Transcript

Ask The Post

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz
Editor, Sports
Wednesday, September 21, 2005; 12:00 PM

This Week: Washington Post Editor for Sports Emilio Garcia-Ruiz was online Wednesday, Sept. 21, at noon ET to field your questions about The Post's coverage of professional, college and high school sports.

The transcript follows:

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Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Hello, everyone. This is an amazing week in Washington sports with the Redskins coming off their come-from-behind win over Dallas on Monday night, Barry Bonds in town to face the Nationals and all kinds of college football to talk about. So fire away. By the way, if you want to learn more about how our department works, we're hosting a discussion at the Martin Luther King Library on G Street NW next Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. as part of the Washington Post & DC Public Library Partnership. One of our reporters, Mark Maske, will be on hand to talk about life as a sportswriter.

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Oakton, Va.: It's college football season again and the lopsided coverage of U. of Md. is again evident. Virginia has two excellent teams, often in the top 25, and they receive disproportionately less coverage week after week. Your subscribers on this side of the Potomac, I daresay, are far more interested in Virginia teams. The coverage devoted to our area teams should reflect the relative distribution of your readership in each state not the proximity of your sports writers to College Park.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: We do extensive polling of folks who read the paper and our readership surveys show clearly that Post sports section readers favor Maryland over the Virginia schools by almost a two to one margin. Yes, the number is surprising. We thought the split would be clean among geographic lines. That said, for the first time ever we have a full-time writer, Mark Schlabach, living in Roanoke covering the Cavs and Hokies instead of using part-time writers on those beats.

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Philadelphia, Pa: Georgetown was an improved men's basketball team last season, though they arguably stumbled in the late going.

How do you see their record this year in an expanded Big East conference?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: JT III having an amazing recruiting year but the fruits of that labor won't be evident until 2006-07. But he did a solid job last season with what many felt was a thin roster so there's no reason to think that won't continue.

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New York, N.Y.: Hi Emilio,

Thanks for taking my question.

Ok, I admit that I was goin' crazy when the 'Skins pulled off the win on Monday. But everyone, including Wilbon, seems to have lost perspective as a result of this game. This game was no validation of Gibbs and only marginally so of Brunell. The Skins' offense was downright pathetic until the end. And from what I heard, it was a player who had suggested that they run Moss on a deep double move anyway. Did you see anything in Gibbs' playbook/playcalling to dispute the fact that this was just a fluke??

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: That is THE question of the moment. And we won't know the answer for a few weeks. If the Redskins offense can build on those last moments in Dallas then this team can do some damage because the defense clearly is among the best in the league. Forgotten in the victory was that for two straight weeks the defense has been maybe even better than last season.

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Arlington, Va.: Emilio,

Thanks for joining us today. I think the Sports section has come a long way in the past year -- particularly love the layout of the baseball pages.

My question revolves around space. I appreciate the amount of coverage The Post gives to D.C. United and soccer (esp. USMNT). But I also appreciate that you've got a lot of other priorities with NHL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, and high school teams in the area. Why not expand the online space to allow for more coverage of areas where you've already invested assets (such as staff writer Goff), and allow him to cover the heck out of MLS' premier soccer team? I could see the same thing with local high school sports.

Thanks, Loyal reader

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: That is indeed the model of the future and Mark Maske covers the NFL in that way for us. He writes much longer pieces for the web that are then boiled down for the paper. As for doing it with everyone else, there's a staffing issue there for our web folks that can be quite daunting.

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Alexandria, Va.: I know you got a lot of flak early in the season, particularly from the anti-O's contingent, about your equal coverage of both baseball teams. But I think since then you've hit on the proper mix -- the O's get some extra ink, but are not featured as prominently as the Nats.

