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Archive for April, 2007

Finally, Reason for Hope

Did that really just happen? Did the Browns really take an offensive lineman with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, just like I had been pressing for? (They must have read my columns) Then did they really trade back into the first round and take Brady Quinn at No. 22? Wow. Impressive. For the Browns to come away from this draft with two top-five talented players is simply impressive.

If you’ve read my other columns, you know I didn’t want the Browns to take Brady Quinn. I think that feeling was summed up in the “Please, Please, Please, Browns, don’t pick Brady Quinn” column from Friday. But that was going on the notion of the Browns only getting one player. With Joe Thomas upfront to anchor the offensive line, Quinn has a chance to be Donovan McNabb, not Tim Couch.
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Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

I say has a chance because let’s not get a head of ourselves. This is still Cleveland. Thomas and Quinn have all the potential in the world but they are headed to Cleveland where we kind of have a history of people coming here and falling flat on their face, or knees off a motorcycle.

I feel like I have to explain myself about me not wanting Brady Quinn. It wasn’t that I thought Quinn was going to be a bad player, in fact I think he could be a Pro Bowler. My problem with drafting Quinn was he wasn’t going to turn around the Browns by himself. Now that Cleveland as Quinn with someone to protect him, I like that he is in Cleveland. To recap; Quinn by himself = not good for the Browns. Quinn + Thomas = very good for the Browns. And yes, one player on the offensive line, at the most important position, makes all the difference.

I like how aggressive Phil Savage was in the draft. He did what was necessary to get Thomas and Quinn but then stayed just as aggressive. After trading away his second round pick, Savage worked another deal to get UNLV cornerback Eric Wright. For once, a Cleveland team didn’t sit still and hope for the best. They went out and made the best happen. Normally on draft days, the Browns are a washover in the national media. Not this year. They are the lead story, and how could they not be. No one thought anyone would walk away with two top players and the Browns did that. Yes, they gave up a lot to pick Quinn but it was worth it. Some are saying the first round pick they gave up is going to be a top 10 pick, and it has a good chance to be, but Cleveland, more than likely, would have used that pick on a quarterback of lesser value than Quinn. It’s a gamble that was well worth the risk. If Thomas and Quinn pan out to be what they should be, then this is the day that the Cleveland Browns are back on the NFL map.
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Good work Phil. Thanks.

You know how they had a camera with Thomas on his boat while he was fishing with his dad? I wish they would have had one with Charlie Frye too. Imagine what his day was like. He comes into the day thinking the Browns might take Quinn to replace him. Instead they pick Thomas and he was probably the most excited person because now he had a decent line to block for him. You could hear the big sigh of relief coming from Frye. Than two hours later, as Chris Berman is reporting the Browns and Cowboys have reached a deal and the Browns will take Quinn, you could hear him slamming his head off the wall.

The pieces are there offensively now; Quinn at quarterback, Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicious and Kellon Winslow catching balls, Jamal Lewis running it and a line anchored by Thomas, Eric Steinbach and LeCharles Bentley (when and if he comes back). Now each of those guys just has to do what they are capable of doing. I find it silly that by just picking two players, everyone is hopefully that this 4-12 team can turn things around, but that is exactly what those two players have done. Thomas should make his impact right away and Quinn is a quick study and should be starting by October, if not sooner. Cleveland fans have always been excited about the Browns in the offseason looking forward to the new season. Usually it is just to tailgate, drink beer and talk trash but this year we have a legitimate football reason to be excited.

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Please, Please, Please, Browns, don’t pick Brady Quinn

It’s draft weekend in the NFL. For the Cleveland Browns that usually means all talk, no show. Here’s a crazy stat; only five players drafted by the Browns from 1999 to 2004 are still on the team. The Browns have been more unlucky in the draft than Steve Bartman at a Cubs’ game. To say the Browns have had bad drafts is as obvious as saying you have bad gas the morning after a long night of drinking and eating fried food. There’s a great article in the Plain Dealer by Mary Kay Cabot that highlights the lowlights of the Browns draft problems.

