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John Mamola Wants A Super Bowl, Not A Superspreader Event

“I’m really looking forward to at the end of the day looking back on this thing and saying look, even through a pandemic, we put on a hell of an experience for this market and a hell of a game for NFL fans.”

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Preparing for a Super Bowl to be played in your own backyard is a lot of work for a radio station. Toss in a pandemic complete with restrictions and CDC guidelines and there is a whole extra set of problems to navigate through. It’s something that John Mamola knows all too well leading up to Super Bowl LV this Sunday. John is the program director at 95.3 WDAE and WFLA NewsRadio in Tampa, Florida. Let’s just say he’s been light on sleep lately while living up to the #RespectTheGrind portion of his Twitter bio.

Q&A with John Mamola | Barrett Sports Media

John makes several great points during our conversation below. He mentions why it’s a much different reason that the Super Bowl is a can’t-miss event for the city of Tampa this year. John talks about staying focused on the Chiefs-Buccaneers game not turning into a superspreader event and how Tom Brady challenged everybody. He reveals why he’d be perfectly fine with a 2-0 outcome, and also demonstrates that he’s cool enough to use the word lit without setting off warning sirens. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What’s it like right now in Tampa with the Super Bowl approaching?

John Mamola: The vibe is good. The vibe is positive, a lot of shock, but a lot of excitement. This has been a really good 12 months for this market between the Stanley Cup championship, a World Series appearance, and now a Super Bowl appearance on top of the game being right down the street from where I’m actually driving right now. The vibe is great. This will be my 10th year in this market after moving from Chicago and I’ve never seen the town lit like this. It’s a lot of smiles.

Look, it’s been a rough year for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, but just to have laughs and smiles and excitement, it’s like holy cow, I can’t believe they actually did this. It’s really cool to see. The station is buzzing right now. The listeners are excited and happy and just thrilled to be witnessing what they’re witnessing. Overall it’s a great vibe.

BN: When Tampa secured its Super Bowl berth, what did you immediately think of as a PD in terms of how to maximize the value of this opportunity?

JM: Well the first thing I thought of was how little sleep I’m going to have for two weeks. Beyond that the first thought is that we’ve been on radio row as a station for going on about 15, 17 years, so we knew that part was going to happen. What we didn’t know honestly is what it would look like. I think we’re going to have a really successful week of programming at radio row. We have a ton of people already lined up.

From a sales perspective it was like all right, what are we creating? What can we continue on? Luckily we sold our big game coverage many months ago because the game was here, but what can we add on to it? From a programming standpoint, we’re adding a ton of programming especially on gameday. We were able to secure a singular broadcast site really close to the stadium where the party is going to be at, so if you don’t have a ticket, or if you can’t get in for any reason but you want to be around the stadium, we’re probably at the best place possible to enjoy the game and a couple of libations, socially distanced of course. Also how could we maximize this digitally too?

The difficult part is this is a pandemic so we can’t really do what a normal run of a Super Bowl would do because we can’t get in front of people. We can’t gather. I would love to do a ton of live broadcasts this week just ramping up excitement or live broadcasts on site at a ton of different places instead of maybe going to radio row because radio row is going to be virtual this year for the most part. But at the same time you have to adhere to the guidelines. That kind of limits you at the same time. 

It is very different being the host town because it’s amazing how many people reach out to you as opposed to you reaching out to people. I appreciate that, and believe me, we’re going to use that to our full advantage. It’s just going to be really fun and it’s going to cap off a fantastic year for the market, fantastic year for the station, and it’ll be a really, really good, quality experience I think for everybody involved.

BN: Do you feel like something’s missing with Tampa being the first team to play a home game in a Super Bowl, but with a limited crowd?

JM: Well the Super Bowl wasn’t going to be filled with Bucs fans anyway. It’s the people that can afford those tickets. I don’t think the decreased amount of people that’s going to be there is necessarily a bad thing because the Super Bowl is really never a home crowd anyway. Yeah, there is a little bit of a sentiment of well maybe it could have been, but let’s be honest, not a lot of people can afford that kind of rate on a ticket price. It just wouldn’t be that.

I think the NFL is doing it right by giving first responders, healthcare workers, and frontline people the day in the sun that they deserve by giving them free Super Bowl tickets. I think that’s absolutely the right play. Then saving a certain select number of those for people that can afford them. Not having a home crowd for a home team in the Super Bowl isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

It’ll be interesting though for me just from a viewer of Bucs football, how close to a normal home game they keep it. Do the cannons fire off when they get inside the 20? Do they do that for both teams? Is there fake crowd noise for both teams? The Bucs are the NFC representative as the home team for this, so do they keep it down the line like a normal Super Bowl where you would hear cheering for both teams? I’m interested in seeing how close they have it to an actual Bucs home game. But it’s the NFL’s show. If they want to keep it down the line 50/50, we’ll see how they present that.

