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Mizzou Unveils Stadium Upgrade Plans

In June, the University of Missouri — which goes by MU instead of UM for some reason — announced that it would spend $200 million to improve its athletic facilities as part of its move to the SEC.  One of the first projects scheduled for completion is a renovation of Memorial Stadium’s east side.  The school plans to add 5,000 bleacher seats as well as 1,200 premium seats.

Renderings of the new exterior have now been made public:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The school will also convert some media areas on the west side of the stadium into club/luxury suites.  The west side work should be completed by August.  The east side project is expected to be ready in time for the 2014 football season, on year sooner than originally planned.

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UM Once Again In Racial Row; Freeze Not Happy With Media Portrayal

There are many Ole Miss fans who can’t/won’t understand why the school’s administration has worked so hard to distance itself from the racial strife of the 1960s and the school’s own symbolic ties to the 1860s.  Many wondered aloud why ESPN chose to run “Ghosts of Ole Miss,” a documentary about UM’s racially-charged 1962 football season, in the middle of the 2012 season.

Here’s the reason: Because when your nickname is Rebels, you’re located in the heart of the old Confederacy, and you still have racial issues on campus… it’s a problem.  For the school.  For athletic recruiting.

It’s a problem.

In case you’re unaware, “Hundreds of Ole Miss students exchanged racial epithets and violent, politicized chants in response to the announcement of the re-election of President Barack Obama” on Tuesday night.  That according to Ole Miss’ student newspaper and its website.  “What began as an argument around midnight quickly spread across campus,” the paper reported.

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SEC Responds To Questions About Suspension Of UM’s Elston

On Tuesday of this week, the Southeastern Conference handed Ole Miss defensive back Trae Elston a one-game suspension for a wicked lick he made against UTEP receiver Jordan Leslie in the fourth quarter of a 28-10 Rebel victory last Saturday.

Here’s the hit in question:

 

Trae Elston Huge Hit (LandShark) Ole Miss

 

The league’s press release regarding the suspension read as follows:

 

“This action was the result of a flagrant and dangerous act which occurred at the 3:18 mark in the fourth quarter.  The action is in violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which reads, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder,’ and Rule 9-1-3 which states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.’”

 

Ole Miss fans weren’t happy.  Others out there began to smell a conspiracy.  Heck, in what might be the single silliest thing I’ve ever read — prepare to laugh Vanderbilt fans — one sports radio host penned a piece suggesting that SEC commish Mike Slive might have suspended Elston while ignoring a hit Vandy’s Andre Hal put on South Carolina’s Justice Cunningham because Ole Miss is bad “while Vandy under second-year coach James Franklin was becoming a media darling.”

In terms of all the “Slive and the media are out to get us” emails I receive — and I get two or three every day — most come from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt fans.  Way ahead of the rest of the pack.  So I know Commodore fans will howl at the idea that Slive and SEC were looking out for VU.

Just for comparison, let’s look at the hit Hal put on Cunningham:

 

Play of the Game – South Carolina at Vanderbilt

 

Nasty.  And in my view, that play could have resulted in a suspension, too.

But for kicks, let’s look at one more hit that ended with a suspension last season.  This one resulted in Arkansas’ Marquel Wade being ejected from the game and suspended.  (I’m pretty sure Arkansas was one of the league’s top teams and James Franklin hadn’t become a media darling yet, so I’m not sure what the conspiracy theorists would say about the one below.)

 

Marquel Wade gets an illegal hit on Jonathan Krause

 

More on that one in a minute.

I wanted to get to the bottom of why one play earns a suspension and another doesn’t.  How does the SEC determine who sits and who plays?  (And for the record, I believe the league should absolutely be consistent in its rulings.  I also believe that there is never anything wrong with erring on the side of player safety.)

SEC associate commissioner and chief PR guy, Charles Bloom was kind enough to share some info with MrSEC.com.

