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Autistic Basketball Player throws down
February 24, 2006 10:44 AM   Subscribe

The story of an autistic basketball player in his first game (youtube video) is an amazing story. It's worth the three minutes and you might even shed a tear of joy by the end.
posted by mathowie (94 comments total)

 
I feel a screenplay coming on...
posted by WhipSmart at 10:47 AM on February 24, 2006


Aw, man! That was....really, really cool.
posted by jennyjenny at 10:51 AM on February 24, 2006


Whipsmart took the words right out of my mouth... fantastic stuff.
posted by greycap at 10:52 AM on February 24, 2006


That kid should enter a few 3-point-shooting contests.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:53 AM on February 24, 2006


Saw it on CNN this morning. Six in a row, man!
posted by DieHipsterDie at 10:53 AM on February 24, 2006


*sniff*
posted by iconomy at 10:55 AM on February 24, 2006


Caught that on the news last night. Really cool.
posted by JeffK at 10:55 AM on February 24, 2006


Nice. I wonder if somewhere deep down, the coach was thinking, "crap, why didn't I try this his freshman year?"
posted by Pollomacho at 10:56 AM on February 24, 2006


Wow.
posted by graventy at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2006


A story almost identical to this one aired on HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel a few months back. Eeriely identical. Suspiciously identical? Only the kid in the Real Sports one had brown hair, and I guess, since it aired around December, they were talking about last season.
posted by ChasFile at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2006


saw this on the local news last night. they had an interview with the kid the day after the game. apparently he was having a hard time getting to class on time the following day. all his schoolmates stopping him in the hall to congratulate him. great great story. goosebump inducing.
posted by puddles at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2006


Am I wrong in guessing the autism would mean he could just practice three pointers all day long and get really good at them?
posted by mathowie at 11:02 AM on February 24, 2006


AWESOME. I love how even the OTHER TEAM runs out on the court as the game ends to cheer him.
posted by mrbill at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2006


Wow....I was all ready to be my cynical self and write 'Oh ya, another Coach Carter story, yawn', until I actually clicked the linked, smiled from ear to ear and almost shed a tear.

Great stuff. thanks!
posted by Sijeka at 11:07 AM on February 24, 2006


That was great. I was all ready to snark, but after I saw it I had a goofy smile on my face.
posted by Falconetti at 11:07 AM on February 24, 2006


I especially love the guy filming (or someone near him) yelling HOOOOWHOOOOOWHOOOO OOOHHHWHHHHOOOOO!

Awesome indeed.
posted by Sijeka at 11:08 AM on February 24, 2006


Sort of embarrassing to get choked up at work. Great stuff.
posted by P-Soque at 11:11 AM on February 24, 2006


Tears streaming. Great post. Thanks.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 11:12 AM on February 24, 2006


Just curious: Would this make him a high-functioning autistic? I mean, wow, that would be awesome.
posted by countzen at 11:18 AM on February 24, 2006


Obviously, the 2-3 zone wasn't working.
posted by horsewithnoname at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2006


Nice story but, I have nothing against human intrest stories, but the media has a tendosey to portray people with disabilities as helpless until a more "normal" person (in this case, the coach) is able to provide them with an opprotunity. Nowhere do you see stories about people with disabilities overcoming all on their own. Im in a wheelchair and I have no vocal ability and yet I overcome a lot. Im dreaming to be a public speaker but nowhere is that type of story found in today's media. My spelling is bad, my grammer could use a little yet I live a whole and prophiiling life. The stories run more of the mentality of were helpless but in reality, were not. A lot of what this story is about, as i see it, is pity. Its not right that the media sugarcoats reality, that we are an unheard voice in public disscussion, and when we are noticed, its a tear jerking feature that doesnt get people to think about the real issues, that we as a socitey tend to pity, not embrace. Think about it ladies and gents.
posted by wheelieman at 11:23 AM on February 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sort of embarrassing to get choked up at Starbucks. Great stuff. Can't wait to show my ballplayer sons.
posted by onegreeneye at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2006


Wow.
posted by elderling at 11:27 AM on February 24, 2006


I could have worked on that post a little but it just came out, sorry folks.
posted by wheelieman at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2006


This is why I love sports.
posted by ozomatli at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2006


Its not right that the media sugarcoats reality, that we are an unheard voice in public disscussion, and when we are noticed, its a tear jerking feature that doesnt get people to think about the real issues, that we as a socitey tend to pity, not embrace. Think about it ladies and gents.