What I would like to see though is a bit more coverage of the minor leagues, since all of the nearby teams are affiliated with the two local MLB clubs.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: The collapse of the O's changed the coverage we gave them. As they became less newsworthy they got less space. The fact that the Nationals stayed in the playoff hunt made that a no-brainer. As for adding more minor league coverage, budget restrictions keep us from doing that.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Why is Boswell telling fans how to react toward Bonds at Nats games? It seems even a columnist should stick to the facts and his opinion and not direct fan behavior. Doing so is potentially dangerous and unfair to the subject. Would a music critic urge the public to heckle a bad singer even one who lip syncs?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Like all columnists, Tom was simply presenting an idea in an attempt to get readers thinking about how they should react to a certain development. A good column should get people thinking about an issue and I believe Boz did that.

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Hughesville, Md.: Hi,

I've been curious about when The Post goes to print and your ability to list late scores. Would the timing allow for you to put the score somewhere on the sports 1st page at the last second? I don't know anything about the printing business so this might be one of those dumb questions. Thanks.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: We publish a series of editions each night,and each has their own deadline. If you look at the top right corner of the page, those teeny, tiny letters tell you which one you've gotten. The one that says M2 is the latest; the one that says R is the earliest. What you get depends a lot on where you live and when your delivery person picks up their papers. We print so many papers that waiting until the end of the night to print them all would make it impossible for our circulation folks to get the paper to doorsteps soon enough.

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D.C.: It seems like sports fans are surprisingly wealthy given the folks I see at the Nationals and Wizards games (and even more so at the Redskins, I imagine). I was thinking that if I were a marketing person, I'd sell premium beer to these people, not Bud Light.

That's not the way it was when my father grew up going to Yankee Stadium, when kids could go the game using their allowance.

Is the Post coverage aimed at a fairly wealthy demographic profile?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: No because we cater as much to people watching at home on TV as we do to people at games. But it's true, good seats cost a lot more money than they did here when I was young. I remember those $6 Caps tickets. Makes you wonder how the leagues are going to solidify their hold on the young when those are the folks with the least chance of being able to afford a game.

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Washington, D.C. : Can your newspaper write critically about Dan Snyder?

Ever since he has been the owner, the Redskins franchise has floundered. His coaching and personnel moves have made this once-proud franchise a laughingstock. And yet the Post seemingly always mentions how Snyder has turned the Redskins into the most profitable team in the NFL.

Yes, the 'Skins are 2-0. But they were two miracle plays away from not scoring a touchdown in their first two games.

Can't you write about the bad, as well?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: I believe many people with the team will tell you we are too negative in our coverage of the Redskins.

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Fairfax, Va..: I travel enough to understand that the Washington Post has an exceptional Sports Section and well above average writers. I would assume that you have done some comparative analysis with other papers. Which papers (in addition to the Post) do you recognize as leaders in sports coverage for their respective cities?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: The LA Times, Boston Globe, NY Times (their NY edition, not the one we get here)and Dallas Morning News are all very good. We've taken writers from the Seattle Times and KC Star so we obviously like what they do there.

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Washington, D.C.: I understand you've done reader polls or some other such polling method to determine that Post readers want Maryland coverage 2 to 1 over Virginia school coverage, but those results are simply flawed. There is no way a valid, impartial, properly conducted marketing study would possibly come to that conclusion. Virginia Tech ALONE should be favored 2 to 1 over Maryland based just on the alumni base.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Nope. We do these surveys year after year and get the same results. Don't forget that Maryland won a national championship in basketball and went to the Orange Bowl in football. Success raises your profile as much as anything.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Mr. Garcia-Ruiz -

Starting with the new school year, The Post's coverage of high school sports seems to have taken several steps backwards from what it has been for the past two or three years. Why are you not covering high school sports as actively and in as much detail as you had been?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: I can assure you we have not reduced our high school coverage one iota and we continue to do more preps than any paper our size. The problem is that preps can be a losing proposition because no matter how much you do there will be folks who are disappointed because THEIR school wasn't mentioned.