 

“1.  Every game gets reviewed by the Coordinator of Officials (Steve Shaw).  Coaches are invited to send in specific plays for additional review and they get an explanation as to the play.  Any communication is between the school and the conference office.

2.  Differences between the UM/UTEP hit and the Vandy/Carolina hit:

a) In the UM hit, the defender has his head down prior to contact and makes contact with the crown of his helmet into the facemask of the receiver.  In the VU hit, the defender has his head up prior to contact and while there was initial contact with the helmet, it was at the side of the helmet.  The crown was not used by the defender.

b) A flag was thrown in the VU-USC hit and should have been thrown in the UM-UTEP hit.

c) By rule, the definition of a defenseless player is ‘A receiver whose focus is on catching a pass.’  NCAA Playing Rule 9-1-4 states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.  When in question, it is a foul.’  Also, NCAA Playing Rule 9-1-3 states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.  When in question, it is a foul.’

d) The NCAA has made ‘Protection of Defenseless Players and Crown-of-Helmet Action’ a point of emphasis this year.”

 

Now, I’ve received dozens of emails from people saying that in the photo of the hit I posted Tuesday,  Elston’s shoulder is buried in the chest of the UTEP receiver.  I wrote on Tuesday that it looks to me like the crown of Elston’s helmet is hitting the receiver right in the neck/throat beneath at the base of his facemask.  According to Bloom’s response, it seems the SEC office apparently saw it that way, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SEC Suspends UM’s Elston For Texas Game Due To Illegal Hit

Fresh off a surprising 2-0 start, Hugh Freeze and his Rebels got a bit of bad news from the SEC this morning.  The league has announced that freshman defensive back Trae Elston will be suspended for this weekend’s game against Texas due to an illegal hit he doled out in last week’s Ole Miss/UTEP game.

According to the league’s release:

 

“This action was the result of a flagrant and dangerous act which occurred at the 3:18 mark in the fourth quarter.  The action is in violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which reads, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder,’ and Rule 9-1-3 which states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.’”

 

To be sure, many Rebel fans won’t like it, but we give the league a thumbs-up on this one.  When it comes to player safety, MrSEC.com is a big proponent of doing anything and everything to protect the athletes on the field.  (And we’ll make the point again later today.)  The video below shows that at least one UM fan was proud of the fact that Elston teed up a defenseless receiver.  More than likely, that same fan would have decried such a vicious hit had a UTEP player endangered a Rebel receiver in the exact same manner.

Take the rah-rah team stuff out of it and no player should be allowed to launch himself in the manner below at a defenseless foe.  And that has as much to do with the safety of the person launching himself as it does the person being targeted.

 

Trae Elston Huge Hit (LandShark) Ole Miss

 

UPDATE — As expected, I’ve already gotten six emails from angry Ole Miss fans.  All said Elston’s hit was legal.  Two actually said they’re tired of this pro-Mississippi State website.  Gotta love some folks.  Write something that doesn’t jive with their school and the writer must secretly “hate us” or “love our rivals.”  Yeesh.

This was not a legal hit.  Read the rule — already posted above — and look at the stills below.

 

“No player shall target and initiate contact…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elston could have seriously injured another player with that hit.  That doesn’t make him a bad guy, just means he made a bad play.

If there’s a fanbase in the country that should realize that athletes’ safety must come first, it’s that of Ole Miss.  Unbelievably, it seems a few folks in Oxford need to be reminded that the bronze bust players rub before taking the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is that of former Rebel Chucky Mullins, paralyzed during a game in 1989.

Or maybe Mullins has become nothing more than a lucky charm for current Rebel players and fans.  I’m disgusted that in a situation like this — where a player is suspended for clearly violating a league rule — so many people will defend him and curse the decision simply because the color jersey he was wearing.

And the ol’ “Well, they didn’t suspend this guy” argument that’s now popping up in our comment boxes doesn’t hold water, either.  The league needs to be consistent in its rulings, no doubt.  I agree completely.

