Football takes a back seat

In peaceful times, the SUNY-Maritime campus and athletics facilities are in a picturesque spot, right on the water. But right on the water was not the place to be the past week in New York and New Jersey.
SUNY-Maritime file photo

Along the coastal states in the East, hurricanes during football season are an every-season occurrence. Most pass through leaving minor damage, and occasionally a football game is affected.

Monday’s arrival of “superstorm” Sandy followed the usual script in many of the states where Division III football is played – in Virginia, North Carolina and parts of New England, it was batten down the hatches, let the wind and rain pass through, and get back to business as usual by Wednesday.

In New York City and northern New Jersey, though, the storm was a life-threatening event. As of Thursday afternoon, life was quite unusual, differing from campus to campus, leaving football games to take their proper place far down the order of importance.

“This is unlike anything we’ve ever been through,” New Jersey Athletic Conference commissioner Terry Small said.

William Paterson canceled its game with Cortland State, Kean postponed a game at Rowan to at least Sunday, then later canceled it, while Montclair State’s game with Brockport State was set to be played Saturday at 1 p.m. as scheduled.

If you drew a triangle on the map of northern New Jersey between Kean, William Paterson and MAC member FDU-Florham, which canceled its game against Widener, Montclair State would be in the middle of that triangle. None of the schools is much more than 35 miles from New York City, and the Hudson River, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that NYC and the New Jersey shore took the brunt of the storm and suffered the worst damage, much of it from flooding.

How can some schools be canceling games, others postponing and others playing?

“The problem is, no two places are exactly alike,” said Small, who was hustling around the state on Thursday trying to get tournaments for volleyball, soccer and other fall sports underway so that NJAC teams could determine a champion before the NCAA selects its playoff fields in those sports next Sunday and Monday.

Small, who is based in southern New Jersey near Rowan, had visited Richard Stockton, a non-football D-III school about 15 miles from Atlantic City. While the resort town suffered serious damage and upheaval to the regular way of life, Small said Richard Stockton seemed as if no storm had hit at all.

In North Jersey, Kean and William Paterson were still without power, as perhaps TCNJ in Central Jersey was. Montclair State was back up and running, which meant their students could return to campus. The other schools, which took warnings about Sandy seriously and sent students home or moved them to the safest places possible, weren’t back to normal yet. Far from it.

A football game isn’t an easy thing to reschedule. Small points out that a doctor and an ambulance must be on hand, “and as you can imagine, those people have higher priorities right now.” There’s also a need for seven officials, plus a stat crew and a chain gang, often made up of students.

In Kean’s case, the matter of having no power and therefore no students means no practice. The Cougars recruit a good portion of their team from Ocean and Monmouth Counties, two of the hardest hit, and coaches haven’t been able to contact all of their players.

“They can’t get word to their players to get to them to assemble,” said Small. “And even if so, where would they practice?”

Right now in parts of New Jersey, phone service is spotty and there are 30-minute waits to pump fuel.

Average citizens are having trouble getting gas, then it’s probably not a good idea to send a fuel-guzzling bus into that area. For a game. Small said bus companies had turned down some NJAC schools this week.

That and a concern about available hotel space for Cortland State, which was coming from four hours and 200 miles away from William Paterson, also factored into the decision to cancel the Red Dragons-Pioneers game.

“Canceling games, that’s everybody’s last resort,” Small said. “Especially William Paterson and Cortland State. They did everything they could to try to get this game played.”

Canceled games represent a lost opportunity for players who, in football, sometimes only get nine or 10 to begin with. It led one FDU-Florham lineman to tweet on Thursday, “Let’s go clean up the field and campus ourselves. I’m willing to do anything to play one more home game.”

Any of us who played would do crazy things to play once more. It’s part of a football player’s DNA. But in reality, canceling a game, and putting people’s safety first, is the only move a school’s administration can make in this situation.

Montclair State might have had a tree on the field at one point during the week, but having the campus safely up and running is a big difference from the scene at the other campuses.

Forty-five miles from FDU-Florham, SUNY-Maritime was still closed on Thursday. The Privateers campus and field is in Throggs Neck, a part of the Bronx that juts out into the East River as it becomes Long Island Sound. Photos moved on the national wire services of Maritime Academy members leading rowboats down New York City streets.