With Phil Savage now running the show the Browns have put together two decent drafts but this year’s will be key. What the Browns do with the third pick will be critical to the future of the organization. I don’t have a clue what is going to happen with the top three picks but for the next 24 hours all I’m going to be saying to myself is “Please, please, please, Browns, don’t pick Brady Quinn.”
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Please, please, please, Browns, don’t pick Brady Quinn

If Quinn comes to the Browns, what problem does that solve? Is he really going to step in right away and be better than Charlie Frye? Not likely. It’s more likely it will be Tim Couch all over again, only with a bigger outrage from fans. We are tired of losing and Quinn won’t make us a winner this year (not that I’m expecting big things anyways). We have bigger needs. Quinn could become a great quarterback on some other team down the road but if he comes to Cleveland he’s destined to a life of linemen picking him off the ground saying “sorry, man. I missed that block.”
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This what Quinn have in his future as a Cleveland Brown.

If I were running the show, I’d take either Joe Thomas or Adrian Peterson. Two safer picks than Quinn and they can make a difference right away. Cases for both starting with Thomas. Thomas is a beast. Plan a simple. The fear is he will be a bust like Robert Gallery and there is a chance of that but as much of a chance of Quinn being Couch. The offensive line has been a problem since 1999. In recent years Savage has addressed the line through free agency with the LeCharles Bentley (last season) and Eric Steinbach (this year, who, according to Cabot’s article, the Browns could have had in the 2003 draft). It’s all well and good to get linemen through free agency but the draft is where you can really cement the line. Thomas and Steinbach would create a monster left side of the line. Who knows, giving Frye more time to throw could make him a solid NFL quarterback. He won’t ever be a superstar but he could be start who doesn’t make you say every draft “we need a quarterback!” With Thomas and Steinbach, it also give Jamal Lewis a good line to run behind. A solid line makes everyone better, especially running backs and quarterbacks. A bad offensive line makes you look like, well Tim Couch and Travis Prentice.

As for Peterson, there is concern about his broke collar bone and his overall inury-prone-ism (I think I just made a word). With Cleveland’s luck with injuries, we draft him and by training camp his left ankle breaks, his right arm falls off and he goes blind in one eye and loses his ability to smell or taste. If he goes somewhere else, he’s a 1,000 yard rusher. Well, I’m feeling optimistic about AP. For some reason I think he is going to be a stud and stay healthy with the Browns. It seems to be the growing trend in the NFL to have a two-back system. With Lewis and AP the Browns would have a very solid running back tandem. This too would take pressure off Frye.

I use to be a Thomas backer but I think I’m leaning towards Peterson. I just hope it’s one of the two. Until the Browns pick at No. 3, I’ll just keep saying over and over, “Please, please, please, Browns, don’t pick Brady Quinn.”
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Please, please, please, Browns, don’t pick Brady Quinn

I hear all this talk about trading down, which would be great to do to Tampa Bay or Atlanta who wants to move for Calvin Johnson but working out a trade like that is probably unlikely to happen. The Browns will stay at No. 3 and “Please, please, please, Browns, don’t pick Brady Quinn.”

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D-Good’s Good

Thanks to Drew Gooden, last nights Cavs game was a little less boring than Game 1. In fact, it was pretty entertaining. Like Game 1, the Cavs controlled the game. The Wizards kept it close in the first half, the Cavs pulled away in the second and then Washington made a good enough run late just to hold everyone’s attention. If it wasn’t for D-Good, the first half would have been unbearable to watch and the Cavs probably would have been down by 15. But D-Good put on a LeBron James-type exhibition and dominated the second quarter. He was 6-for-6 from the floor, 3-for-4 from line for 15 points in seven minutes. He finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds. A very solid game from anyone, let a lone a man with a rat tail. I’d go as far as to say watching Drew Gooden in that first half was the most fun I had watching a basketball player in a long time. There was game, about two months ago, where LeBron hit 3’s on three consecutive possessions and was just lights out hot. D-Good was in that threshold last night. You know someone is on fire when you can be sitting at home, watching him sink a barrage of shots and after every one you let out a laugh and think “how is he doing this?” That’s where I was with Gooden last night.
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I think the reason I enjoyed it was because the outburst came from a guy who you wouldn’t think was capable it. D-Good was making jumper after turn-around jumper after 17-footers while getting fouled. Not only was he making shots, he was flying all over the floor grabbing rebounds and loose balls. He looked like a man trying to run away from a bad haircut.