But if I get a ticket for driving 90 miles per hour, it’d be hard for me to use the “but that guy was also driving 90″ defense.  A) Because I was indeed driving 90 miles per hour and B) because the police officer would have clocked me, not him.  Fair?  Maybe not when compared to other driver.  But when held to the actual legal standard, absolutely fair.

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Starters Banged Up; Freeze Worried At Ole Miss

Having served as an aide to Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze knew the UM football program.  Born in Oxford, he knew the big picture challenges faced by the Rebels, too.

Well here’s hoping Freeze knew what kind of a major mess he was walking into in Year One when he accepted the Ole Miss gig last winter.

The Rebels are near the bottom of the pack in the SEC when it comes to veteran talent.  Roster depth is an issue at almost every position.  (Grades were an issue, too, until Freeze got things straightened out on that front.)  But now that fall camp has begun, UM is seeing valuable starters go down with injuries and there just aren’t many bodies behind them that are ready to move up to take their places.

Yesterday, Ole Miss had four starters leave practice while another was considered to be in the “walking wounded” category.  If he didn’t know before taking the job, Freeze is certainly aware of how paper thin his roster is right now:

 

“It keeps me up at night.  I hate injuries.  But we’re at a state in our program where we better learn to compete.  I don’t know how to do it.  We don’t take them to the ground too much, but we do have a lot of physical play right now.  We got to get that.  We just got to pray we can get everybody healthy by gametime.”

 

If Freeze errs on the side of safety, it could burn the Rebels come gametime.  After all, two seasons ago Georgia’s Mark Richt decided to ease up in preseason camp in order to avoid injuries… only to come back at the end of a seven-loss season and say his team hadn’t been toughened up enough.

On the flipside, if Freeze continues to instill physicality in his squad, he may well be left with a depth chart resembling swiss cheese.

Freeze might be walking into the toughest SEC job since Derek Dooley took over a Tennessee program decimated by two coaching changes in two years.  Hopefully UM fans will be patient in 2012, but beyond that it’s doubtful.

Sure he’s making good money, but if you were going to change jobs with any SEC football coach, I’m pretty sure Freeze would not be your man.

 

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UM Announces Football, Hoops Deal With Memphis; Memphis Says “Not Exactly”

Ole Miss announced today that it will begin a four-year football series with Memphis beginning in 2014.  While that series is reborn, the Rebels’ upcoming nonconference games with Clemson have been nixed.

More interesting is the fact that UM announced that Memphis had agreed to start a basketball series when the schedule permits.  But Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com says Memphis hoops coach Josh Pastner said that’s “absolutely not” the case.  Instead, he says Memphis has agreed to “talk about” scheduling Ole Miss:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastner has been very clear that he doesn’t want to give Arkansas, Ole Miss, Tennessee or any other local SEC school any type of entrance into Memphis’ fertile recruiting grounds at all.  So stay tuned.

Here’s an updated story from Parrish.

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UM QB Wallace Makes News For Taking A Punch

Ole Miss quarterback candidate Bo Wallace can take a punch.  At least that’s what the photo at left and a since-removed YouTube video seemed to show yesterday afternoon.

Over the weekend, Wallace — a juco transfer who’s competing with Barry Brunetti for the Rebels’ signal-caller duties this spring — reportedly got into a dust-up with a few UM frat boys.  The video showed Wallace take a punch before being surrounded by a larger group of men.  Wallace never appeared on tape to have tossed any haymakers himself.

According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, that’s the story Wallace has told head coach Hugh Freeze and for that reason the quarterback will not face any kind of punishment from the team.

He will however have this photo of himself getting punched in the face kicked around the internet for a day or two.  For comparison’s sake, here’s a nice headshot of Wallace when he’s not locked in a fracas.