Privateers coach Clayton Kendrick-Holmes surprisingly returned a phone call on Thursday, saying that power had been restored on campus Wednesday afternoon, and even though students weren’t due back until Sunday and the game at Norwich was postponed, things weren’t too bad.

“Everything’s a little worse in the news,” said the coach, who lives on campus and noted that much of SUNY-Maritime’s 53 acres was buffered from the storm by Long Island. The campus was about 35 acres when water rose to its highest point, and the water intrusion caused damage to power, heat and internet service on campus.

The campus was being used to train volunteer first responders from as far away as Missouri and Georgia, Kendrick-Holmes said.

“It’s still a mess here,” he said. “But we’ll help each other get back on our feet. That’s what New York is all about.”

As for the game with Norwich, it held special significance for the Privateers because SUNY-Maritime has never won there, and that game had decided the ECFC title in previous seasons. Kendrick-Holmes would like to play the Norwich game on the 17th (the first Saturday after the regular season ends), but doesn’t know if the Cadets would choose a potential ECAC game instead.

In that case, he said he’s reaching out to FDU-Florham, whose players lost their senior day, to ask about a matchup on the 17th.

“You want to do it for the kids,” Kendrick-Holmes said. “You put in so much work in a football season. For a kid in a good program who maybe only starts his junior and senior year, he only plays 20 games. Losing one is not insignificant.”

But Kendrick-Holmes, a naval reservist who has served in Afghanistan, keeps it all in perspective.

“The most important thing is no life was lost,” he said.

Across the sound at Kings Point, Merchant Marine Academy was still closed on Thursday, and no announcement had been made about the Mariners’ noon game at Union on Saturday, meaning it was still on.

Kendrick-Holmes called to check on coach Mike Toop and the Mariners. I was glad to have spoken with the Privateers, but found it hard to harass coaches about football games if their campuses weren’t really up and running. It’s tough to balance being potentially insensitive with chronicling an unprecedented event to those of us in D-III who were spared the worst of the storm, or for those of you who didn’t have to deal with it at all.

“I almost feel kind of guilty myself,” said Small, whose house was spared damage and whose area of New Jersey wasn’t dealing with a fuel crisis. The commissioner was doing the best he could to get the games to go on, games which mean a lot to the people who work so hard to be able to play them.

At the same time, NJAC coaches had suffered damage to their primary residences and were scrambling to get in touch with family members earlier in the week. The games are important, yes. But they are still just games.

Pool A watch

When and where it’s okay to still care a lot about the games, it’s that time of year. Much of the fan interest surrounds who’ll win each of the 24 conferences whose championships come with an automatic qualifier to the playoff field of 32.

Let’s take a quick look at each conference and the clinching or tiebreaker scenarios, based on what happens in Weeks 10 and 11.

ASC – Mary-Hardin Baylor, at 5-0 in the conference with wins over Louisiana College (4-1, 6-2) and Hardin-Simmons (4-1, 5-3), the only two other teams with fewer than three ASC losses, can clinch with a win at East Texas Baptist (2-3, 3-5) on Saturday. The Crusaders close at home against Mississippi College.

CC – Johns Hopkins (7-0, 8-0) has a two-game lead over Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg and Muhlenberg (all 5-2, 6-2) and would clinch with a win at F&M on Saturday. In Week 11, the Blue Jays host 0-7, 0-8 McDaniel.

CCIW – North Central (5-0, 7-1) leads Elmhurst (4-1, 7-1) and Wheaton (4-1, 6-2). A win against the Thunder in the Little Brass Bell game, which the Cardinals host, would clinch the CCIW. A loss would throw the focus toward the Illinois Wesleyan (3-2, 6-2) at Elmhurst game in Week 11. Even if the Bluejays won that, their three-way tie with North Central and Wheaton would likely favor the Cardinals. NCC beat Elmhurst 44-10, and the Bluejays beat Wheaton 35-30, so on points among tied teams, Wheaton would need to win the Little Brass Bell game by 20. However, a win against NCC and an IWU win at Elmhurst would give Wheaton the AQ.

