Will This (Finally) Be the Year the Stanley Cup Makes it to the Bay Area?

In hockey circles the Sharks are often referred to as the best team never to win the Stanley Cup. In the past five seasons they’ve won the President’s Trophy for the best record in the league once and been to the conference finals twice without ever advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.sharks-logo

There is reason to believe that this year might be different. An infusion of young talent plus maybe a change in style have the Sharks off to an improved record. A year ago the Sharks were built around older, slower players like Ryan Clowe, and Douglas Murray. Now, they have been replaced by the younger and faster Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels, Justin Braun, and Tyler Kennedy.

So we have established that the Sharks are faster and younger, what else has changed? Off the Bench believes that the Sharks are tougher as well. Defenseman Brett Burns has moved to forward. He brings size (6-6, 240) and a defenseman’s toughness up front. Center Joe Pavelski has been dropped to the third line where he faces favorable matchups almost every game. His quickness works in his favor in his new position. Hertl has played at a Calder Trophy level in his role as the third member of the first line with Burns and Joe Thornton. Through December Hertl has played at a Calder Trophy level in his role as the third member of the first line with Burns and Joe Thornton. Through Dec. 31 he has 13 goals and 8 assists. Hertl has also contributed to Thornton leading the NHL in assists with 24.

Expectations were down for the Sharks going into this year. Experts have picked the Los Angeles Kings to win the Pacific Division and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to win the conference and thereby represent the west in the Stanley Cup finals.Plus, the Sharks core is aging. Dan Boyle is 37, Thornton is 34 and Patrick Marleau is also 34. This makes for a bad play in the national press. So far this year those three have defied father time and have played up to their old levels.

Finally, Anti Niemi is at the top of his game in goal for the Sharks. He is covering both the low shots and the high. His backup, Alex Stalock, is a marked improvement over Thomas Greiss.


This will be the last Off the Bench, at least as written by me. It has been my pleasure to serve you since Alive began publishing. However, I moved to San Diego in June and I have found it increasingly difficult to maintain my involvement with Bay Area sports, even in the Internet age. I have found there is no substitute for being part of the conversation and participating directly. I hope you understand and share with me the joy I have felt writing for you.

Here’s to you, my readers, without whom there is no point in writing this column.

“My Sh** Doesn’t Work in the Playoffs,” – Billy Beane

By any measure outside of playoff performance the Oakland A’s have been very successful. They keep their payroll low, they win in the regular season and they routinely churn out gems from their farm system. The problem is, since 2000, the A’s have failed on baseball’s biggest stage. At one point Oakland lost nine elimination games in a row. That was NINE games when the A’s could have eliminated their opponents.123181813

Who can forget such calamities as Jeremy Giambi failing to slide into home plate; Eric Byrnes failing to touch the plate when he thought he didn’t have to; Gil Heredia surrendering six runs in the top of the first of a series deciding game; Miguel Tejada not running out an obstruction play; and Tim Hudson becoming injured and unavailable at Fenway Park?

The one time they won a series (they beat the Twins in the 2006 Division Series) the A’s lost to the Tigers in the American League Championship series four games to none. More recently the A’s ran into a buzz saw named Justin Verlander as they lost twice to Detroit. That almost seems mild by comparison.

Off the Bench has a theory. It seems like the A’s take their cue from their Moneyball leader and lack that little extra spark during the playoffs. Billy Beane says he can relax with his dog at his feet once the playoffs begin. He can sit back and enjoy the games because he knows he is the master of his domain. Can you imagine Tony LaRussa thinking that way? Never mind Vince Lombardi!

Every way that Beane measures himself involves the regular season. It’s how he gets paid and how he gets his satisfaction. As long as he is a part owner that won’t change. Until the A’s convince Beane the playoffs are vital the results are likely to be the same. It is likely that the A’s will continue to succeed in the regular season and then utterly fail in the playoffs.

So what does this mean to the fans? Will they be willing to show up year after year and just fall short? What about the players? Sure they get paid handsomely, but will they be willing to put everything on the line when their leader clearly doesn’t get himself up for the biggest games?

It says here that it won’t work. The fans will stay away until the very end of the season as they’ve done the past two years. The players will win as best they can during the regular season and then tank in the playoffs. One only needs to see how Larry Baer roots on the Giants during the playoffs and World Series to see how it could be done.

The East Bay’s major league baseball team is flawed by every measure, save what is important to Billy Beane. That is both a flaw and an advantage. When it comes to October baseball it is clearly a flaw.

Can Warriors Recapture Last Season’s Magic?

Last season the Warriors made the playoffs for the first time since the “We Believe” year of 2006. They accomplished that despite having just one All Star, David Lee, and one other near All Star, Steph Curry. They extended the eventual Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games before a second round elimination.

The question before the house is, can they recapture the magic?Basketball

Coach Marc Jackson thinks unprecedented depth, at least in comparison with recent seasons, will help the Warriors. “It’s fun for me to have a talented team with a bunch of weapons,” Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It doesn’t matter who starts.”

