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Mike Yam Doesn’t Like Things To Be Easy

“Bro, I had never even heard of grading on a curve, I walk into that class and we’re all working against each other.”

Jack Ferris

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Mike Yam doesn’t do complacency well.

In his 7th year as the face of the PAC-12 Network, he finds a bit of fun in self-imposed challenges. 

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“This year,” he pauses, his signature grin audible through the phone, “it was no prompter.  From football through basketball.  The whole school year.”

A lot goes into a live sports broadcast.  More times than not it’s organized chaos leading right up until that red light comes on.  It’s in that moment that an anchor relies on experience, preparation, and – when available – the security of a prompter.  

That safety net is something the San Francisco transplant has always preferred working without. “It just feels more natural that way,” he shrugged.  

Those that know Yam are familiar with his quiet drive.  His unique career ascension has left him to feel uncomfortable when things are too easy.  
A prompter?  Far too easy.

On any road to success, there are always those mentors, parents or guiding lights that push you on your direction to success.  In the case of Mike Yam, one of those lights came his first semester at Fordham.  It just so happened to be a solid red light.

“Dr. Bray,” Yam uttered through a somewhat clenched jaw, the words ushered past his lips with the help of on uneasy chuckle.

Whether she realizes it or not, a chemistry professor by the name of Dr. Diane Bray (whom now is a Professor Emerita for Fordham) had about as much to do with Mike Yam’s career path to the face of the PAC-12 Network as anyone.  

We’ll get back to Dr. Bray in a bit.

As you can imagine, the majority of Yam’s guiding lights were positive.  It all started with his grandfather.

“As far as best friends go,” the Jersey native has stated time and time again, “he’s my first.”

Eugene Galletta installed a lifelong love of sports into his grandson at a young age – as well as a decent amount of pizza.  To this day, the upbeat sportscaster noticeably slows down when discussing his beloved Pop.  

Galletta would live to see his favorite little leaguer grow into the man that would make any grandfather swell with pride.  Regrettably, decades after trading baseball cards and pool lessons, Yam continues to deal with an eternally incomplete feeling when it comes to his best friend.

While the sports passion was undeniably in his DNA, that was not the career Mike had in mind during his high school days.

“It was always medicine.  I wanted to be a pediatrician.”

Yam mulled over a few schools while preparing to leave Bergen Catholic, ultimately landing on Fordham.  It’s a decision he can’t imagine his life without.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, and it’s hard to explain to people who don’t understand,” the proud Ram explained, the excitement rising in his voice.
“Fordham was special, man.  It was just special.  I understand a lot of colleges are great, but there really is something to the Jesuit College experience.  If you’ve lived it or seen it, you know.”

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Yam makes that claim as a distinguished success in his field.  He’s not sure the 18 year old version of himself would share the opinion.

“Dude,” his voice lowered, as if there were other people on the line and he intended this information exclusively for me.  Yam has a knack for this.

“I was doing fine as a pre-med.  No problems with the core courses, I was great in biology.” He paused, “but chemistry.  I can’t begin to tell you,”

He didn’t skip a beat before doing just that.  Also a familiar Yam move.

“Bro, I had never even heard of grading on a curve, I walk into that class and we’re all working against each other.”

Flash forward to a late Saturday night early in Year 1 of the PAC-12 Network when Yam received a compliment for having so much energy for a promo read during a commercial break.  Uncomfortable with the praise, he offered up the following; “if you don’t do your job everyday knowing there’s 15 people lining up waiting to take it from you, they will.”

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You might think it odd that a man with that kind of resolve could balk at the concept of grading on a curve.  It’s complicated.  Sports television is among the most competitive industries in the world – but Yam and so many others at his level understand that competition has to end at the door.  Everyone brings value to a quality production – and it’s the responsibility of leaders in the room not to exclude or alienate, but to lift.  To encourage.  It wouldn’t be until after college that Yam would learn that lesson from, of all things, an eagle.