Elderly and disabled remains have been found in burial sites of early hominid bands. We as a species are compelled by something to keep members of our species alive even if they do not provide on the same level as typically functioning individuals. Some people call this compulsion pity, others refer to it as compassion.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:39 AM on February 24, 2006


wheelieman-

I think about those issues that you discuss, as I have some close relatives with severe physical disabilities and I see how people treat them like babies sometimes and it is infuriating. That being said, I saw this video as more celebratory than pitying. Of course, it was in the human interest story format, so that made it schlocky to begin with, but watching all his classmates go nuts seeing him succeed I thought was really awesome and that they were cheering out of joy, not pity.

I do think your point holds true in most cases though.
posted by Falconetti at 11:44 AM on February 24, 2006


I got choked up, too, but call me a little cynical about the media coverage. Would it have been on the news had the boy missed every shot?

It appears he got quite a reception just coming onto the court, which is the best part of this story to me. I like to think that his schoolmates would have appreciated him just as much the next day regardless of his actual performance. THAT is a human interest story.
posted by tippiedog at 11:45 AM on February 24, 2006


Would it have been on the news had the boy missed every shot?

No. OTOH, it still would have probably made the news if he wasn't autistic and was just a "Rudy" type. The underdog doesn't have to be disabled to be an underdog.
posted by smackfu at 11:47 AM on February 24, 2006


I saw nothing even remotely resembling pity in this clip. I thought they were all just great people.
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:47 AM on February 24, 2006


I showed this to several co-workers and I get goosebumps every time I watch it. Super awesome.
posted by schustafa at 11:48 AM on February 24, 2006


I give it 2 years before it becomes a (Made For TV?) Movie, possibly starring the (then skinny) 1993 incarnation of Sean "Rudy" Astin.
posted by thefreek at 11:51 AM on February 24, 2006


wow... got a little dusty in here as I was watching that... must have something in my eyes... watering...
posted by jonson at 11:54 AM on February 24, 2006


wheelieman: he made six three pointers in a row. The best 3-point percentage in the NBA is supposedly around 50%. this kid was the autistic waterboy and he's shooting 86% from the outside! we aren't patting him on the back for nothing.
posted by soma lkzx at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2006


There is a follow-up clip.
posted by unmake at 12:00 PM on February 24, 2006


that was fucking beautiful x
posted by triv at 12:01 PM on February 24, 2006


Naah, I say Frankie Muniz has a lock on this one.

Great story.
posted by emelenjr at 12:02 PM on February 24, 2006


That... was really nice!
posted by kbanas at 12:07 PM on February 24, 2006


Yeah, I agree that the great thing about the clip is the show of support from his peers. Would it have made the news if he hadn't sunk 6 three-pointers? Probably not. But I'd bet there would have been a similar show of support from his peers. Newsworthy within the community, but not ready for television. As soma lkzx mentions the 86% makes it worthy for broadcast.
posted by sharpener at 12:07 PM on February 24, 2006


wheelieman -

I can appreciate your frustration, but I think there is a difference here between this boy's mental disability and your physical disabilities. My brother has hydrocephalus and I have had the opportunity to work with him and other disabled children at a disabled sports organization. From what I saw, I completely agree with you about those with physical disabilities: all were go-getters, ready to push themselves and do what it took to win. Their motivation was doing their best to try to win the competition. The motivation for the majority of the mentally challenged athletes, however, was making those around them happy (parents, coaches, friends, etc.). It (generally) didn't matter if they won or not, they were overjoyed the second their parents et al. ran up to them cheering and smiling. So in this case, I think that the coach and his fellow players did play a large part in motivating him to go out there to play (of course, this is my observation having watched 3 minutes of video...)

