Nutmeg Games: Fool Me Twice

Before I get started on what happened yesterday, let’s take a step back a year. Last year, for the CT State games, promoter Rick Comshaw posted what I felt was an unfair and inequitable race flyer. The Women’s elite field was offered a percentage of rider registrations as payout for a State Championship race. For the sake of brevity, let’s assume you already understand the reasons that approach unfairly penalizes already smaller minority populations and offers a disincentive to race. I wasn’t alone in my outrage.

There were mixed approaches to the situation last year, with some of the men trying to organize a boycott in solidarity with the women, some people reaching out to the promoter directly, and some reaching out to NEBRA, our local governing body. It had an impact, with the men’s elite field size taking a hit in numbers.

 

Some of our peers in the elite women’s field showed force by showing up and racing hard, to prove something that shouldn’t have to be proven at this point: that women’s racing is compelling, competitive, and deserving. Unfortunately, they left disappointed.

So let’s jump to this year. NEBRA held a line that they wouldn’t permit the CT State Championships to a race with unequal elite men/women payouts. We got a flyer for the Nutmeg Games that appeared equitable. I was skeptical, but part of the thing about being an outspoken loudmouth demanding change, is that you kind of have to back it up with a willingness to support change when it happens. This includes rallying my fellow outspoken peers. Positive changes should be positively reinforced, right?

gchat

On Friday I noticed that not many people were registered for the race, which I was bummed about because I like racing and big fields are fun.

The 5pm start time on a Sunday near Hartford was definitely sub-optimal, but I figured we’d get a few last minute additions. Knowing we had the NEBRA permit-stand going into this race, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be any outcome other than whoever showed up racing hard and being paid out as per the flyer.

In the car on the way down my inner skeptic started speaking up. The radar was showing rain and I wasn’t so sure anymore that we’d get many day-of registrations. I bet Leslie one fancy-coffee drink that we’d get to the race and Comshaw would cut the prize list. She took the other side, believing that promoters must hold to what’s on the flyer.

We picked up numbers, got pinned, hid out from the rain, made small talk with our fellow racers, and ultimately lined up at the start. By this point it had started raining and the forecast only called for more rain. At the line, the promoter and an official asked us what our preference was for race time. The flyer stated we’d have a 60 minute race, and we stated that we’d all be happy to race 60 minutes, unless the weather conditions became unsafe. We were repeatedly asked if we would be willing to do 20-30 minutes because of the rain. We declined. We were pushed to agree to 45 minutes, which we agreed to only if the weather became too unsafe to continue racing.

After we declined to agree to a shortened race, we were met with a “ha, you know you’re racing for medals only, right? not money!” from the promoter. On the start line. Honestly, I think we were all too stunned to react. There were some groans, some WHAT?!s, and a brief discussion of whether to just walk away. He followed up with, “it’s in the flyer! Minimum of 30 racers!”

Quick, get your magnifying glasses, I think this is what we’re relying upon:

2017 Nutmeg Crit Flyer - FINAL

“Minimum field f is 15”.  Of course, I couldn’t see this until after the race, when I was out of the pouring rain and could inspect the flyer more closely.

Ultimately, I decided to race, and I did so for a couple reasons.

  1. It was a state championship race for the 4/8 racers that were from CT. It wouldn’t be fair to them to walk away and make an already small field smaller. It wouldn’t be fair to any of my peers who wanted to race.
  2. It was 5pm on a Sunday night and I still needed to do a workout, which I was unlikely to do if I left that venue.
  3. I paid $40 US Dollars to participate in this event.
  4. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness
  5. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness
  6. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness

The field was small by numbers, but loaded with talent. We made a good race of it. But that’s not the point here. What the promoter did was disgraceful. It’s a poor representation of the Nutmeg Games, who fund this event. It’s clearly in defiance of an agreement with NEBRA, and NEBRA was quick to reply:

 

More than anything, it put us in an impossible situation. It feels like “fool me twice” for me, believing that there could be a different outcome this year and showing up to be proved wrong. It undermines my trust that there’s actually any governing-body power to stop this kind of inequality. I’m not clear if that’s an acceptable line in a flyer, if it’s binding, or if it’s the version NEBRA approved. I’d argue that even if it is valid, there’s a burden on the promoter to make this known to racers in advance. Promoters have the ability to message all riders through BikeReg, where we all dutifully submitted our $40 to race. I’d argue that it’s disingenuous at best to accept our money fully knowing there was no intention to pay out the prize list. At worst, it’s fraud.