“I didn’t get it,” he continued.  “It was like Dr. Bray wanted to grade kids out.  She took pride in it.  My path toward medicine kind of ended in her classroom.”

In retrospect, Yam owes a lot to the concept of grading on a curve. The decision to change his focus to sports journalism came as easily to him as the craft itself. 

Eugene Galleta’s grandson lived for pizza and baseball cards as a boy.  Now he lived in the Fordham radio station.  Dr Bray’s student once struggled to find his place in her lab of musical chairs. 

Now the only thing he struggled to do was find time for his internship offers.  His accomplishments as an undergrad include the Marty Glickman Award for Excellence in Play-by-Play. The rest are too lengthy to list.

Mike Yam entered Fordham as an out-of-place pre-med student.  He left as a broadcast professional on a mission, and the opportunities came quick out of college.

“I was really lucky,” he claims. Other accounts would suggest luck played a smaller part than the 37-year-old admits to now.

One of his opportunities came in the form of Sirius radio.  He worked as an update anchor one day a week.  Before long it was five days a week.  Then he was co-hosting Mike & Murray alongside Bruce Murray; a colleague nearly 20 years his elder.

“Dude it was awesome,” he exhaled in one breath.  “I was working with my friends fresh out of college. In Manhattan,” he pauses. The glory days always seem a bit shinier in the rear view mirror – but to hear Yam describe those early times makes you think – if anything – he’s underselling. “Then things got a little crazy.”

Mike’s referring to the now historical Sirius signing of Chris Russo.  It was tremendous for the company, not so much for the 26-year-old kid living his dream.

“They were shaking up a lot of things, naturally resources were going to the launch of Mad Dog Radio and I didn’t know where that was gonna leave me.”

Without a moment to spare, word came from Bristol for an audition.  Yam was elated, but he shuttered to think of what his options would be if he couldn’t lock up the job.

“I went up for the audition, met a few people, then I was back in New York going crazy.  I kept checking my phone.”

During one of those exacerbated phone checks, Mike noticed a voicemail from a Sirius mentor.  It was Ian Eagle.

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“He left a message, and he must have been knowing exactly what I was thinking.  He assured me that whatever happens with Sirius – I had essentially outgrown my role there – which I can’t describe what that felt like to hear.”

In a time of uncertainty, when professionals were all preoccupied with their own job security, Eagle took a moment to reach out to Mike and it meant the world.

“I kept the voicemail for years.  Would listen to it whenever I’d get frustrated or short on patience.”

Shortly after Eagle’s kind gesture, Yam’s concerns were put to rest.  He got the call from ESPN – he was moving to Bristol.

“I wanted to scream into the phone, it was a moment I’ll never forget.  I remember I went straight to my grandparents apartment to tell them.”

Yam’s grandmother was thrilled.  Pop’s reaction was a bit more complicated.  Over the previous decade as his grandson was wading his way through freshman chemistry and ascending the ladder at Sirius, he was waging his own war with Alzheimer’s.

Yam doesn’t offer up information about himself unprovoked.  You would have to ask him to confirm whether or not he’s actually related to Joe DiMaggio.  When you do, he’ll smile, nod slightly and ask; “can’t you see the resemblance?”

Yam would never tell you of his weekly drives from Bristol to Jersey to spend time with his grandparents in the years to follow.  He’d never tell you about his membership with the Alzheimer’s Association or his recognition from Joe Girardi’s Catch 22 Foundation for all the work he’s done raising awareness for the disease.  He won’t tell you, but he’d be happy to if you asked. 

He doesn’t mind talking about Pop, but the cadence in Yam’s voice slows noticeably when the subject comes up.  Anyone with a family member afflicted with the disease is perfectly familiar with how hard it is to see a loved one all but disappear. It’s taxing, physically and emotionally.  Unlike reading highlights and conducting interviews, it’s real work.

Eugene Galleta was laid to rest in 2011, one year before Yam accepted the position to anchor the PAC-12 Networks alongside Ashley Adamson.