As an aside, it always struck me as wrong to group these two very different types of disabled athletes together, and I got the sense from some of those with physical disabilities that it bothered them as well. This organization was doing the best they could to provide as much opportunity with the limited funds they had, so I understand why they were grouped together, but still... I'd be interested in your thoughts on this.

tippiedog - I see what you're getting at, and I agree that the whorish media wouldn't bother with the story if the kid didn't sink those shots. But to me, the best part of the story is him hitting that first shot. You've got the cheer when he gets on the court, but then he struggles a bit and you can kind of sense everyone thinking, "well, it's nice that he tried." And then WHAM! And the place goes nuts. Awesome.
posted by mzanatta at 12:08 PM on February 24, 2006


I feel like a cynical jerk pointing it out, but oh GOD is that reporter terrible. Just absolutely horrendous, almost ruined a once-in-a-lifetime feel good story with his narration.

The story itself, of course, amazing.
posted by Simon! at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2006


For anyone who watched jocks in High School (or several High Schools, for some of us) abuse anyone who was the least bit different, and seriously abuse and mock those with disabilities, and were left thinking that jock-types were dimwitted, brutal twats, it's really wonderful to see school-age atheletes not only embrace this kid as a pal and peer, (rather than butt of their jokes) but celebrate his success.
posted by onegreeneye at 12:18 PM on February 24, 2006


So does he get to be on the team next season?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:23 PM on February 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


PinkSuperHero, I think he's a graduating senior. There was a voice over in the second video that said something along the lines of him getting out of high school with a diploma.
posted by JeremyT at 12:29 PM on February 24, 2006


To me this proves you can never under estimate anyone. Most people with no disability would miss those first two shots and crumble... For anyone to say the feat this kid pulled off isn't noteworthy obviously is someone with a superiority complex. Most professional basketball players that get paid millions of dollars will never score 20 points in 4 minutes - ever, not even in two lifetimes.
posted by Guerilla at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2006


Can we get a "not safe for work because you might start sobbing in front of your coworkers and deconstruct your carefully crafted masculine image" tag on this story? Uh, thanks.
posted by craniac at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2006


I was wondering how long it would take before someone came along and crapped on this wonderful story. Looks like it took 15 posts.

That video made my day and weekend. Anytime I feel bad I just watch it and smile smile smile.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:31 PM on February 24, 2006


Ah, thanks, wasn't sure if I heard anything about his age/grade level.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:33 PM on February 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was wondering how long it would take before someone came along and crapped on this wonderful story. Looks like it took 15 posts.

What? I am the fifteenth poster, I think. I was being genuine, this was really moving and I had a goofy smile on my face out of joy. Or were you not being literal?
posted by Falconetti at 12:38 PM on February 24, 2006


#32 on the other team needs to work on his D.
posted by iconjack at 12:38 PM on February 24, 2006


What? I am the fifteenth poster, I think. I was being genuine, this was really moving and I had a goofy smile on my face out of joy. Or were you not being literal?

I was guestimating. Sorry if I implicated you.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:41 PM on February 24, 2006


I work with people with developmental disabilities. This was a good clip regarding this individual. It raises a lot of issues though, some of which wheelieman addressed and I think mzanatta responded to that with an important point. It may be worthwhile to extend it a little further too. Even within given populations who experience disabilities, physical, developmental and mental (I have work with all) it is a huge trap to equate every one as being the same. Just as it is absurd to compare, symptomatically, a person with schizophrenia with someone who experiences mild depression, you would not say a person who is blind has the same issues as someone who lost an arm. Yet in the first case they are both considered mentally ill, and in the second physically disabled and all are considered "disabled".
EVERYONE need some sort of assistance, we just take the everyday assistance the non disabled receive as a matter of normality, (and here is where I might take slight issue with you wheelieman) I don't think anyone is wholly self sufficient, and that while our culture tends to over emphasize individualism we are a lot more interconnected and dependant, all of us, than not.
Regarding individuals with disabilities, it is my experience that in reality they are just like undisabled people, there are plenty of assholes, and plenty of wonderful people. the difference being they need some increased form of accommodation.
This particular kid, seemed like a very affable kid, people liked him and wanted him desperately to do well, not simply because he had a disability, but because he was well liked as well. And I thought it was great that he did as good as he did, it was a nicely emotional piece.
One of my clients came from a very small town on the iron range in MN, he lives in Duluth now and is approaching 30, and I gotta tell you he has close contact with an amazing number of people from high school and beyond, even after working with him I am still surprised by how friggen often people will come up out of the blue on the street say "Hi Pete {edited name} how's it going?", and it won't be les than 10 mins. before we can get going again, very well liked, very well accepted in any community he is exposed to, and he obviously has a developmental disability...