ECFC – Mount Ida (5-0, 7-1) and Castleton State (5-0, 6-2) are pointed toward a showdown in Vermont in Week 11. Even with a Mustangs loss at Gallaudet (3-2, 5-3), in the season’s most significant road trip, they’d still have a shot at the AQ by beating the Spartans.

Empire 8 – This could get interesting. Salisbury (4-1, 6-2) could take control by beating Utica (4-1, 6-2) at home on Saturday. The Sea Gulls finish in the Regents Cup game against Frostburg State (1-4, 3-5). Utica would also take control with a win, but hosts third-place St. John Fisher (3-2, 6-2) in Week 11. If Alfred (3-2, 4-3) beats Frostburg State and Hartwick (0-5, 3-5) in the final two weeks, SJFC beats Buffalo State (3-3, 5-4) and Utica, all four teams would finish with two losses in E8 play. The Empire 8 website kindly lists its tiebreaker procedures, so in the event of a four-way deadlock, Utica and Salisbury are 2-1 among the four teams (with additional losses to Ithaca) and Alfred and St. John Fisher would be 1-2. Eliminate those two, and go back to head-to-head between Utica and Salisbury. Yup, this Saturday’s game is pretty much for all the marbles.

HCAC – The Nov. 10 Victory Bell game at Franklin against Hanover will decide it. Both teams are currently 6-0, 6-2, although the Grizzlies non-D3 loss means they could be a surprise Pool C candidate in case of defeat.

IIAC – Coe (8-0, 5-0) has a two-game lead on four teams, and will clinch with a win Saturday at Luther (0-5, 0-8), or with one in Week 11 at home against Central (3-2, 4-4).

LL – Hobart (8-0, 5-0) is coming off a win against Union (4-1, 4-4), its closest competitor, and would clinch with a win Saturday at St. Lawrence (0-5, 0-8) or at home against Rochester (2-3, 3-4) in Week 11.

MAC -- Though Widener (7-0, 8-0) had its game with FDU-Florham (2-5, 2-6) cancelled and Delaware Valley (6-1, 6-2) may not play its game Saturday against Wilkes (3-4, 4-4), the conference office will apparently honor the three-way tie scenario with Lycoming (6-1, 6-2) even though the teams won't have the same number of MAC games. That means Widener needs to beat Delaware Valley in Week 11 to clinch, and Del Val needs to win by 16 or more to get the AQ. Otherwise, it belongs to Lycoming, assuming the Warriors beat Stevenson (1-6, 1-7) and Misericordia (0-7, 0-8).

MIAA – Adrian (5-0, 7-1) clinches with a win at Albion (3-1, 6-2) on Saturday. The Bulldogs finish their MIAA slate a week early so they can travel to independent Huntingdon, while a Britons win and another in Week 11 at home against Hope (3-2, 4-5) could open the door for a three-way tie with Trine (3-1, 5-3), which beat Albion 27-22 then lost to Adrian 10-3. I had to dig way back to find a mention of the MIAA’s tiebreaking procedures, but if overall record or strength of non-conference competition comes into play, Adrian would be in the best shape, but there’s still a chance for Albion with an Adrian loss in Alabama. I promise to contact the MIAA to clear this up, should this scenario arise.

MIAC – St. Thomas (6-0, 8-0) leads but faces a challenge this week in a trip to Concordia-Moorhead (5-1, 7-1), which is one last-second touchdown away from being unbeaten as well. The Cobbers could make this race interesting, as Bethel (5-1, 7-1) would finish in a three-way tie. Concordia would need to beat St. Thomas by 19 to win the tiebreaker, otherwise, St. Thomas would win.

MWC -- Lake Forest (8-0, 8-1) leads, but might not clinch unless it beats St. Norbert in Week 11. The Foresters are on bye this week, so if the Green Knights lose to Grinnell, then it's over. Illinois College (6-1, 7-1) lost by a TD to Lake Forest and does not play St. Norbert. The MWC uses quarters led as its three-way tiebreaker in this case, which keeps IC's hopes alive.

NathCon -- Concordia-Chicago (5-0, 8-0) clinches with a win over Lakeland (2-3, 2-6) or Maranatha Baptist (0-5, 0-8).