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Miami, Fla.: Big fan of The Post and the Redskins coverage. What's up with Tony K.'s mini-columns? Has he been demoted? And will we see more Wizards coverage? They are just one player away from winning the Southeast Division and an up and coming force to be reckoned with. Watch out Heat!

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Thanks. Tony is venturing into a new, exciting area of column writing by doing pieces that are half the length of the normal column. With readers telling us they have no time to read the entire paper, this is an attempt to give them a short, quick hit on an issue that is easily digestible. And, yes, you'll see improved NBA coverage this season because of the Wizards' success.

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D.C.: First of all, I want to thank you and the Post for your continued coverage of D.C. United and soccer in general. It's a passionate fan base that you're serving, and I look forward to digging through my Post sports section every morning.

But I am also -- like many people here -- a transplant to the D.C. area. I often wish that the Post, as a paper of national stature, would increase its national coverage of sports. Sometimes I think the section goes overboard on the local teams -- especially the Redskins and Nats.

A great example of what is possible is Les Carpenter's moving piece on Sunday about the Cards clinching at Wrigley.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Balancing local and national stories is the most difficult part of this job. We try to find the perfect blend but our mandate is to give the best possible coverage of our local teams first.

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Connecticut & L: Hola Emilio!

Barry and Jorge seem to be having a genuine feud going judging by their comments in regards to each other on their chats. Is there real animosity or this just a big goof?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: I don't know. I don't like either one of them.

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New Haven, Conn.: Just wanted to thank you for Stephen Goff, and suggest he deserves a raise! I'm a long time D.C. United fan and have been away from the area for six years, but still follow his columns religiously. The best soccer journalist in the country. Thanks! Oh, and more D.C. United coverage, please.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Mrs. Goff weighs in.

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Washington D.C.: I was referring specifically to the owner Dan Snyder, not the overall coverage of the team. It's one thing to be critical of the team's performance on the field. It's another to place the blame where it belongs - on the owner's incessant meddling. Is this possible at the Post?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: I would ESPECIALLY assure you that the folks running the non-football part of the team believe we are too hard on Dan Snyder.

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Md vs. Va.: Of course Washington Post readers are more likely to support coverage of the University of Maryland -- it's actually in the Post's primary coverage area. It's inside the Beltway, for crying out loud! I'm not dissing the Hokies and Cavs, but they're not in the DC area, no matter how many alums have drifted up this way.

I'd rather read coverage of the team whose games I can actually take the Metro to get to.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: A vote for the Terps.

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Bozeman, Mont.: Being from Kansas City, I was disappointed to see Ivan Carter leave the KC Star, but glad he ended up with The Post. How's Ivan doing, and any plans to move him to the Georgetown beat?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Do you know that Ivan didn't invite me to his wedding, yet he invited his old boss at the KC Star?? That should tell you where his career is headed here.

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Burke, Va.: Emilio thanks for your time. Two questions (1) has Tony Kornheiser given up writing longer columns in sports with the edition of his thrice-weekly short column; and (2) Do you plan on expanding baseball coverage in the Post next season and perhaps bringing in a second baseball columnist to complement the always-excellent Tom Boswell? Thanks.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: 1. Probably. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the urge to do a longer one once in a while. But this puts him in the paper three times a week instead of one, which is a great thing for readers.

2. We already have more baseball coverage than most papers in the country with our separate AL and NL pages plus beat coverage of two local teams. More is not possible.

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Kensington, Md.: Why does the POST insist on labeling Virgina Tech a "local team"? It is 250 miles away for God's sake. And the standard defense that "we have a lot of Tech grads as readers" doesn't fly. By that logic Notre Dame should be a "local team" since there are thousands of Irish alums in this area!

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: The Hokies rate about equally with UVa. in our readership surveys, probably having more to do with football than basketball. Still, there is a big audience here for coverage on their teams and we will try to make those folks happy.

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Ballston, Va.: Silver Spring really has a bee in his bonnet about Boswell's Bonds article, as evidenced by the submission of the same question to other discussions. I don't think Boswell's article needed to tell people to boo; Bonds' words and actions alone do that. Like you said, Boswell was encouraging people to think about the issues surrounding Bonds. I had already decided to boo Bonds and the article merely solidified my decision.