Another entertaining part of Gooden’s game last night was watching his strange ritual he does after a made shot. As he’s running back down the court, he looks down at the palm of his hands and starts shaking them. It’s like he his saying to them “Good job boys. I didn’t think I’d make it either but thanks to you it went in. Should we try it again and press our luck or just stop now. Screw it. Big, money, big money… no whammy, no whammy… stop!”

I truly was delightfully entertained by Gooden’s half. When LeBron gave him an assist for one of his jumpers, they showed LBJ smiling or laughing as he ran back on defense. He was probably thinking the same thing everyone in The Q was thinking, “what the hell is going on? Is that Drew Gooden and how much did he sell his soul for?” Whatever got in to D-Good, the Cavs are lucky it did. Z had a decent first half, LeBron was unnoticeable for the first quarter and Hughes was inconsistent until he took off his magical, or in this case, un-magical, headband at halftime.

As good as Gooden was, you knew he couldn’t carry the team all game. LeBron and Larry would have to take over down the stretch, and they did just that. They fed the ball to the D-Good and Z when they were carrying the team and waited for their time. LeBron had some big, tough buckets down late in the fourth quarter and Hughes made some very clutch free throws when Washington threatened to steal one game in Cleveland in the final two minutes. It was a perfectly balanced game. Get the supporting guys involved early so they continue to play hard throughout then let your stars take over when the game is on the line.

I’m sure there some people out there who are going to say the Cavs should be blowing out Washington and winning these games easily. Maybe the should, but the bottom line is they are up 2-0. Why dwell on the negative when the negative is just something people make up so they have something to talk about. Washington is still an NBA team. Without their top two scorers they know they have nothing to lose and just go out there and play reckless. It’s kind of like the 3-14 match-up in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, the three-seed should blowout the 14-seed but the 14-seed can just play like there’s no tomorrow. They’ll play the three-seed tough, keep the game close, but eventually the better team pulls away in the end. That’s what Washington is doing. They’ll continue to be competitive with the Cavs, in each game and the series, but the Cavs are too good and will pull a way each time. Cleveland still has never really been in danger of losing either game. Yes, Washington cut the lead to three with about 30 seconds to play but Hughes answered with more free throws and the Wizards never had a possession to tie or take the lead.

All that matter’s is Cleveland is up 2-0 thanks to D-Good’s entertaining half of basketball.

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Boring doesn’t mean bad

While I was watching the Cavs Game 1 win over Washington on Sunday I couldn’t help but think, “man, this is really boring.” I mean, think about it. The Cavs won by 15 but for most of the game it was closer than that. Even when it was just a two- or four-point game, I was never worried. You knew Cleveland would pull it out. The Cavs are playing Washington without their top two players. It would be like the Pistons playing the Cavs without LeBron and Hughes, or Sasha, or Z, or who ever you think is the Cavs second most valuable. You would never think of the Cavs beating Detroit if they put a team on the floor without LBJ. That’s how it is in Washington with Gilbert Arenas. Everyone knows Washington has no chance so that’s why I thought it was a boring game Sunday.