NCAC -- Wabash, Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan are all 4-1, 7-1. Kenyon is 4-1, 5-3, and all four tied teams have not played head to head. The Little Giants have beaten the Tigers and Battling Bishops, and the Lords lost to OWU. With no big clashes remaining, the tie could come down to wins over NCAC teams in descending order or away conference losses to sort out the AQ. Many of the available scenarios favor Wittenberg, despite its loss to Wabash, who lost to Allegheny (3-2, 4-4). Other scenarios favor the Little Giants, and in either case, Wabash and Wittenberg are strong Pool C candidates, while OWU's SoS makes it difficult for them.

NEFC -- Framingham State (7-0, 8-1) will represent the Bogan Division in the conference title game, while Salve Regina (6-1, 8-1) needs only to beat Nichols (1-5, 1-8) to clinch the Boyd Division.

NJAC -- Cortland State has clinched.

NWC -- Linfield (4-0, 7-0) finishes with Puget Sound (0-4, 0-7) and Pacific (2-2, 3-4). One win clinches.

OAC -- Mount Union (7-0, 8-0) has outscored conference opponents, 375-14, and beat Heidelberg (6-1, 7-1) last Saturday. The Purple Raiders face Baldwin Wallace (6-1, 7-1) this week. The Yellow Jackets nearly beat Mount Union last season, but haven't finished the job since 1994. If they make history this year, it would be interesting, since BW just this week self-reported financial aid violations and took itself out of playoff consideration. BW also has a Week 11 game with Heidelberg, and the Student Princes play 6-2 John Carroll in Week 10.

ODAC -- Perhaps the biggest mess of them all could have a clean finish. Washington & Lee (4-1, 6-2) hosts Hampden-Sydney (same record) this Saturday. Randolph-Macon (3-2, 5-3) and Bridgewater (3-2, 6-2) play this week, but they share third place with Guilford (3-2, 4-4). There remains this scenario: H-SC beats W&L, R-MC beats Bridgewater and H-SC, and Guilford loses one of two, leaving H-SC, R-MC and W&L with two conference losses. That scenario would favor W&L, on the basis of the losses being to higher teams in the standings.

PAC -- On-bye Waynesburg (7-0, 9-0) could clinch if Washington & Jefferson (5-1, 6-2) loses this week to Geneva (2-4, 2-6), but more than likely, the Yellow Jackets' visit from the Presidents in Week 11 will settle it.

SCIAC -- Cal Lutheran (5-0, 6-1) is in control, but Chapman (4-1, 5-2) and Redlands (4-1, 4-3) could force a three-way tie by winning out. The Kingsmen and Panthers meet in Week 11 in Thousand Oaks.

UMAC -- Greenville (6-1, 6-2) visits Northwestern (7-0, 8-1) Saturday, and the Eagles could clinch with a win. Greenville, which lost 45-3 to St. Scholastica, which lost 14-13 to Northwestern, could force a three-way tie. And believe it or not, the UMAC tiebreaker after head to head is random draw.

USAC -- By virtue of their 38-31 win over Ferrum (4-1, 6-2) earlier in the season, Christopher Newport (4-1, 5-3) has an edge, and needs to beat Greensboro (2-3, 4-4) and Methodist (2-3, 4-5) to clinch.

WIAC -- UW-Oshkosh has clinched.

Pool B watch

Wesley’s win over Huntingdon essentially locked up the bid for the Wolverines, who are No. 2 in the regional rankings. Besides those two, no other Pool B teams are regionally ranked or have anything but the longest of long shots to get in as an at large, via Pool C.

Pool C watch

Now that we have regional rankings released and a Pool A watch completed above, there is enough information to work with to do a mock round of playoff discussion to figure out which seven teams would get the at-large bids.

Of course, we now have such an active message board that credible projections are done by fans, and so I’ll point you to those, rather than repeat 95% of the same info, and add some new thoughts.

Here’s wally_wabash’s seven Pool C selections as of this week.

Here’s his explanation of how he selected each at-large team based on the four on the board at any given time.

Here are a few thoughts:

Pool C is looking better and better for the two-loss teams with high SoS figures, but as I point out below, it’s still wise to look at who teams beat rather than who they lost to.