I like the Nats coverage in the Post. It's interesting to see how some of the stories affect the team, such as the story about religion from Sunday's Post.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: The religion piece allowed us to show a side of the team few folks get to see. It was very well done by reporter Laura Blumenfeld and her editor Maralee Schwartz. They came up with the idea without our input and executed it strongly.

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Arlington, Va.: Does the Washington Post favor any of the groups that want to purchase the Nationals ?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: No.

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Clifton, Va.: I believe your surveys of WP readers showed that they would like more coverage of VA herding trials. There is no coverage right now. VA is the hotbed for sheep herding and trials and is home to 2 of the top 3 trialers in the US. These two gentlemen attended the World Championship in July in Ireland. And one of them, Tommy WIlson, made it to the semi finals! But no coverage in the WP. My suggestion is send Mike and Tony out to cover the herding trials in VA. It should be hysterical!

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: This is the beat Ivan Carter is getting after not inviting me to his wedding.

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Arlington, Va.: Football, baseball, basketball, college, golf, soccer, high school sports, all covered in this chat. What about hockey? I guess I shouldn't be surprised based on The Post's typical coverage of the Caps.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Here's a question to ponder: How should we cover the Caps after the work stoppage? Is the NHL still a major league? Should coverage be the same as the Wizards?? It's a tough question to answer.

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McLean, Va.: I don't know if you're the one to thank, but I'd just like to express that I love the free programs that The Washington Post has been printing up for the Nationals games. Is the plan to keep that up next season?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: These are done by the folks at EXPRESS, our free newspaper. Glad you like them. I have no idea about their future, though.

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Washington, D.C.: I can understand, to a point, the cost concerns of having an actual person cover the Nationals' minor league teams. However, how expensive would it be to simply provide the box scores and a weekly statistics update of the 6 primary Nationals' minor league franchises?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Space, or newshole, is often the greatest expense a newspaper faces. When we doubled the space for baseball after the Nationals arrived something had to give and that turned out to be our coverage of the minors.

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Fairfax, Va.: So who is the biggest prima donna you have to deal with -- Tony or Wilbon? I'm thinking Boz is the most humble of the three and I can't quite figure out what Wise's role is???

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Ivan Carter.

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Arlington, Va.: To follow up on the printing of late scores, I believe that the Post showed up at most places about an hour later than usual on Tuesday morning in order to cover the Redskins win. I presume that if they had lost 13-0, this would not have occurred.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: So here's how sports writing works with a night game. As the game is being played you write your story and then you have about a minute to send it after the game ends. But when the game changes in the last few moments as it did Monday, you basically have to start all over. Jason did a great job getting the story redone quickly and our production folks, from our copy desk and night staff to the folks in the production plants, basically went through heck making sure the story made 99 percent of that edition.

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Burke: Baseball, Basketball, and Football are the major sports and should get more coverage than Hockey. I'd argue that soccer should get more than Hockey. Maybe even track and field. Hockey can't even get a major sports network to cover it.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: A thought on hockey.

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Annandale, Va.: I've been reading your paper for almost forty years. I believe over that time your paper shows more coverage about minor sports teams and less coverage about the major teams. I remember picking up the Boston paper once and seeing eight pages on the Red sox for example. In my opinion the Skins should be getting as much attention. Also, your columnist Wilbon focuses on race issues far too much which have nothing to do with sports. The athletes are rich. Can someone tell Wilbon that?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: You just did.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I am not related to Les Carpenter. I do not know Les Carpenter. But I just wanted to tell you that so much of the stuff he has written this summer has been mind-blowingly good. Especially that feature on career minor-leaguer Rick Short a few weeks back. That was a work of art.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: We hired Les from Seattle and he has been a great addition. Much better than Ivan Carter.