In a show of grand generosity, the promoter did say he’d still pay out the primes he’d planned for the race. There were two primes, each for $10. Yes, you read that right, $10. Leslie won them both. She used her $20 to buy me dinner, actually. Take a second and look back at that flyer for me – see something notable? A minimum of three (3) $100 primes for the men’s elite race.

So where do we go from here? Well, I’m going to write a letter to the Nutmeg State Games directly. I’d love if you would be willing to do the same. Tell them that it’s disheartening to see them supporting a promoter that doesn’t believe in equity, and who thinks changing the rules on the start line is an acceptable way to run a race. Tell them that CT deserves better for their state championship, and that there are other deserving races in the state and other promoters who take an active stand. I’ve already been in touch with NEBRA. And here’s where it gets tricky: men, I’m going to ask you to take a stand. Situations like this can persist indefinitely as long as there are powerful people standing by to allow it. And men, particularly elite men, you are the empowered group. Unfortunately, saying nothing here IS saying something. I know we all want to race, and we want racing to be a relief from an outside world that seems to be raining politics on us full-time. That’s exactly why we need bike racing to remain a safe space for all of us, and a refuge from the injustice everywhere else. Men, we need you to take a stand against races like this, and against Rick Comshaw personally. Men, particularly prominent elite men, refusing to participate sends a message that this matters.

Thank you for hearing me.

Erin

UPDATE: After communications with NEBRA, the Nutmeg State Games are stepping in to reverse Sunday’s decision and pay out both the Women’s elite and Men’s 30+ fields in accordance with the posted flyer. The official statement is here.

I appreciate the quick response from the Nutmeg Games. Personally, I’m going to donate my winnings to NEBRA. They do great work for us here in New England and work tirelessly to improve our racing community. They also provide resources, financial and otherwise, to promoters and racers. It’s my most sincere hope that we will not all be in this position again, that the race in New Britain returns in the future, and that we can all race there and have a good time.

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42 thoughts on “Nutmeg Games: Fool Me Twice

  1. What an epic whine!

    Your race is less popular and not as interesting (however hard you believe you race), therefore fewer people are interested. Choose another sport or organize your own. But stop asking for things just because VAGINA! I don’t stand with you.

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      • VAGINA didn’t read the fine print and is still whining. Awwwwww, poor VAGINA. Maybe she needs a VAGINA-waiver for reading comprehension too!

        Simping will not be tolerated!

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    • Your post “Gonads Rule” is a sad but topical example of why the payouts for women’s races are so inequitable. Needless to say, it’s not because fewer people are interested. Nevermind to that most cis-women do have gonads in the form of ovaries…