“I’m going to try to put together the best starting five and the best collective unit as a team,” he continued. “We’ll find that out as we move along. It may not even be the best five guys starting, but it will be what’s best for this basketball team. It’s just awesome to have options.”

The major off-season move this year was signing guard Andre Igoudala to the squad via sign and trade. He brings a veteran presence to a spot where the Warriors are young. The also added depth up front with Toney Douglas, Marreese Speights, and Jermaine O’Neal from free agency as well. Speights gives the team another interior defender with his long arms and is deadly from mid-range with his jump shot. O’Neal also provides great veteran experience and low post defense.

The key to the whole operation might be center Andrew Bogut. Last year he missed about three quarters of the season due to complications from an injured ankle. This year he should be ready to carry an NBA starting center load. Reports from camp were encouraging. Bogut is playing without the limits on minutes and back to back games he played under last year when he was healthy enough to suit up. He is running the floor at an NBA level. “He’s looking very good and you can tell by the smile on my face” Jackson said. “He’s healthy. … I’m just happy that for the first time in a long time that there aren’t any restrictions on him. I know how passionate he is and how committed he is and he deserves to be on the floor with no physical concerns.”

“I haven’t had any restrictions since July,” said Bogut, “Five-on-five, three-on-three, four-on-four, conditioning drills, running, jumping, weights—no restrictions. It’s been a great feeling to come into a gym and not have a trainer tell me, ‘You can only do 30 minutes. You can only do this. You can only do that.’ …Very happy to not hear that.”

In addition to proclaiming that he is finally once again at 100 percent, Bogut also claimed that he considers himself a top-3 center in the NBA, though he qualified that statement. “Yeah … when healthy,” he said. “And I’m healthy now.”

With a strong core of returning players, a good crop of free agent signings, and a healthy dose of confidence it says here that the Warriors will not only make the playoffs but also be a strong contender to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.





There won’t be a parade down Market Street for the Giants this month. In fact, as of this writing they had a good chance to be the first team since the 1998 Marlins to finish last in their division the year after winning the World Series. How did this happen? The Giants returned all their core players besides Aubrey Huff and Ryan Theriot, and they both were minor contributors to the 2012 Championship. And that may be the problem.

In pro sports these days if you stay the same you’re probably losing ground. Yes, centerfielder Angel Pagan got hurt, but he’s just one player and not enough of a difference maker to cause the steep falloff this season. Instead, let’s examine the top players who played most of both seasons with the Giants and see if we can understand what happened.

Matt Cain

Basically, Cain went from being an ace level pitcher to a replacement level player making $20 million. Injured in August, Cain was 8-8 with a 4.43 ERA for 2013 compared to 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA last year. 

Tim Lincecum

The Freak has been on a downhill slide ever since he signed a two year, $40 million contract after the 2011 season. This year, even figuring in the no hitter he had on July 13 against San Diego, Lincecum has delivered a below replacement level performance. He is 18-28 over the past two seasons with an ERA of about 5.00.

Pablo Sandoval

The most important stat about Sandoval, his weight, is only available as an approximation, but suffice to say the Giants are concerned enough that manager Bruce Bochy called him out publicly earlier this season. His performance has suffered in a measurable way. A .297 career hitter who in the past has delivered seasons where he hit .330 and .315, Sandoval this year is hitting .270 and is operating at only about one game above replacement level.

 Buster Posey

It may not be fair to compare Posey to a season where he was declared the 2012 MVP, but it shines a light on the decline of his teammates as his RBIs, basically a function of his teammate’s ability to get on base ahead of him, have declined about 30 per cent. His batting average is also down about 35 points.

Barry Zito

What is it about pitchers who draw $20 million annual salaries from the Giants? Everyone’s favorite whipping boy since he signed with the Giants for $126 million over seven years before the 2007 season, he has reached epic lows this year, especially on the road. Away from AT&T Park this year in 13 games totaling 49 innings he is 0-8 with a 9.25 ERA. Opposing hitters are hitting .401 against him (in other words every hitter is Ted Williams in his best year) and slugging at a .600 clip (.500 is considered excellent). The good news is that Zito’s contract is up at the end of the season. The bad news is that the Giants owe him a $7 million buyout of they don’t pick up his $18 million option.

It will be interesting to see what the Giants do for the 2014 season. They have Cain and Posey signed for the next five years but otherwise are relatively flexible. The farm system is barren at the highest levels as the result of deals to aid recent pennant races that led to two World Series Championships in the last three years. Their choice seems to be rebuilding slowly through the draft or spending big bucks on free agents while hoping their core players rebound.

After an unprecedented run the last three years, the party at AT&T Park may be on hold for a while.