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D.C. Hockey Fan: There should be no question about hockey. Cover the Caps like you do the Wizards. End of story. And do a NHL preview too.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: And another thought on hockey.

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Springdale, Md.: What ranking criteria is used for the Washington Metropolitian area High Schools, thus keeping Charles H. Flowers out of the top 20-25?

Thanks Preston

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: As a former high school editor I know that rankings are by far the most controversial thing we do. Most are compiled by talking to staff members who watch the games and coaches around the area. One thing is sure: If a team plays well all season, the rankings usually take care of themselves.

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Arlington, Va.: Emilio,

Will the Redskins ever change their name to something a little more PC?

John

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: I doubt it. The team is adamant the name is not offensive.

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Bethesda, Md.: What can you tell us about Sally Jenkins? What sort of a contributing schedule is she on? I'd say one out of every three of her articles really hits home but then the other 2/3 sound like someone who lives in New York and only has a fan's perspective on Washington teams.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Sally has been named the top sports columnist in the country two of the past four years. The fact that she lives in New York is irrelevant to me. (by the way, check out her pieces from Hurricane Katrina to see that she not only writes a great column, she writes a great story as well).

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Baltimore, Md.: Georgetown started 8-3 in the Big East last season in a new system, with a short bench, and starting two freshmen depending on match ups. With all starters returning including co-freshmen of the year and local star Jeff Green, four solid freshmen joining the team, and a year under their belts, should we be expecting an NCAA run this season?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: A run? Sure. But before I make any predictions I want to see how the new nasty Big East plays out in basketball. Some league that's become!

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Washington, D.C.: Sir,

Today you will no doubt get a lot of letters with a "why don't you cover such-and-such more," but I would just like to offer a heartfelt "Thanks!"for all the stories and coverage of the Capitals. This year is no doubt going to be a difficult one, but there's a whole lot of us out here who will stick with the team, even without last year's marquee line-up and the year off. Sorry Jason LaCanfora is now covering the Skins, but it looks like Tariq is doing an admirable job in his place. Lets Go Caps!!!

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: A vote for hockey. (Notice that there has been ZERO support of Ivan Carter thus far. VERY interesting).

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Re: Hockey: I never implied hockey deserved as much coverage as the other big three sports. But soccer? Please. Like it or not MLS is nothing but a minor league for European professional soccer.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: I'm afraid all that changes next year with the World Cup. We'll be all over that event.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I thought us complaining whining fans were the biggest prima donnas you have to worry about.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Fans are great. If they didn't whine and complain it would mean they didn't care.

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Section 505: Svrluga said you made Arangure cover the O's because he writes like they pitch -- nothing hits the strike zone. Is that true?

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: Do you know Svrluga once turned me down when I offered him a job? Jorge didn't do that.

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Arlington, Va.: A vote for the Terps? What about the multiple votes for the VA universities?

Success raises your profile as much as anything? What about the 12 straight bowl appearances by Virginia Tech -- four of which have been BCS bowls and one of which a national championship -- and the multiple Top 10 rankings? One might argue that is successful.

Combine that with a very large alumni base in the Metro area and I believe the Virginia universities deserve better coverage despite what your polls may indicate.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: OK, a vote for the Hokies.

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Arlington, Va.: Could you tell Wilbon that contrary to what he thinks, NASCAR is NOT a sport? It's playing a video game in a sauna except if you crash, you can die.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: NASCAR is clearly the No. 2 sport in the nation now. Bigger than baseball. Still can't touch the NFL though.

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Washington, D.C.: Why does The Post not rank HS cross country? Past sports editors told me cross country is not a team sport and they don't compete head to head with other schools. Any area coach would disagree with this position. Many have offered to help (my rankings appeared on your Web site ten years ago). Thanks!

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: My high school editor just walked by and he said he sees that as more an individual sport and that rankings are for team sports. His name is Jon Denunzio. Now go git him!!!!

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Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: I'm out of time. Thanks for all the great questions.

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