicks-Pistons game in 1971. Refs often say it's best to go unnoticed, but an official who "makes a call with vigor and elan is really a beautiful part of the game," says Frank Deford.
AP

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 10:57 am

Not so long ago, while enjoying a libation in a decorous saloon, the proprietor — who happened to hail from the fabled Windy City — suddenly jarred the genteel assembled by turning on the Cubs game. Just at that moment, a Cubby was heading toward the plate when the throw came in, and the runner (spoiler alert!), being a Cub, was tagged out.

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