Remember the feeling around last year’s opening round playoff series with Washington. It was the first time the Cavs had been in the playoffs for what seemed like 54 years (actually just since 1998), it was LeBron verse Gilbert. There was more excitement in Cleveland than there was when the Indians went to the World Series in 1995. I remember watching every game with a buddy and not missing a minute of action. We were watching one game, I believe it was the Damon Jones game-winning three from the corner game, with a few friends who weren’t Cavs fans. During the fourth quarter they decided they wanted to leave and go to a bar. There was no way my buddy or I was going to get up during this game. As we sat in someone’s house who was no longer with us, sipping a cold beverage, we watched the dramatic ending unfold. When Jones hit the game-winner, we both jumped up, hugged, danced around, then realized how awkward the moment should have been. But we didn’t care. It was a huge win, biggest of the season and possibly biggest in Cavs history. As weird it is for two guys, alone, in another guy’s house, hugging and showing that much emotion, it was OK giving the passion around the Cavs in the playoffs.
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This excitement just isn’t there yet.

This year is different. That passion isn’t there yet. It might be in the next round and it will be in the Conference Finals (if they get there) but it’s not here yet. Where as last year, I didn’t want to miss a minute of the game, this year, if some friends wanted to leave in the middle of the game and go to a bar, I’d be the first one outside calling “shotgun.” I still am going to watch as much of the games as I can but will I be upset if I miss a few minutes here and there. Nope. The games just can’t be as intense as last year. It’s like we know we are going to beat Wizards and move on to the second round, so let’s just get it over with and move on.
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Neither is this, but that’s OK. Just win.

So since the Cavs should beat the Wizards easily (more easily that Game 1, hopefully) I hope the series stays boring. The Cavs don’t need to get in a long series. Make the games short, lop-sided wins, rest your starters, take several days off as you wait for the winner of the Toronto-New Jersey series, watch film, relax, be bored and be ready for the second round match-up. If having a boring first round series it the price to pay for a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, and hopefully the NBA Finals, I’m one fan who will happily be bored. I’d rather be bored rooting for a winning team, than worked up rooting for a losing team.

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NBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference

Time for the Western Conference Playoff predictions. 

 

FIRST ROUND

(1)   Dallas Mavericks vs (8) Golden State Warriors

 

This could be the best match up of the first round in the West.  A lot of people are predicting the Warriors to give the 67-win team a battle because they can go with a small line up and run.  Yeah, they can.  But so can Dallas, and better.  The other big deal is Don Nelson coming back to Dallas.  Some say he knows this team so well he can coach GSW to beat them.  I say, there was a reason he left.  Avery Johnson is a better coach and his teams play defense.  It will be an entertaining, high scoring, series but Dallas wins.  Dallas in six.

 

(4) Utah Jazz vs (5) Houston Rockets

 

This one is easy to pick.  I hate, hate, hate Carlos Boozer.  Can’t pick him to win.  Tracy McGrady hasn’t made it to the second round in his career but with a healthy Yao Ming and a match-up against Boozer, I’ll take the Rockets any time.  Houston in six.

 

(3)   San Antonio Spurs vs (6) Denver Nuggets

 

This will be a battle.  AI and Melo are finally playing well together and could give the Spurs all kinds of trouble.  But the Spurs are still the Spurs.  They are built for the playoffs.  Too deep and too talented.  Denver is still inconsistent.  San Antonio in seven.

 

(2)   Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers

 

A match of last year’s series when Kobe decided he didn’t want to play anymore and single-handedly won the series for the Suns.  The Suns are a better team, the Lakers are a worse team.  The only thing that is worth watching in this series is how long it takes Kobe to tank like he did last year, when will he decided to stop shooting the ball and when will he just punch Raja Bell in the face.  Suns in five.

 

SECOND ROUND

 

(1)   Dallas  vs (5) Houston

 

Dallas just too good to lose here.  Dallas in six.

 

(2)   Phoenix vs (3) San Antinio

 

Here we go.  This one will be a good series.  SA will be a little beat up after their series with Denver while the Suns are fresh after an easy series with LA.  That could be the difference that propels Phoenix to the win.  Phoenix in seven.