“Launch night – one of the most nervous moments of my career.  My chest was pounding.”

From August of 2012 through this month’s PAC-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Yam and the production staff have made no excuses while working through the daily issues of what is and remains a start-up company.  He’s perfectly aware of the unique position he holds in the sports media world, and he’ll never hesitate to respond to an aspiring broadcaster’s email or call. He doesn’t dispense career advise on a curve.  

As for his year long prompter-free challenge?

“Bro,” he offers in a tone that makes you think he’s about to disclose the details to an unsolved crime. “It was some weekday late February.  I was doing women’s basketball halftimes at the end of a day that started with radio at 7 am, then things lined up leading to this live toss to a sit down feature with a coach. I thought I might as while just write something real quick.  I was tired.”

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Fatigue is a word that never comes to mind if you ever watch Yam on TV. Maybe it’s because he knows how many others are waiting for his job. Maybe it’s because he knows what real work is.

Whatever the reason, he quickly snapped out of his temptation. “I couldn’t do it,” another signature grin, “prompter stayed off.”

BSM Writers

Media Noise – What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

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On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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BSM Writers

Doug Karsch is Ready to Call First Michigan/Ohio State Game

“The magnitude of the position is intimidating, but when we actually got on the air to do it, it just felt like Jon and I doing a show where there wasn’t a script.”

Derek Futterman

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On Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes will square off in their 117th matchup in history – and the stakes are arguably higher than ever before. Both teams enter the game 11-0 for the first time since 2006, and the winner of the game will clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and likely the NCAA College Football Playoff, and Doug Karsch will be there for all the action.

Now in his first season as the team’s play-by-play announcer, Karsch will be given an opportunity to call a high stakes matchup on Saturday for a team he followed from his early days as a sports fan in Ann Arbor.

“Michigan vs. Ohio State just was built up to this mythical sort of proportion,” recalled Karsch. “As a kid it just really sucked me in and really became such a big part of growing up.”

Karsch and his family lived two-and-a-half blocks away from Michigan Stadium and frequently attended the team’s home games. When they could not make the game, they would listen to play-by-play announcer Bob Ufer call the games, known for his iconic style and panache he brought to each broadcast.

Although he grew up a fan of the University of Michigan’s football team, Karsch attended college at rival Michigan State University where he earned his degree in communications. Throughout his time in college, he utilized the resources on campus and in the Detroit metropolitan area to effectively build a career for himself in sports media. Karsch was focused on discovering and maximizing opportunities off campus as much as possible, hence why he interned at three different places while in school.

“I listened to a talk show on AM 1050 WTKA out of Ann Arbor and I called the show on occasion,” Karsch said. “One day I just called and said, ‘Hey, do you have any internships?,’ and they said, ‘Yes.’ I kind of hung around that radio station until they actually had an emergency and I got to fill in as a host.”

Karsch strongly believes in internships as a way to gain a footing into the industry, and coordinated the 97.1 The Ticket internship program when it was still in operation. By standing out as an intern, young professionals are able to assimilate into the industry and make valuable connections that will help position them well in the future.

“To me, it’s kind of a way to sneak in but the problem is you can never know when the job is going to open up and the timing has to be right,” Karsch said. “We have really good interns that didn’t get hired and really good interns that did…. Find the place you want to work [and] see if you can volunteer for school credit or otherwise.”

Aside from working in radio, Karsch interned at two television stations – WEYI in Clio, Mich. and WJRT ABC12 in Flint, Mich. – places where Karsch refined his craft and learned from experienced mentors, including former WJRT sports director Ed Phelps. Upon his graduation from the university in 1992, he continued working professionally with WEYI-TV and two years later, began expanding his on-air presence as the sports director at the station now branded as Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.

“I can’t emphasize enough how internships give you great experience,” Karsch said. “I tell people all the time that are looking to break into the business to do as many internships as you can. My experience was the smaller the station, the more they need you to do and the more practical experience you get and the more [likely] that they will hire you.”