It was never going to be a Tampa Bay crowd. The Tampa Bay crowd is going to be the one crowded outside Raymond James Stadium, especially if they win.

BN: What is the city like in terms of security with the game around the corner?

JM: We don’t have a lot of security right now. I don’t know if you’ve been to Tampa, but Raymond James is right next to where the Yankees do their spring training. There is a lot of open field. There’s really only about four streets that surround Raymond James; you’ve got Himes Avenue, Dale Mabry, which I’m on right now, and then you’ve got some cross streets, but that’s really about it. They’ve closed off one of them, and that’s more or less to just set up the parking lot for the entryway and to make sure the people have an easy in for those that are working on the stadium. But as far as security past two or three blocks of the stadium, it’s not there yet. I’m sure that there’s going to be fencing going up. There’s fencing already up in the parking lots to help people enter. Obviously there’s going to be COVID precautions so people will probably get their temperature checked and all that kind of stuff. But around town? It’s normal traffic right now. I’m sure Thursday or Friday will probably be a little different. There’s not really a bigger sense of security yet.

Bucs can clearly see Super Bowl 55 from here

BN: What’s the difference between how you manage the news station’s content and how you manage the sports station’s content right now?

JM: The news station’s content is a different audience. Let’s call a spade a spade; it’s a red state. People that listen to what we do on WFLA like the Bucs, they kind of keep up with the Bucs, but they’re not in love with the Bucs. The audience on DAE loves the Bucs and doesn’t really want any of the political stuff.

As far as the news station, for me it’s just kind of making sure we have the right people on. We’re the official media partner of the host committee. I try to make sure we give them their time on the station. Rob Higgins who’s the Executive Director of the Sports Commission has done a fantastic job with us for many, many years. Obviously giving him some time to talk about the events and things to do around town, not necessarily X’s and O’s. It’s just more or less giving people information on how they can experience a little slice of the Super Bowl.

With COVID, everything is restricted for the most part. The Super Bowl experience is typically open to the public. You can come in, come out. This year you have to get an appointment and you have a certain amount of time that you have to enjoy it. All of those are sold out. If you’re looking to get a pass right now, good luck. It probably ain’t happening. It’s just making sure that people are informed as opposed to really diving in. Street closures will be a bigger thing when we get closer to the game. Press conferences obviously we’ll be running that in our news and sports reports. We don’t do deep dives on the news station like we do on the sports station. There is a little directive to pepper it in here and there just with the most update information as possible, but really it’s not in-depth kind of stuff.

Also making sure that people understand that when the game is over, it’s not a mosh pit. I know when the Bucs got back into town there were a lot of people around the airport. The city just mandated masks everywhere, even outdoors and all public places. They’re serious about this. We do not want this to be remembered as a superspreader event. We want this to be remembered as a great showcase of the entire area and that does include Clearwater, St. Pete, and the Sarasota area too. We don’t want this to be remembered for something other than that.

BN: Along those same lines, how would you describe the way Tampa planned for the pandemic, and how it was actually hit by the pandemic.

JM: Let’s start with the second part. We were supposed to have a Stanley Cup run. We were supposed to have WrestleMania. We were supposed to have the Valspar tournament down here. We were supposed to have a little slice of March Madness. The Rays season got shortened. We couldn’t go to any of those games. The amount of money that this market lost between March Madness, WrestleMania, a World Series, a Stanley Cup, Tom Brady just in general playing home games, and on top of that you throw a Super Bowl that isn’t going to be like any other Super Bowl. I’m sure the lost revenue that was planned is just going to be absolutely massive.

With that being said, when this whole thing started I feel the host committee knew the challenge they had in front of them. They held everything very close to the vest. They didn’t want to make any proclamations like, oh yeah, we expect this and we expect that. No, they were very aware and very good at adjusting. That’s also a credit to the local governments out here between Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater — Mayor Castor of Tampa, Mayor Kriseman of St. Pete — working with the host committee on trying to make this still a great experience for not only the area, but everyone traveling to the area. I think they adjusted really well to this. We don’t even know what tomorrow is going to look like with this thing, unfortunately. Every state is a little different. Every situation is a little different.

Florida has a high number of cases. It just does. People are very lax about wearing masks around here. But if you can make it known that this is going to be distanced, it is going to be to the CDC guidelines, then it’s up to them to adjust to that. Radio row is going to be completely different. They’ve cut down on the amount of outlets that can come out. We have plexiglass now on tables at radio row, which will be interesting for the setup on Sunday.

With the amount of loss that this market had with just potential revenue for some really big events, I think they approached this one as we can’t miss. I think they really, really adjusted well to where they can still make this a really great event — again not just for the locals and those traveling — but also a great showcase for the area. Everyone has worked together. It’s been tremendous teamwork for the entire area and the host committee. I’m really looking forward to at the end of the day looking back on this thing and saying look, even through a pandemic, we put on a hell of an experience for this market and a hell of a game for NFL fans.