blah blah blah, sorry this is too long.
Digest version: We over-label people, everyone needs help, the individuals attitude greatly affects how people react to them disability or not.

I could probably write 3 more pages on related topics
posted by edgeways at 12:49 PM on February 24, 2006


Don't think anyone has crapped on the story DieHipsterDie
posted by edgeways at 12:54 PM on February 24, 2006


blah blah blah, sorry this is too long.
Digest version: We over-label people, everyone needs help, the individuals attitude greatly affects how people react to them disability or not.

I could probably write 3 more pages on related topics


I could probably predict there wouldn't be 3 words of anything positive in your essay either.
posted by Guerilla at 12:58 PM on February 24, 2006


I'm sorry what do you mean?
posted by edgeways at 12:59 PM on February 24, 2006


I was expecting the kid to be heaving shots at the hoop....but his Jump shot is surprisingly smooth. Good Story all around
posted by Bluehenspecial at 1:11 PM on February 24, 2006


I wasn't meaning to flame you or anything. I understand how many people are labeled, etc. I don't really think it's entirely about that though - I think it's about defying the odds, which this kid was able to do - whether he's labeled or not. To me the ending of your paragraph "blah blah blah" just made it seem like what he did wasn't anything special... For anyone to do what he did was nothing short of spectacular (in basketball of course).
posted by Guerilla at 1:16 PM on February 24, 2006


In edgeways defense...WTF are you talking about Guerilla? I thought edgeways did a good job explicating some of the issues brought up by wheelieman.
posted by Falconetti at 1:16 PM on February 24, 2006


In edgeways defense...WTF are you talking about Guerilla? I thought edgeways did a good job explicating some of the issues brought up by wheelieman.

Defend all you want - just don't try and make something that is very positive into a negative.
posted by Guerilla at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2006


This is cool.
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:20 PM on February 24, 2006


ok, I understand. Sorry for the confusion, my blah blah blah was more aimed at myself because I thought I may be rambling. And I think we are pretty close in agreement, what this guy did was pretty sweet, the crowd reaction was cool. Anytime we start talking about disability there are a lot of issues that don't make it to the surface.
So, thanks for the explination, glad we got it sorted out.
posted by edgeways at 1:23 PM on February 24, 2006


Right on edgeways. I realize the way I responded wasn't exactly clear either - and what you say about labeling is so true indeed. No two people are the same and it's most certain that people with much worse problems overcome so much more as well. In general what I was getting at is that stories like this should be looked at in a positive way - no matter who you are.
posted by Guerilla at 1:55 PM on February 24, 2006


A story almost identical to this one aired on HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel a few months back. Eeriely identical.

Yeah, I saw that. It was really an extremely similar story. The developmentally disabled kid was Ryan Bellflower from Clovis East high I think. He was team manager, and the last year the coach got him a jersey and let him sit on the bench during games. In the last game of the season, he went into the game in garbage time and sunk a three-pointer after a few attempts and the crowd exploded. Then, in their first playoff game, once it was a blowout, they put him in and he hit a 3, went back on defense, got the rebound, and ran the floor and hit another 3 ten seconds later.
posted by TunnelArmr at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2006


I hope the kid's parents sell the movie rights to Disney for a bajillion dollars.
posted by craniac at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2006


Amazing.
posted by MarshallPoe at 2:08 PM on February 24, 2006


!
posted by shoepal at 2:09 PM on February 24, 2006


Eight shots in row? Jesus, that kid's the black hole of Calcutta! There's no 'I' in team, junior. Try passing the ball every now and then.
posted by gigawhat? at 2:13 PM on February 24, 2006


Don't think anyone has crapped on the story DieHipsterDie

Frankly, I for one would love to spend a day or so punctuating my sentences like the one above....like a modern day telegraph, perhaps. It just reads so nicely. Plus I live in Brooklyn, which I'm lobbying to have renamed "Hipster Hell, the boro formerly known as Brooklyn."