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This Year’s Returns And Deductions For SEC Football Teams

On this Tax Day 2012 we thought it might be fun to take a little look at what the 14 SEC football programs are due in terms of returns this year and what each can “deduct” from their past year’s gains.

Here goes…

Alabama’s Due:  A brand new start from scratch.  The Tide lost three games the season after their last national title proving that it’s not as easy to repeat in real life as it is on paper.

Alabama Can Deduct:  The price of some fans’ souls that were sold to insure that Oklahoma State would lose to Iowa State last year.  As crazy as it seems now, if OSU doesn’t lose to ISU, Bama fans would still be grumbling that Nick Saban had lost two years in a row to LSU… ’cause there would have been no rematch with the Tigers and no BCS crown otherwise.

Arkansas’ Due:  A break.  The Razorbacks had everything rolling their way on the football front until Bobby Petrino rolled off the roadway with his mistress.  A nice, quiet week or two would be A-OK for most Hog fans.

Arkansas Can Deduct:  Take your pick — the price of Petrino’s motorcyle, the price of Jessica Dorrell’s Acura, or the price of a brand new football facility that Petrino helped get underway before his crisis.

Auburn’s Due:  A prove-it kind of season.  Gene Chizik’s gang has bookended a BCS title-winning season with a pair of 8-5 campaigns.  Will the real Tigers please stand up?

Auburn Can Deduct:  The cost of new offensive and defensive playbooks.  With Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder in, the old systems of Gus Malzahn and Ted Roof have already been scrapped.

Florida’s Due:  A return to the Top 10.  Or else.  Gator fans are used to winning and even though plenty of fans now realize the problems Will Muschamp inherited, UF needs to return to the top of the mountain to silence any grumblers.

Florida Can Deduct:  Bail costs.  There have been double-digit arrests in Gainesville since Muschamp’s arrival, but the vast majority of trouble-makers were brought to Gainesville by Urban Meyer.

Georgia’s Due:  Another SEC East title with that easy schedule.  On paper, everyone says the Dawgs have a cakewalk lined up for 2012.  In reality, the SEC rarely provides a truly easy path for anyone.

Georgia Can Deduct:  The cost of its drug testing program.  UGA’s system is as thorough and tough as any in the SEC and the powers-that-be aren’t planning to change it.  That doesn’t help Mark Richt when it comes to his thinned-out secondary, but it sends the right message about the school.

Kentucky’s Due:  A return to a bowl game.  Joker Phillips has got to have one.  The coach is on the hot seat entering 2012 and it will be hard for him to hang on to his job if he can’t manage a 6-6 regular-season record.

Kentucky Can Deduct:  The cost of winning the NCAA Tournament in basketball.  From the recruiting budget to the travel costs, UK’s hoops program helped put Cat fans in a lot better mood heading toward the fall.

LSU’s Due:  More success.  As crazy as Miles can sometimes be, the guy has proven to be a winner.  Sure he lost that rematch to Alabama in January and that left Tiger fans fuming, but he had toppled Saban in their two previous meetings… including one win on Bama’s home field in Game of the Century Part I.

LSU Can Deduct:  The price of Bobby Hebert’s press pass.  LSU fans were steamed about their school’s offensive gameplan in the BCS Championship Game — They had a gameplan? — but Hebert likely cost himself some love around the Tiger football facility with his postgame peppering of Miles.

Mississippi State’s Due:  A win over any SEC West team other than Ole Miss.  Dan Mullen has brought excitement to Starkville and beaten The School Up North three times, but he’s never beaten any other SEC West foe.  Not one.

Mississippi State Can Deduct:  The price of cupcakes.  In the hopes of securing six regular-season wins and bowl eligibility, the Bulldogs have lined up gimme games this fall against Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee State.

Missouri’s Due:  To prove that they can compete in the SEC.  The program has taken some guff from old-guard fans who look down upon a Tiger program that hasn’t won a conference title since 1969.  Playing in the weaker — at least on paper — SEC East should help.