BN: It’s funny, man. You’ve been there for about a decade and this is the first playoff experience for Tampa.

JM: Yeah, how bout that, huh?

BN: I know, right? How would you describe what Tom Brady has meant to the Tampa area?

JM: I’ve always looked at Buccaneers fans like Cub fans. Every year there’s a renewed hope. No matter who’s wearing a jersey, every year is a new hope. I love ‘em for that. But when you have the greatest player, quarterback, whatever, to come into your backyard — I don’t care if he’s 65 years old — the fact that he’s putting on the pewter and red, that’s a huge burst of energy and just a jolt of life into the organization.

We got the feel that Tom was thinking Tampa really early. It was like, ehh probably not, but it’s kind of fun to think about. Then it happened. It was about two weeks of like holy crap. [Laughs] We got Tom Brady playing football. I got more calls from people in Boston saying hey congratulations. I was like well I didn’t do anything, but thanks, appreciate it. 

It’s just breathed new life into a product that every year you kind of start hot, like man here we go, Buccaneers football is finally here. We’re out at training camp, we do the preseason, we get those first couple of games in, and then typically by end of October we’re kind of done with it. The season is pretty much over. You have those diehards, so you have to supply them with some Buccaneers conversation and breakdowns, but it just seemed too routine. Then you put that guy in there wearing number 12 and it’s like okay, this is different. It was almost like it challenged everybody to be a better fan. It challenged us to be a better radio station. It’s just been a really, really interesting journey. 

Tom Brady, Shaq Barrett lead Bucs past Broncos - Orlando Sentinel

Then on top of that, Bucs fans are also Rays fans and Bolts fans too. This has been Christmas in a pandemic for them. When he signed it was like okay, this is for real now. It’s home run or nothing now and it’s been a home run ever since. Everybody is benefiting. Everybody wins. It’s a good vibe in the market. It’s a good vibe for fans because goddammit they needed it. Five years of Jameis Winston? To have the GOAT here has been a real good vibe. I don’t care if he plays until he’s 70; just keep playing. Let’s just keep it going.

BN: How do you think Tampa winning the Super Bowl would benefit DAE?

JM: When I first started here we used to have a slogan because the home games were blacked out because they didn’t sell a certain percentage of tickets. We always used to say when the Bucs would lose, it’s good for us because people need a place to bitch and vent. No one wants to talk about a winner. Now? It’s completely different.

We’ve had a Stanley Cup and a World Series to kind of introduce more people to us. We’ve benefited off of that. It’s kind of like Trump. Trump gets Obama’s economy and then he takes full credit for it because then the economy is great. It’s kind of like that too. We’ve benefited so much off a Lightning Stanley Cup run and a Rays World Series run, then you add Tom Brady and a Buccaneers Super Bowl run to that, we’re capitalizing off that because we already got everyone else.

Our ratings have been fantastic every single book. Our digital numbers are even better than they were last year and those were some bigger numbers than we’ve ever had. The station is benefiting because it’s Tom Brady and they’re winning.

Honestly if you’re not winning if you had all of this success, you probably should just hang it up. You really should. This never happens. I think it’s only happened in Boston like once. And look what happened with EEI and Sports Hub; they’re combined 25, 30 shares. You’re not going to get that in Tampa, but the numbers that we’re doing and the revenue that we’re generating is fantastic. If we weren’t doing that, then you wouldn’t be talking to me right now. I promise you that.

BN: I think I have to ask you for a prediction, man. What do you think about the game?

JM: You know, it’s funny; I’m a Bears fan. You know that. I wanted Tom Brady so bad. It’s like God, because Trubisky is awful. I’ve always said what makes the Bucs dangerous is that there’s no pressure. None. Because the guy that puts it all on his shoulders is the guy that’s in his 10th one. That team is playing loose. They’re smiling. They’re high-fiving. They haven’t had a team really test them to where they’re breaking. Everyone thought when Antonio Brown signed here that it would change the culture of the locker room and it didn’t. Tom Brady tried to high-five a ref against the Saints. Come on, man.

This team is playing with house money and they know it. Now they’re in their own damn stadium. There ain’t no pressure on this team. None. That starts with the top. It starts with BA and it starts with Tom. I got the Bucs winning and why not, right? Cap off 2020 with a Stanley Cup, an NFL Championship, and a World Series berth. Hell yeah, let’s do it. I don’t have a score and don’t care as long as they win.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians takes shot at Patriots with Tom Brady  comments

BN: Yeah, you’d take 3-0.

JM: Get a safety for all I care. As long as they win.

BSM Writers

Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

May be an image of text

What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?

Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.

To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:

#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?

#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?

#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?

If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!

Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.

Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:

#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.

#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.

#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.

#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.

#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.

Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!

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BSM Writers

Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas

“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”

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Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!

One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.

Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.

There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.

Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.

I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.

Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.

It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.

If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.

Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.

A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.

We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.

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