Also, great post DieHipsterDie I'm still choked up, and I'm on my 7th or 8th viewing DieHipsterDie
posted by nevercalm at 2:16 PM on February 24, 2006


Eight shots in row? Jesus, that kid's the black hole of Calcutta! There's no 'I' in team, junior. Try passing the ball every now and then.

Are you being ironic? I assumed the team was feeding him the ball in the beginning to be kind to him. I'm sure that after he hit his third or fourth 3-pointer they kept feeding him the ball because it seemed like a pretty good strategy.
posted by GuyZero at 2:31 PM on February 24, 2006


Eight shots in row? Jesus, that kid's the black hole of Calcutta! There's no 'I' in team, junior. Try passing the ball every now and then.

The rest of the team is clearly feeding him the ball and setting crazy picks for him... they wanted him to shoot as much as he could before the game ended.
posted by BobFrapples at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2006


i shed exactly one tear of joy.
posted by gnutron at 3:30 PM on February 24, 2006


Caught it on CNN first thing in the morning & it kept me smiling the rest of the day. Great post. (now I can force it down my uber-cynical roommate's throat.)
posted by rhymesinister at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2006


So, did they win?
posted by yhbc at 3:41 PM on February 24, 2006


YHBC, I think in this case they won, even if they didn't. That gave me some sunshine on a bleak day THANKS!!!!!
posted by Elim at 3:52 PM on February 24, 2006


Aw, I really enjoyed the video and the story as well - I just find it odd that there hasn't been any mention of whether they did win or not!
posted by yhbc at 4:03 PM on February 24, 2006


Commish, according to WROC they won, but they don't give the score.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:29 PM on February 24, 2006


Wow, that was really amazing.

the media has a tendosey to portray people with disabilities as helpless until a more "normal" person [...] is able to provide them with an opprotunity.

I don't think that's it at all. If anything, the "media" did a good job at raising the question of just how much he could have accomplished if the "normal" person hadn't been holding him back.

A lot of what this story is about, as i see it, is pity.

As you see it. As I see it, it's the exact opposite: a celebration of the triumph of the individual over what we mere simpleton "normals" consider impossible odds.

I wish people would stop trying to co-opt this wonderful story with their own egos.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:30 PM on February 24, 2006


"I hope the kid's parents sell the movie rights to Disney for a bajillion dollars."

"Disney officials called Jason's parents, Dave and Debbie McElwain, on Thursday afternoon to inquire about the possibility of doing a movie."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2006


This is awesome. The fake sincerity voice-over does its best to ruin it, but the video and story is just too good.
posted by skallas at 4:43 PM on February 24, 2006


Heartwarming. A Hollywood ending come to life.
posted by obol at 4:43 PM on February 24, 2006


for what its worth - lets say everyone was "in on" jerkin the kid off. Lettin him put on the fireman suit and ride on the truck. In the middle of all that chaos and cheering, even if the other team was HANDING him the ball - he still hit 6 3 points in a row. incredible

i think wheelieman has a point. I smelled a lot of 'pat on the head' mentality - but the kid fuckin ran with it. awesome story.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 4:49 PM on February 24, 2006


I'm no expert on Autism, but I've seen a few documentaries on autisic savants in the art world recently - drawing from memory, drawing incredible detail - all at young ages. Isn't this an example of that in a different field? Rather than the "he was weird and got to spend all day practising" angle?
posted by fire&wings at 5:11 PM on February 24, 2006


I heard it on the radio the other day. That was wonderful. Thank you.