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    • It’s kind of funny you chose Gonads Rule as a name.
      Gonads are an organ that makes gamete.
      Ovaries and testicles are gonads.
      You must want equality in bike racing.
      Or you didn’t do very well in biology.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I buy the argument that we should have high/equal payouts for women’s races for the symbolism and as an incentive to get more women involved in bike racing, which is great for all racers, all cyclists, by extension the world, the environment, etc. etc. That sounds like a good, reasonable idea to me, and if I were a race director, I personally would do that, using the registration money from the men’s fields to cross-subsidize and get equal payouts. But I’m not sure it’s completely clear, philosophically, what would actually be ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’, and as such I’m a little uncomfortable with the efforts to use the internet to stigmatize race directors who don’t come down on the ‘right’ side of this question. Is it really fair to give a person who proves to be the best racer out of 12 the same money as a person who proves to be the best racer out of 80? What’s the limit of that argument? Would the Nutmeg directors still have been obligated to pay out $750 to the women’s field if only two women showed up? Is it fair to demand that race directors to take a large loss on certain races? How large a loss? You say that field size is not a measure of competitiveness, but in that case, what exactly is the measure of competitiveness? Should we look at gender-adjusted power data, e.g., compare how womens’ elite amateur racers’ w/kg power curves compare to those of the best women racers in the world, vs. how men’s power curves look compared to those of pro continental men? Or data on average training intensity for, say, the top 10 women vs. top 10 men? Are you confident that, if we did try to make some systematic effort to estimate how competitive womens’ races are compared to men, that the data would tell us that they are currently equally competitive?

    To reiterate, I am in favor of a world in which race directors essentially say, “Look, the world of competitive cycling currently has a big problem/gap with a lack of women racers, and we’re trying to make a big push to see if we can fix that and develop more of a women’s bike racing culture, so, yeah, we’ll take a loss on some women’s races and cross-subsidize from the men’s races to finance high payouts for them. It’s not like many of the men really show up for the money anyways.” (Let’s face it, cycling is a rich kid’s sport…) But at the same time, I’m deeply uncomfortable with efforts to stigmatize and insult and members of the cycling community and race organizers who are bumping up against real-world financial constraints, have reasonable questions about what equity means in this context, when real-world women’s participation and turnout is sadly so low, etc. Let’s do our best to promote women’s bike racing and cycling more generally. Let’s not try to destroy the reputations of race directors who have to face real-world financial constraints and real-world facts.

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    • Hey Brian, thanks for the thoughtful response. First things first, it’s up to promoters to set a prize list for their race based on expected entrants (or whatever metric they like), and hold to it. It is specifically against USAC rules to have a participation based clause to payouts, or to change them after the flyer is posted (https://www.usacycling.org/blog/usa-cycling-officials/may-rules-of-the-month.htm). So the argument of women’s fields being smaller and thus warranting less payout would have to have been made in advance.

      I think field size is a very poor proxy for field quality. I think if the 10 best women in the region were all at a the same race, it would be a higher quality than an open field of 50, where 47 are first-time racers and three are pros, for example. Obviously that’s a bit of hyperbole. But the same is true on the men’s side. The top 20 local men + 30 others or the top 20 local men + 60 others doesn’t change the outcome of the race. To your other point, it does change the registration fee income to the promoter. There’s a bit of a chicken/egg problem at play too. It’s unfair to penalize all women for the fact that the total racer population is smaller than the men’s. Penalizing an already small population with an inequitable distribution only offers further incentives not to show up because of a decreased perceived value. You can see how this becomes cyclical.

      I’d also argue that in setting a race budget, promoters should consider the overall expected entrant pool in considering the available budget for prize money (among other race expenses). Payouts across the board are not typically a specific percentage of entrants for that race, but rather a consideration within the entire budget.

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      • Overall, if you don’t like a race (due to pay out, number/variety of fields, fine print rules, event organizer politics), you don’t have to do it. It ‘s better to go and race and support an event that you like and want to see continue to happen then to participate in one that might feel the opposite.

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      • Okay, I agree that races should not break the rules, and that does suck to hear that on the start line, particularly if the prize money was part of what motivated you to make the trip out to race in the rain. They should not have done that. My original comment as about the more general binds race directors are in, and how we define fairness and equity in this context, and I don’t contest your point about the specifics of your case at Nutmeg Sunday.

        I wonder if the solution is just to do away with prize money entirely for regional amateur races, and use the savings to lower registration fees, or spend on other perqs like better neutral feed support at road races or more mechanical support at crits. I’m a good-ish racer and I just now did the calculation and realized that I’ve won about $450 this season, vs. registration fees of about $250, so I’m a “net benefiter” from prize money. Good for me, I guess, but I never once paid attention to prize money when I entered a race, it was never part of my motivation to enter a race, travel to it, or try hard during it. And I never see anybody bragging about their prize money on Strava after races. Seems like the prize money has tiny benefits, but causes a lot of tension in the community and puts race directors in very tricky political spots. Might be best just to do away with cash prizes.