Missouri Can Deduct:  The cost of their new uniforms.  Some love ‘em.  Some hate ‘em.  But they’re definitely all Nike.  Where you come down on Nike will determine whether you’re part of the love group or the hate group.

Ole Miss’ Due:  For some baby steps to help prove that UM’s decision to go with Hugh Freeze over someone like Mike Leach was a wise move.  If Leach lights up the Pac-12 with Washington State before Freeze makes progress in Oxford, even Archie Manning’s halo might take a dent.

Ole Miss Can Deduct:  The price of halftime entertainment because most Rebel fans will likely be back out in the Grove by the time first halves end at UM this fall.

South Carolina’s Due:  A breakthrough season.  Steve Spurrier has built a program from the ground up.  They’ve won an East title.  They’ve won 11 games.  They’ve thumped a traditional power like Nebraska in a bowl game.  Now it’s time to win the league.  Don’t think that’s not Spurrier’s goal.

South Carolina Can Deduct:  The cost of the Whitney Hotel.  A number of players got discounted rates at the hotel and drew major attention from the NCAA, but it appears the Gamecocks have avoided any major penalties on that front.

Tennessee’s Due:  An 8-win season.  Sources close to Derek Dooley say the coach knows he needs to win at least eight games this year in order to keep the wolves from his door.  His roster is no longer thin or young and the Vols’ schedule is a bit easier.  Eight’s the goal at UT in 2012.

Tennessee Can Deduct:  The cost of interior decorators in the UT football complex.  Seven Dooley assistants out of nine departed after last season.  That’s a lot of redecorating.

Texas A&M’s Due:  A launching pad.  While the school talks about upgrading or replacing Kyle Field, we say go ahead and put in a launching pad.  ‘Cause if Kevin Sumlin turns out to be the right coach, the recruits in the state of Texas plus the SEC’s drawing power will make for a heckuva program moving forward.

Texas A&M Can Deduct:  The pain that Aggies will feel — though they won’t admit it — when Thanksgiving rolls around this year.  A&M made the right move by jumping to the SEC, but the loss of the school’s rivalry with Texas should be a blow to both schools and to college football.

Vanderbilt’s Due:  Forward progress.  James Franklin won six games and reached a bowl game in a year when most expected VU to win just two or three games.  Now he’s recruiting like never before.  The trick at this point is not to backslide.

Vanderbilt Can Deduct:  The cost of Clint Eastwood impression lessons for Franklin.  Vandy’s fiery coach played the tough guy role after losses to Georgia and Tennessee last year.  He’s already made himself a bit of a nuisance to fans around the SEC… and that’s music to the ears of Music City Dores’ fans.

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UM Crushed, Teammates Argue, Fans Toss Debris, Kennedy’s Clock Counting Down

Last night, Ole Miss needed an RPI-boosting homecourt win over Vanderbilt to keep its miniscule NCAA Tournament hopes alive.  The Rebels didn’t get the win.  In fact, they got much worse.

Vandy shredded UM’s defense and rolled to a 102-76 win in Oxford.  Home teams in the SEC are winning at a 72% clip this season (48-18) and that number is even more skewed if you take Kentucky’s many road wins out of the mix.  To lose at home is rare.  To be blown clean out of your home arena… almost never happens.

After the game, however, things got worse for the Rebels.  Teammates Jelan Kendrick and Reginald Buckner had to be separated by coaches and UM staff members outside the team’s locker room.  Kendrick would not enter the locker room “for some time after the game,” according to Hugh Kellenberger of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.  He also reports that Kendrick was heard complaining about Buckner’s defense against Commodore big man Festus Ezeli.

Parrish Alford of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal called Kendrick’s outburst “a profanity-laced tirade.”