So, wait--he got 6 3-pointers (6 x 3 = 18) but he scored 20 points? Where are the remaining 2 points? Did I miss something?
posted by fandango_matt at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2006


Just watched this again.

It is nothing less than awesome. Could any of us drop 6 3-pointers in under four minutes? In front of an ever ecstatic crowd? Don't think so.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:03 PM on February 24, 2006


They won 79-43.
posted by brownbeards at 7:47 PM on February 24, 2006


Wish I hadn't heard about this on the radio (And I really wish the voice over wasn't crap), otherwise I'd be bawling too.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:50 PM on February 24, 2006


Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic story. Like the coach said, the story sounds unbelievable. Seeing it was truly impressive, and I think a privilege.

Regarding the voiceover, I think everyone's cynicism meters are way overtweaked. After three viewings, in my opinion, it sounds like the reporter is truly struggling to contain his emotions at the end. To just get through the read.

A story like this tends to create its own emotion. It doesn't need any help. I think the local affiliate and CBS both would have 86'd the v/o if they felt it was manufactured or substandard.

During the shot of the reporter speaking on camera, he didn't appear at all smug or gratuitous to me. He looked like a guy who had stumbled on the feel-good story of the week and was sincerely glad to be there.

I think this really was an example of a reporter being touched by his subject. Not every reporter who feels emotion on their stories acts like Geraldo on camera.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:55 PM on February 24, 2006


After three viewings, in my opinion, it sounds like the reporter is truly struggling to contain his emotions at the end.

Completely agreed. If you watch the follow-up video that unmake linked to, it's even more apparent.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:17 AM on February 25, 2006


Very moving story. Makes me think about all the disabled people who doesn't get the opportunity.
Sometime when you see something exceptional, the light it sheds on the conventional is what matters.
posted by nbd at 9:00 AM on February 25, 2006


Anyone else want the raw footage? I'd love to watch the full four minutes as it happened. And, crash, that article you linked is great; lots more details:

...students, teachers and administrators at Athena have come to love him. Jason has galvanized the student body. He has achieved almost cult-hero status at his school.

That love for him was never more obvious than during his shining basketball moment. The Athena cheering section, known as The Sixth Man, held up pictures of Jason that parent Jay Shelofsky had distributed before the game.

When Jason entered with 4:02 left, the students put the photos, which were affixed to paint-stirring sticks, in front of their faces and began chanting his name.

"I never sit during a game," [Coach] Johnson says. "But when I saw that scene, I had to sit down because I was overcome with emotion. The tears were welling up big-time."


And that was *before* the guy started shooting. Amazing.
posted by mediareport at 9:26 PM on February 25, 2006


Thanks, mediareport. Now I'm trying not to weep openly at the coffee shop. I think craniac was on to something.

(But seriously, thanks to you and crash for pointing me to that article.)
posted by blendor at 3:21 PM on February 26, 2006


I'll just echo everyone else and say: Wow.

On a... Well, only vaguely related note, I was at an ABA game (San Jose Skyrockets vs. Orange County Buzz) last night, and the 11th man for SJ was I guess a school PE teacher -- One of the students and her mothers was sitting in front of me with her I was chattering with them about it. Once it was clear SJ was going to win by a huge (almost 2-1) margin, they put the guy in.

I guess a LOT of his students were there, because everyone went nuts. He played halfway decently, too, and when he sunk a basket (only one!) the place was roaring. Not anywhere near as inspiring as this story, but it still brought a big smile to my face.
posted by wolftrouble at 6:11 PM on February 26, 2006


According to the ESPN story that ran this AM, the kid is "high-functioning," the team was up by 20 points before he went in the game, and he ended up being the high-scorer for their team by the time his 4 minutes were up.
posted by misterbrandt at 5:16 PM on February 27, 2006


You may notice the original YouTube link is dead now. CBS forced them to pull it:

The Jason McElwain Story Comes To CBS News – And YouTube
Follow-up: YouTube Can't Keep A Good Video Down
posted by smackfu at 1:43 PM on March 1, 2006


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