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      • Not going to disagree with you there Brian. I’ve long advocated for not paying most fields. I think we might disagree on elite fields, but you may also be making a distinction on the “level” of race, for lack of a better term. Prize money isn’t a motivator for the majority of us. I also couldn’t tell you what I’ve won vs. what I’ve paid, because I’m not especially sensitive about entry fees either. Promoting a race is a lot of work, and I think promoters should be fairly compensated. I am, however, highly motivated by injustice. And given all the information in advance, I could’ve made the best decision for me. The string of events here removed that.

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  3. Women are not men and men are not women, we’re different, NOT equal.

    Your argument is not equitable. You’re seeking equality on a lopsided platform. Why?
    What do we owe you?

    We have been trying this bullshit “get women involved” stance for almost 10 years that I am aware of. All at the cost of and on the shoulders of men’s races. And the only success is your puffed head thinking that you actually deserve some nothing prize pool. Take your medal and your big head and go home to your cats.
    Why can’t you just organize your own event instead of trying to drag down another promoter because you don’t feel he observed the rules? Frankly I don’t think most MOST women want to be involved or give a shit about a prize pool being $150 more. The numbers say so.

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    • Dear Dude: I just wanted to take a minute to say Fuck You. My name is Peter Flax and you can find me on various social media platforms. You are just an anonymous troll pretending to be a big man. The only thing more obvious than the injustice of this situation is that you’re a pathetic wanker.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Your argument is not equitable. You’re seeking equality on a lopsided platform. Why?
      What do we owe you?”

      Heck if it’s a case of who owes who what then we may as well stop women from doing any labor paid or not that benefits men in any way shape or form. Why do they “owe” us (men) anything?

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    • Big ups to all the moralizers, simps and white knights. Go forth in your hazy cloud of self righteousness and ignorance while you give away the last shreds of your masculinity.

      It’s a bitch move to be ignorant of the fine print then try to drag down a promoter because they didn’t read the fine print. And no one except a 12 year old really cares about some minuscule prize pool, and if if was announced at the start. Grow the fuck up.

      I’ll be in the side enjoying my sandwich prepared by those who decided that racing is not for them.

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  4. Dudes and Gonads,

    First, I salute you. An honest explication of your position is helpful, even if you aren’t man enough to take personal responsibility for it. I also recognize that gonads are just small fleshy organs neither necessary nor sufficient to constitute a man, so Gonads, your ambition is particularly commendable. Now then,

    Some people paid $43 for a 40 mile race with a $750 prize list. Some other people paid $43 for a 1 hour race with a $750 prize list. No gonad, let alone any particular gonad, showed up and paid $43. We *people* ask for what’s promised because *people* showed up and paid $43. Promotors are free to make a profit on their race, and commensurate with that, they take a loss when they plan poorly.

    Minimum field requirements do not negate the promise of a particular prize list. If a minimum field size fails to show up, there are a variously offensive contingencies that would not constitute fraud. Races can be combined, races can be canceled (for safety or logistical reasons) with refunds. These are not very satisfactory, but they aren’t fraud, and they are consistent with the policies that were established by the organizations that licensed the event. Finally, Dudes, Gonads, and the promoter could “choose another sport” and exclude whomever the wish, but this would not be the sport sanctioned by USA Cycling or NEBRA.