 

CONFERENCE FINALS

 

(1)   Dallas vs (2) Phoenix

 

The class rivalry everyone wants to see in the playoffs anymore.  Steve Nash vs Dirk Norwitzki.  Dirk got the better of his friend last year but won’t this year.  A healthy Amare Stoudemire will be the difference.  It will be another great series but Phoenix finally gets it done.  Phoenix in seven.

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NBA Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference

It’s NBA Playoff time and time for me to either prove I could easily be an analysis on any NBA show or prove that I’m still an idiot when it comes to making predictions (somehow I think I might fit both categories). I’m going to do the Eastern Conference now and the Western a little later. So, on to my NBA Playoff Preview… “NBA Basketball, it fan-tanstic!”… or “NBA Basketball, I love this game!” What is the NBA’s slogan anymore?

FIRST ROUND

(1) Detroit Pistons null vs (8) Orlando Magic null

It’s the return of Darko! Or if that doesn’t fancy your pants how about… It’s the return of Grant Hill! Still no? Then down worry. This series will only last five games, if that, and the Pistons can once again say good-bye to Darko and Grant.

(4) Miami Heat nullvs (5) Chicago Bulls null

All I can say here is “thank you Chicago.” This probably should be the Cavs losing in the first round to the D-Wade and Shaq but instead it’s you. Thank you. I think this will be a pretty good series though. It was last year. The Bulls had the Heat frustrated and I remember seeing them yell at each other on the bench during Game Two. Then Wade took over. I see the same thing happening this year. Wade still isn’t 100-percent and Shaq is about as mobile as Bill Walton but can you ever pick against those two in the first round. Heat in six.

(3) Toronto Raptors nullvs (6) New Jersey Netsnull

I’d like to see the Raptors win this. I like Chris “I actually look exactly like our logo” Bosh and T.J. Ford. I’d like to see them win because I hate the Nets and Vince Carter. I’d like to see them win because I rather the Cavs play them. But I think the Nets will win. Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Carter are too explosive together with too much experience. Nets in six.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers null vs (7) Washington Wizardsnull

Habachi! I said it before and I’ll say it again. Thank you Chicago. Washington might be the worst team to make the playoffs, in any sport, ever. All that can be said about this I already have. But I’m not picking a sweep just because I know they’ll let down in one of the games. Cavs in five.

SECOND ROUND

(1) Detroit null vs (5) Miami null

All the experts are saying this will be the real Easter Conference Finals. Well to bad for them, and the teams, it’s not. It’s just the semifinals. I’ll take Detroit because I don’t think the Pistons (or the refs) will let Wade beat them like they did last year. It should be a great series though and they’ll beat up on each other in seven games. I’ll take Pistons in seven.

(2) Cleveland nullvs (6) New Jersey null

I don’t like this match-up. New Jersey always give the Cavs a hard time and they’ll be riding high after a strong finish to the regular season and the upset of the Raptors. If the Cavs aren’t careful they could be in some trouble. But I think they will be careful and take care of business. LeBron, who will have a easy and restful series against Washington, will be revved up and ready to go. He won’t let his team go down before the Eastern Conference Finals. He has too much to prove and he always seems to answer his critics when he needs to. This is one of those times. Cavs in six.

CONFERENCE FINALS

(1)Detroit null vs (2) Cleveland null

A classic rematch of a classic seven game series last year. It’s the classic struggle between heart and head. I do pick with my heart and take the Cavs or do I pick with my head and take the Pistons. The Pistons are the experienced established team and the Cavs are still looking for their break through. They came so close last year to beating the league’s best, but did they learn anything from that? I’ll say yes. I’m being bold, stupid and hometown-y and picking the Cavs. Why? Just so if they do go to the NBA Finals I can say I told you so. And because I can’t bet against my team and LeBron, no matter how inconsistent they are. Cavs in seven.

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We’re Number 2!

The Cavs got the deuce! By beating the Park and Rec. Bucks 109-96 and the Chicago Bulls losing to New Jersey, Cleveland will be the second-seed in the playoffs that start this weekend. The only person more excited than me about that is Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Now he doesn’t have to go up against Shaq in the first round and won’t see him until the conference finals, if at all.