Pacific Lutheran would greatly benefit from Willamette sneaking into one of the final rounds of regional rankings (the committee will do its own, that it does not release, after Week 11).

I’m not sure it matters who wins the MIAC tiebreaker if Concordia-Moorhead beats St. Thomas. All three should go.

CCIW and Empire 8 teams were the big losers in the regional rankings. The NEFC came out looking pretty good.

There aren’t many teams who could drop into Pool C and cause trouble. Widener is one. Perhaps Waynesburg is another.

Three points of clarity

It’s important to acknowledge here, for those of you who do not know, some key information in the way things are organized.

• Conferences are responsible for determining their own tiebreakers for the automatic qualifier. The factors used to sort out tied scenarios vary from conference to conference, and they are not the same as the criteria used to select the Pool B team or award the seven at-large bids in Pool C. That criteria, also used to regionally rank and seed teams, is listed in last week’s ATN, as well as in our playoff FAQ.

• Also important I start using the word “cluster” to define the playoff brackets, so as not to confuse them with the individual administrative regions in which much of the D-III season is sorted out by. The playoff brackets do not fall along Division III football’s regional lines (East, South, North, West), but they are clustered geographically to limit the number of 68-person travel contingents the NCAA has to pay to fly to playoff games. The language right in the championships handbook says that the selection committee is to create the most competitive bracket possible under the D-III philosophy, which means limiting travel costs (with playoff clustering and an emphasis on regional games and limiting missed class time.

Section 8.1 of the handbook:

The Division III championships philosophy is to field the most competitive teams possible while minimizing missed class time; to emphasize regional competition in regular-season scheduling; and to provide representation in NCAA championship competition by allocating berths to eligible conferences, independent institutions and a limited number of at-large teams, realizing that this may be done at the expense of leaving out some championship-caliber teams.

• We talk so much about one-loss and two-loss teams, and the ways selection committees – and sometimes poll voters – separate those teams is by who you play (strength of schedule) and who you’ve actually beaten.

“It’s not who you lost to, it’s who you beat” gets repeated around here frequently, but we sometimes must remind ourselves of it.

Gagliardi Trophy watch

I haven’t given the potential trophy winner a ton of thought, but at this point in the season, I should at least throw out a few names.

First though, a few major differences between the Gagliardi and Heisman, and I don’t just mean that the Gagliardi seeks to honor the best player who’s also a good student and contributes in the community.

1. Schools nominate their own. So if the coach and the school president doesn’t get behind the player as one who represents the school well, it doesn’t matter if he’s the “best” football player in the country. The school has to throw the player’s name into the hat.

2. One per school. So while Mary Hardin-Baylor quarterback LiDarral Bailey and linebacker Javicz Jones might each have a good shot at winning the award if nominated, only one will be up for it.

3. The J-Club, which gives out the award, narrows the field to 10, and doesn’t typically discuss who was or was not nominated, or why. The committee, and the public, which gets a chance to cast one vote via our site, doesn’t really influence anything until this point.

4. The selection committee is comprised of people who have D-III connections, but not always die-hards who know that certain conferences are more competitive than others, etc. That can be good, in years when a player’s numbers bowl the committee over, but it can also mean that in years when a safety or defensive tackle is clearly the best player, it can be tough to beat out a quarterback or running back’s gaudy stats. I give the Gagliardi credit though – Blaine Westemeyer, the Augustana tackle, is still the only offensive lineman I know to have won any of the major awards in any division.

Here’s a quick off-the-top watch list: Bailey, Jones, Mount Union safety Nick Driskill or linebacker Charles Dieuseul, Cal Lutheran wide receiver Eric Rogers, Mount St. Joseph running back James Clay, Castleton State quarterback Shane Brozowski, Widener quarterback Chris Haupt, Utica quarterback Andrew Benkwitt, Puget Sound wide receiver Adam Kniffin, Hanover wide receiver Daniel Passafiume, Elmhurst running back Scottie Williams, Albion running back Clinton Orr, Thomas More safety Zach Autenreib, RPI quarterback Mike Hermann, Chicago wide receiver Dee Brizzolara.

If I had to pick a player right now though, I’d go with UW-Oshkosh quarterback Nate Wara. I don’t know the full background, but I know he’s been good his entire career and better this year, lifting his team to heights unseen, not just himself.