    The reason we offer equal prize lists is indeed to encourage women in the sport. I understand that this is tough to take for some. It really does reduce the opportunities for men to prove their gender dominance with quantitative dollar-and-cents metrics. It does undermine their fantasy that their fat-angry-masters or far-less-than-pro races are interesting to anyone other than themselves. It does not reduce their opportunities to participate in sport or to ride their bikes. If you’re not one of the 925 fastest men to show up (yes, that’s the combined field limits of the crit in question), it’s not because of the 175 potential opportunities offered to women. You have many opportunities to go enjoy training until you are. I’ll do the math for you: 5.3x as many opportunities for men. Total payout *promised* over all categories was 3.8x for men, and was increased on the start line to *infinity*. Can you seriously assert you need more than 5x the opportunities to compete because Gonads?

    I’ll elaborate, because this point is important: You’re not a pro. Your race is not any more interesting than anyone else’s race. You don’t get a prize because because audiences come and pay money for the privilege of spectating. You don’t don’t get paid because you’re statistically more likely to have a few more watts than somebody else because of your gonads. You get some of your own money back because somebody’s decided that prize money is part of the sport. We offer *equal* prize money because it’s part of our sport for *people* to have opportunity to participate in it. The sum doesn’t matter. The insult of being lied to and having your last shitty race of the day cut short and unrewarded does matter. It drives women from the sport and that detracts from the sport. If you want fewer women participating in the sport, then I would contend that *you* detract from the sport.

    But still, you might argue that somewhere between 5.3x and infinity times more men are interested in the sport as compared to women. I call bullshit. That unsubstantiated assertion is indeed what keeps women away. It’s not masculine; it’s just bullshit. The opportunity needs to come first. At the very least, the insults need to end first. It sucks that it might cost a promotor a few bucks today, but it’ll expand the haul greatly in the future. Case in point: It was 15 years ago (my last year of collegiate racing) that the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference decided to offer equal points to Men and Women in the same number of equivalent categories. This, like equal payouts, costs men little or nothing. Checking the 2017 ECCC road results, I see about a page of female participants in each of 4 categories, about 62% of the men’s participation. In my day, there were only two women’s categories and far fewer women in each. That’s progress, and a lot more entry fee revenue. It’d be nice if we saw complete parity, but the remaining difference probably has an explanation too. I’ll suggest two hypotheses:

    A. Women are weak and uninteresting and have a lot of work to do with their cats.
    B. 15 years, while a long time to stay stupid, pales in comparison to lifetimes of bullshit insults.

    You pick. Either way, we’re doing equal payouts and I’m encouraging racers of all gonads to stick with that, and I have no problem with calling out promotors for their actions. If you can’t promote a race anymore because of your history, I am unmoved.

    PS. That’s my real name up there. I hope you feel masculine.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Comshaw broke the rules of USAC and NEBRA. I assume he wishes to continue his decades-long crusade against women; he should self-insure. I look forward to seeing all the creative fake names you guys will come up with when you continue to participate in his races.

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  6. To all the people on here too scared to use their real names. Congratulations…..I’m pretty sure that you don’t understand the concept of what an actual troll is. Please remove yourself from the internet, hobble underneath your bridge, and ask your family (who hates you by the way) various riddles. Your thinking is outdated but yes please continue to be scared and confused by women asking for equality. That bridge you’re under will be there at any point should you choose to cross it. (I’m talking about the bridge to equality in case your troll brain could not comprehend that). Love, with much gusto,
    Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a sad state when a promoter pulls a bait and switch like that.

    Seems like a fair reason to pull his future races from BikeReg, where he not only enjoyed easy access to racers for registration, but provided false advertising on payouts to gain those registrants.

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  8. It’s truly sad that only 236 people showed up for a state championship crit event. It’s way, way more sad that we continue to pay out Cat 4/5 fields and Masters Men and stiff Elite women.

    The Promoter crying about losing money means the promoter does a shitty job at promoting. The correct response should be to beat him at his own game. Get a group of people together and promote your own race. Do it the right way. Don’t make t-shirts. Make your own trophies/medals. Only pay elites. Get a cheap venue. Put in a bid for the state championship.

    All of you MRA trolls need to get back to your MMA dojo’s and/or your mother’s basements. More likely the latter. Get the fuck out of our attempting to be inclusive sport.