Andy Kennedy — who likely needs an NCAA bid to save his job — said that the teammate-on-teammate brouhaha began on the bench during the game and that he would determine a disciplinary response:

“I’ll figure it out.  You guys would be amazed at what happens on a day-to-day basis.  You got a little taste of it tonight… I’ve been doing this 16 years and when you’re in practice there’s competition and guys are going to get emotional at times.  Obviously there’s a line that can’t be crossed.”

Making matters still worse, Ole Miss was hit with three technical foul calls, one coming after Rebel fans through debris onto the court… for a second time.

Kennedy is likely NIT-bound again.  He was blown out at home in what amounted to a must-win game.  His fans became so angry they threw cups and debris on the floor.  Two of his teammates had a postgame altercation.  Kendrick — who was viewed as a risk when he transferred in from Memphis — was in the middle of the dust-up.  All this in a season in which the coach has had to dismiss two players — including leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson — because they were busted smoking pot just hours after a game.

Add it up and Kennedy is in serious, serious trouble.  But Ole Miss is still searching for a new athletic director to replace Pete Boone.  So that bit of abnormality has to be factored into the equation.  Hmmm.  Can Archie Manning go find a basketball coach?  (What am I saying?  Rebel fans believe Manning can walk on water.)

Oh, and up next for Mississippi?  A short turnaround and a Saturday afternoon visit to Rupp Arena.  Ouch

While UM appears to be coming apart at the seams, Vanderbilt looks to be regaining form.  The Commodores hit on 17-of-24 shots from the floor (70.8%) and hit nine-of-11 from 3-point range (81.8%) in the first half alone.  For the game, Vandy shot 62.5% from the field and 63.2% from behind the arc.

Jeffery Taylor hit his first seven shots, had 18 points just seven minutes into the game and finished with 28 points and 9 boards for the Dores.

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Freeze Takes The High-Road With Mullen

On signing day, Dan Mullen told a Mississippi State video crew that he doesn’t just preach values, he lives it every day in his program.  Ole Miss fans — familiar with Mullen’s many shots at the Rebels over the years — took his comments to be a thinly-veiled reference to new UM coach Hugh Freeze, a man who speaks often of his faith.

Asked about Mullen’s remarks by The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Freeze took the high road… as Houston Nutt often tried to do before him:


“I’m sure that all of us express our faith in different ways.  I have said from Day One that I’m far from perfect and do not claim to be and certainly don’t judge others.  I have said from Day One also that I have great respect for what he’s done there.  I give credit where credit’s due.  I look forward to trying to increase our momentum against them, but whether or not he meant that toward me — I don’t know why he would, because I will never.  I’m not going to talk about something I don’t know, Number One, and have no reason to think anything about me.

We’re not going to enter into negative recruiting.  It’s just not what we’re going to do. … Will we be 100% in that?  Probably not as a whole staff, but I don’t think that’s going to be the practice we adhere to…

I look forward to talking with him.  I do.  I know how we feel about that rivalry and I certainly understand it and I get it.  I’ve lived here.  But at the end of the day, I don’t know that it has to be a rift between the coaching staff because of it.  I’m going to want to beat them as bad as we can and he’d going to want to do the same, but I still think you can have a professional relationship.  I hope.

I don’t think he in any way in recruiting tried to do anything that was hurtful towards me personally or say anything about me.  And I know I didn’t him.”

Mullen is a needler.  He’s got a touch of Spurrier and a dash of Kiffin about him.  (Cue the “he’s a sweetheart” emails from MSU fans.)

We’ll see how long it take for MSU’s coach to get under the skin of UM’s new head man.

(Sidenote — Because MSU fans are already yelping we’ve changed the word “faith” above to “values.”  Mullen was referring to preaching about values, not preaching about faith.  This changes nothing, of course, as Rebel fans still took it as a shot at Freeze who is vocal about his faith, values, beliefs, etc.  And UM fans taking Mullen’s comment as an insult was what led the reporter from The JCL to ask Freeze his thoughts on the remark… and that’s what led us to post it here.

Here’s a link to the web clip.)

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