This is the biggest break in Cleveland sports since the Cavs won the lottery in 2003. Which is ironic because if that doesn’t happen, they aren’t in the position they are now. Being the second-seed is as much of a clear path to the conference finals as there can be in any playoffs. The Cavs open with the Wizards who are Agent Zero-less and Caron Butler-less and fading faster than Alex Rodriguez in October (I didn’t really want to use A-Rod as a comparison but the NYY are beating the Tribe like they are a double-A team so I needed to rip them a little bit. It’s all I got). Remember when Washington had the best record in the East and Eddie Jordan was coaching the Eastern All-Stars in Las Vegas? I barely do too. Let’s not write off the Wizards just yet only because as soon as we do that’s when the Cavs collapse and lose in biggest upset since Dikembe Mutombo was clutching the ball and crying in 1995 after his Nuggets beat Shawn Kemp and the Sonics in the first round. After all, this is Cleveland and if anyone knows how to lose games and fill a town with heartache, it’s Cleveland.

I sure hope Antawn Jamison isn’t doing this in two weeks.

(Quick side note: Since I brought up Kemp’s name, I remember in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament when Memphis was playing Nevada in the second round. I was watching the game with two buddies when CBS showed the starting line-ups. There was Kemp on both teams. We joked about what the chances are they are both Shawn Kemp’s kids. It has to be at least a 50-percent chance, right?)

“Wait! I have how many kids?”

After the Wizards, it will be either Toronto Raptors or the New Jersey Nets. Personally, I would rather see the Raptors. They are a young team that hasn’t been to the playoffs before. The Nets are a team that scares me a little bit. They are kind of the wild card here. They are very talented with Kidd, Carter and Jefferson and the Cavs always seem to struggle with them. I’ll take my chances with Chris Bosh rather than a three-headed monster.

But for now, let’s just be happy the Cavs don’t have to play Miami or Detroit. Last night I refused to watch the Bulls game until the Cavs won. I got nervous when FSN Ohio kept giving updates on how the Nets were winning. I was a afraid they were going to jinx it, because after all, this is Cleveland. After the Cavs had the win locked up, I even opted to watch South Park and the Indians (who were getting a lashing from the Yankees, losing 9-2) rather than watch the Bulls. I was just afraid my watching would have forced a Bulls comeback. I only tuned in for the final five minutes. I’m convinced that since I was nervous and didn’t watch, I single-handedly led the Nets to the win. You’re welcome. Now the Cavs are the two-seed and can make a run deep into May, and hopefully June.

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One more good thing about the playoffs, all the Cavs games will be on ESPN or ABC now. That means no more Fred McLoud on FSN. Thank goodness. I’ve made it clear that I can’t stand the man and they need Michael Reghi back. Reason No. 482 why; with 8:46 left in the game, the Cavs just went on a run to extend their lead to 91-77. Going into the TV timeout this is what McLoud said, “The Cavs can smell the second-seed… They just need a few more sniffs!” Wow. I don’t even know what to say. I’ll just leave it at that.

Of course, that means there will be plenty of Bill Walton. I love Bill Walton and find him entertaining. He might sound like an idiot some (most) of the time but at least he is something different but what he said last night might be the second dumbest thing I’ve heard (coming in directly behind McLoud’s sniffing line). Last night during the last few minutes of the Bulls lost, he said “Shaq has directly affected the NBA Championship the last eight years; winning or losing it.” So when San Antonio beat the Nets in 2003 and the Knicks in ‘99, some how, some way, even though Shaq wasn’t playing in the Finals, he directly affected the outcome. Interesting philosophy Bill.

Could you imagine a broadcast team of McLoud and Walton. Dear God, that would be awful. I rather listen to Ace of Base for days in a dark with the only light coming from a slow blinking strobe light. Thank goodness they will never team up.

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