Next week, I’ll take a look at the Liberty Mutual coach of the year, some of the scholar-athlete awards and more.

Three takes on Week 10

No need to tweet us for predictions. If Pat Coleman, Ryan Tipps or I have anything to say about any game, it’ll be in Friday morning’s Triple Take, the weekly primer on where the big games are and upsets might be in D-III.

This week, we’ll call a few teams that will clinch, weigh in on which turnarounds have been most impressive, and predict some risers in the regional rankings, along with our normal picks of surprises and teams to keep on the radar.

Six ways to Saturday

I enjoyed the full Postgame Show for the first time this week, and to watch them all together, with D3reports, takes almost an hour. Yet it gives insight into game days on campus and a feel for a program that we really haven’t been accustomed to seeing.

So now that I acknowledged that I appreciate the contributions, a few critical thoughts:

Keep the reports to 2-3 minutes, and the highlights to 3-4. I guess we can always fast forward, but I think there’s probably an interest level that the national audience has for a game it is not connected to, and it’s definitely not five minutes.

Include both teams, if you would be so kind. I know your jobs are probably to do your school’s highlights or reports, but it’s just weird to see a highlight package ignoring the other team that beat you by 28 or showing no offensive plays from the school that gained 814 yards.

Music is better than silence, I suppose, but game audio is the best. I could live without the Wiz Khalifa and Drake, as those guys don’t exactly scream “football” to me, but they’re your highlights. Do you.

All in all, I think the highlights plus D3Reports as “Postgame Show” are a good addition.

Other ways to stay connected to ATN …

• Throughout the week on Twitter. Follow @D3Keith. It’s a sporadic stream of short-form minutiae, most of it D-III related. It’s also the best way to directly converse with the column’s author. There’s also @d3football and @D3MidAtlantic (Tipps), plus five of our regional columnists: @AdamTurer, @Andrew_Lovell, @BLester1993, @clydehughes and @kylerobarts.

If you want to get us to notice you, use hashtag #d3fb. On Saturdays, the ability to sort by hashtag on Twitter gives D-III football its own channel for live insights, in addition to our live scoreboards, which is home to instantaneous updates, plus all the live stats, audio and video links we’re aware of.

• On Around the Nation’s Post Patterns thread, at the top of the General Football board. That’s the next-best place to ask a question about a topic raised in the column, or continue a discussion unrelated to this week’s ATN.

• Mondays, Pat Coleman and I wrap up the week that was in our podcast. Download from iTunes or listen to it in the Daily Dose’s media player.

• When the column publishes on Thursdays.

• In Friday morning’s Triple Take, on The Daily Dose.

• On instagram, via @d3keith.

On Saturdays, our running game day conversation no longer lives on the Daily Dose, but on Twitter.

The press box

Crowd sourcing: I'm looking for your photos wearing D-III shirts or hats on vacations or at famous places around the world. It's for a future project, showing how we represent.

I’d also like to establish a D-III buzz index. If there is a way we could dump every Around the Nation into a computer, and have it determine how many times each team has been mentioned over the years, it could be pretty interesting what pops out. I always think about how ATN can reach places like Bethany and Lawrence and Howard Payne, which I feel like I so rarely write about.

And I’m still looking for ex-players and others willing to give testimonials about all-star games they’ve played in recruiting services they’ve used and more. Please e-mail for more details.

For the Love of the Game: Show your love everywhere you go with an original, high-quality, color-themed Division III shirt from zazzle.com/D3Keith.

Readers: Around the Nation encourages your opinions, questions and insights. Readers can best get a response by posting on Around the Nation's running thread on Post Patterns (under general football). Send e-mail to keith.mcmillan@d3sports.com or use our feedback form.

Sports Information Directors: To contact Keith McMillan, use keith.mcmillan@d3sports.com, or mail to D3football.com, 12457 Manchester Way, Woodbridge, Va., 22192.

Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his second season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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November 13, 2016
Snap Judgments: Hellos and goodbyes
Today is going to be bittersweet for many. We take a look at the teams that announced their arrival...
November 10, 2016
Out of the darkness, light
Sometimes, things don’t go your way. Sometimes, your highest expectations are crushed by...
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