It was at WTKA where Karsch first had the opportunity to cover Michigan Wolverines football, including when the team won the national championship in 1997.

“Getting to cover the 1997 national championship team was a blast,” Karsch recalled. “I actually had a phone line installed right outside of the Michigan locker room and was on the air live interviewing people as they came in and out following that national championship season.”

Karsch was working at the station in the early days of the internet; that is, before it was a steady, reliable medium by which to conduct research and gather information. As a result, his preparation for a radio show involved reading several different newspapers and other articles about certain subjects in order to be ready for any question a caller might ask him on the air.

“In radio, it was more about what you knew than anything, and I kind of liked that,” Karsch said. “I liked that you had to do your homework and you had to be prepared for anything.”

While he was at a Michigan Wolverines basketball game, Karsch remembers being approached by someone who told him of the impending launch of Team 1270, a new AM sports station in Detroit. Before officially taking the air, the station had secured the broadcast rights to both the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings and was considering a significant expansion in its sports coverage.

“I loved college sports more than any of the pro sports at the time, yet there was pretty good money I couldn’t say no to,” Karsch said. “They basically said, ‘We just want you to do you. Do whatever show you’re doing in Ann Arbor; do it in Detroit,’ and that’s what I did.”

Shortly thereafter, Karsch was paired with Scott “The Gator” Anderson on Karsch and Anderson, a program airing middays from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM. As the show approaches 20 years on the air, experiencing sustained success and longevity has come with having a keen awareness of the sports landscape in “The Motor City,” and the blend between college and professional teams.

“I think it’s an underrated sports market,” Karsch said of Detroit. “I think the people care about all four pro teams and we have two major universities that the fanbases love in Michigan and Michigan State.”

Regarding topic selection, a preponderance of listeners tune in for football talk, something that former 94WIP program director and sports radio consultant Tom Bigby told staff during a visit to Detroit. He suggested the station move to an open line format where more of the programming is based on callers than guests, and once the move was made, the impetus for callers to express themselves came at virtually any mention of Detroit Lions football.

After all, the listeners are, in essence, customers, and as the enduring 20th century business adage goes: “The customer is always right.”

“When we bring up the Lions, the phones explode,” Karsch expressed. “It has kind of always been the case since we went to the format. College football does get traction [and] Tigers baseball does get a lot of traction when they’re playing. Mostly we just listen to the audience, watch the feedback that comes in with texts and tweets and follow those leads more than anything else.”

The interactions between Karsch and Anderson are entertaining parts of the show that keep listeners tuning in, especially during debates. During his consulting visit, Bigby told the staff that it was not their job to win every argument; rather, it was incumbent on them to start them all. In working with Anderson, Karsch is aware of the topics that garner strong opinions and passion on the air, and will try to position his co-host to experience success in those moments.

“He has knowledge and does his homework as well, but there are times where I just need to sit back and let him go – and I’m perfectly fine with it because people love him and he gets rolling,” Karsch said of his co-host. “He’s definitely the funny personality on the show.”

It all attributes back to Karsch’s prudence and perception about what makes good sports talk radio. When he was working for a television station as a videographer early in his career, he has a distinct memory of traveling in a news truck and listening to sports talk radio with a sports reporter. Suddenly, the reporter started asking Karsch questions pertaining to how he would handle certain topics or callers on the show, giving him the ability to refine his craft in a completely different setting.

“I think of myself as an air traffic controller whose job it is to keep [the show] from crashing down,” Karch said. “It’s a tightrope, [and] you could always fall off, but every day you never know where it’s going to go; the challenge is always different.”

Over the nearly two decades hosting Karsch and Anderson at the station, which is currently branded as 97.1 The Ticket following the move to the FM band in 2007, the Detroit sports area has helped grow superstars and, in return, won several major sports championships.