    Like

    • Aside from the insults, that was a nice summary. I haven’t been at this long, but it seems to me that clumsiness and disorganization have come with the increasing popularity of the sport it in many cases. Growing pains?

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  9. I’m not sure I agree with the “equal payouts for women to encourage more women to participate in the sport”

    I agree with equal payouts for women because it’s simply the right thing to do.

    By all means make that equality easier for promoters by not paying prize money to Masters and/or non-Elite fields……both male and female. This simpering Cat4 will be delighted with a podium shot and bragging rights if I ever sniff the front of a race again. I’ll even buy my own damn bottle of chocolate milk.

    Promoting races seems to me to be a very tough and thankless task and I know we are all grateful to the folks that enable us to turn up and race our bicycles safely…..when things go wrong, they should normally be given the benefit of the doubt.

    This, however, is beyond the pale and I hope the community will support our colleagues.

    As for the trolls….I guess there are only three possible motives I can think of:
    1. They are good enough to be in paying places in big-money races, and don’t want a smaller prize fund for them = GREEDY
    2. They are misogynists who think women who are second class citizens and should be treated that way = GO LIVE IN SAUDI ARABIA
    3. They are friends of the promoter who blindly support whatever he does though a misguided sense of loyalty = SPINELESS

    Ignore them if you can and let their ugliness just flap in the wind like their badly-pinned life-numbers.

    Erin we are all with you.
    A

    Like

    • I figure the trolls have been getting beaten by the woman and can’t stand the fact that the “weaker sex” is actually stronger….

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  10. Hi Erin,

    Great analysis. Sorry for this crap that just doesn’t seem to go away.

    Trolls- Such arrogance. I have a 12 yr old daughter who shies away from competitive sports bc women’s events generally aren’t televised, meaning she can’t see someone who looks like her participate. What do I say to her? To quote some of you I should say “hey sorry kid. you’re a girl, you’re not as valuable or important as the boys, get used to it.”
    Well f*ck that! She is fierce! She has every right to be treated with the same respect as you in every endeavor she chooses.

    You say men and women aren’t equal so this was fair? So much privilege!

    I am on of the directors of the Chicago Cyclocross Cup, an 11 race series in and around Chicago. We pay equal money because everyone races hard, whether there’s 10 or a 100 in a field. Everyone races hard for every position every Sunday. Isn’t that what we want?

    If one of our promoters did this, I would do everything all in my power to see that they would not return the next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Perhaps the greatest part of this post is the absolute fact all the crying trolls and MRA supporters could live 100 lifetimes and still not compare to the likes of Ann Caroline Chausson or Rachael Atherton (Who by the way had a flawless season in 2016 as well as the fastest pro time at Mt. St. Anne.).
    All this whining about how dare they live within 100 miles of a *gasp* vagina yet fail to realize they all came from one, smh, I guess you really cannot fix stupid.

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  12. I’d like to be able to say that I only race races with equal payout, but I don’t. It’s definitely been part of my decision-making, but especially given this, I’m committed to making it a much bigger part of my decision-making.

    Thanks for writing this, Erin.

    Like

  13. After speaking with the NEBRA Board of Directors regarding the Women’s 1-3 Prize List being pulled at the start line and the Men’s Master 30+ being combined with the Men’s Master 40+ Prize List we have determined that the situation was not handled appropriately according to USA Cycling Policy.

    We here at the Nutmeg State Games strive to make decisions in the best interest of our participants.

    As a result we will be mailing out checks to both Women’s 1-3 and Men’s 30+ for the full prize amounts stated in our race flyer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the quick action. I appreciate the direct communication and the remedy. This is a classy response and I hope to be back in New Britain next year. I’ll also update the post to reflect the resolution.

      Like

  14. Is there an opportunity to reach out to local media to get coverage on this and shin a light on the history of this race director and his misogyny? How about reaching out to sponsors involved in the races he puts on?

    Like

  15. Pingback: Honest Bicycle Program #80 – We Love Our Old People

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