“I think some markets skew so heavily towards one of the teams, but I do think in Detroit we’re fortunate to have interest in sports year round,” Karsch said. “There are times here sports stories on a given day just aren’t going to carry the day, so we kind of have to branch out and push out what’s interesting to the average Detroiter if it’s not a sports story.”

Karsch has been working directly with Michigan Wolverines radio broadcast for 16 years, initially hosting the pregame tailgate show, halftime show and postgame show. Additionally, he used to host the Wolverines sports magazine show and also contributed to the University of Michigan’s athletics department website, giving him additional exposure to the brand.

“There’s a familiarity,” Karsch said. “Whether we were in the press box or outside the stadium – it varied just [by] being at all the games [and it] got me accustomed to it.”

Before being named the new play-by-play announcer for Michigan Wolverines football, Karsch worked as a sideline reporter on the radio broadcasts, enterprising stories and shifting the central focuses of his preparation. Yet there are similarities between both roles, evinced by Dan Miller, play-by-play announcer for the Detroit Lions, who gave Karsch sound advice.

“He told me, ‘You’re going to walk into the booth with a bucket filled with information, and when the game is over, that bucket is going to be 95% still filled because you just don’t have to get everything out; otherwise you’re kind of forcing it and it’s awkward,’” Karsch said.

“I caught on a couple of occasions this year where I fell into that trap a little bit, but he’s right. You have to almost prepare for every player on the field on either team to be the star and then when that guy makes a huge play, you hope to have some relevant information to add to their story in that moment of time.”

When Karsch landed the play-by-play job, he was elated and enthusiastic for the start of the college football season. Now as the regular season nears its conclusion, Karsch feels he and color commentator and former offensive tackle Jon Jansen have rekindled their chemistry from when they hosted the pregame tailgate show and called the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl together.

“The magnitude of the position is intimidating, but when we actually got on the air to do it, it just felt like Jon and I doing a show where there wasn’t a script,” Karsch said. “It was Jon and I just doing our thing where the script was the game playing out in front of us.”

Jansen was a captain on the 1997 national championship team and has been able to make connections between being a member of that group and watching this year’s football team attempt to achieve similar levels of success. Michigan recently faced the Illinois Fighting Illini and trailed going into the fourth quarter for the first time all season. The matchup was ultimately decided by a field goal set up by a large punt return by Ronnie Bell, drawing similarities to the National Championship Game in 1997.

“Michigan had to come up with a fourth quarter drive, and he’s telling stories about that day and how much that was a hurdle [for] the team… to overcome when they didn’t have their best day,” Karch said. “….He was connecting dots from the eras that I think a lot of people can appreciate.”

Preparing for a football broadcast is similar to preparing for a radio show in that the goal is keeping people interested in listening and coming back for more. It all comes down to efficiently articulating information and using vivid imagery to tell stories that give listeners the ability to depict a game without seeing it.

“Doing a game in some ways is easier because a majority of the time is just filled describing what you’re seeing in front of you,” Karsch explained, “whereas talk radio is four hours of freelance but being ready to react to what the audience wants to talk about. You don’t have a whole lot of time doing a game to go back and find something that you missed, so you better be prepared for almost everything.”

As he prepares to take the microphone at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Karsch will aim to have his best broadcast of the season. It comes in a game surrounded by various storylines that will all coalesce at kickoff and could very likely determine the outcome of the 2022 Michigan Wolverines season.

Last week’s game against Illinois was Karsch’s first genuine opportunity as the voice of the Wolverines to call a fourth quarter finish at a time when “the game takes over.” Now he is even more prepared for the adrenaline rush in calling a game filled with profound significance and traditional pomp and circumstance – one that may turn out to rival the previous “Game of the Century.”

“The audience needs you to make sure that you’re not missing any details,” Karsch said. “Everything was ratcheted up – my intensity was ratcheted up – I think Jon’s was next level and when it is over you really do exhale. I learned a lot about those moments and then I went back and listened to it [and] I heard a few things I could have done better. I imagine it’s going to be 60 minutes of that feeling this Saturday.”

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