49ers Attempt to Buck Super Bowl Losers Curse

We all remember how the Super Bowl ended. The 49ers had three shots to score from the five yard line, failed to do so, and lost the ball on downs. The Ravens were able to run out the clock, giving up an intentional safety along the way, and win Super Bowl XLVII 34-31.

It is tempting to think the 49ers are in good shape to win this season’s Super Bowl.  They dominated the Ravens in the second half and they’ve improved both years under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. The quarterback is an emerging star and the defense is notoriously stingy.

History, though, would beg to differ.

** Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, 28 of the 42 Super Bowl losers haven’t won a playoff game the next season. Twelve of those teams missed the postseason and 16 lost their first playoff game.

** Seven of the 46 Super Bowl losers returned to the Super Bowl the next season. They went 2-5. The two teams to win it: the 1972 Dolphins and the 1971 Cowboys.

** The last team to play in a Super Bowl the season after losing it: The 1993 Bills, who lost back-to-back big games to the Cowboys.

Injuries to quarterbacks have factored into it. Tom Brady went out for the season with a knee injury in the first regular season game after New England lost Super Bowl XLII to the Giants;  Donovan McNabb missed seven games, Rich Gannon nine games and Kurt Warner 10 games after the Eagles, Raiders and Rams respectively, lost Super Bowls.

There is also a lot of luck involved in getting to the Super Bowl. Teams have to negotiate a 16 game season and then win two or three playoff games against top competition, often on the road. That is difficult to repeat.

Team chemistry is also an issue with contracts often dictating that key players move on. Age can be a factor as well since Super Bowl teams tend to be experienced, and there is a thin line between experienced and old.

Off the Bench says that the 49ers are in better shape to beat the odds than most. Health is an imponderable, but quarterback Colin Kaepernick is young and that somewhat lessens the chances that he’ll get hurt. No key players have left and the one major change, kicker, is likely to be an upgrade from what was a weakness last year. Defenses tend to be more consistent than offenses, and stopping opponents was the 49ers strength. The main concern is that if Kaepernick gets hurt there is no Alex Smith waiting to step in.

On the flip side the 49ers division is getting stronger with the Rams on the rise and the Seahawks featuring an elite young quarterback. They will also play a first-place schedule which the NFL makes more difficult to promote parity.

Still, the 49ers have an elite coach in Harbaugh and a young team that has become used to winning. That formula should take them to the playoffs, and from there anything can happen. It will be a fascinating story to follow in January and February.

A’s Performance Confounds Experts; Changes Ahead for Off the Bench

The A’s ended last season with a 23-7 record including a sweep of the Texas Rangers in the last regular season series to clinch the American League West Championship with such a ragtag roster that only five players were active all season.

Pundits and experts declared it a fluke and picked the A’s to finish no better than third this season behind the Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Instead, they seized the division lead in June and as this is written are neck and neck with the Rangers and 10 games ahead of the Angels.

How did this happen? The A’s have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and arguably the worst ballpark. On Father’s Day raw sewage backed up into the clubhouses and the A’s, Mariners and the umpires had to shower upstairs in the Raiders locker room. Free agent hitters won’t come because the Coliseum depresses their statistics, and the A’s won’t spend big anyway.

What they are relying on is superior talent evaluation, prudent risks, and creativity. Their third baseman, Josh Donaldson has been their best hitter since converting from catcher.  Jed Lowrie has been very productive at shortstop for Oakland when injuries he suffered while playing for the Red Sox and Houston depressed his value into the A’s range. Their ace pitcher, Bartolo Colon, was suspended in 2012 for performance enhancing drug violations, which scared off other teams. Their best athlete, leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes, was signed after defecting from Cuba off little more than a promotional video put together by his agent. They have the top bullpen in the majors, and it is entirely made up of young players or players rescued from the scrap heap at bargain prices.

General Manager Billy Beane has again proven that you don’t have to follow convention to have success putting together a major league roster.  He gets the pieces and lets manager Bob Melvin run the games. Beane and Melvin are candidates for Executive of the Year and Manager of the Year, respectively.

The Giants may have won two of the last three World Series, but Bay Area baseball fans who are not following the A’s may be missing the best story in baseball.

Changes For Off the Bench

I am retiring from my career in public relations and marketing and moving to San Diego. However, Alive publisher Eric Johnson accepted my offer to continue my column from there, and my pledge is you won’t even notice that I don’t live in the Bay Area.

The magic of the Internet, with an assist from the football, baseball and hockey packages on DirecTV, will allow me to continue to follow Bay Area Sports. I can listen to KNBR and read the Chronicle and the Bay Area news group to take the pulse of Bay Area sports and comment on that.

Off the Bench has occasionally focused on national stories and trend pieces and that won’t change. What also won’t change is my email and if you think I’m missing a story you can contact me at plhirsch30@aol.com.

And who knows, retirement from my day job might allow for more time to follow sports and develop new outlooks. Alive East Bay readers may even benefit from having a SoCal correspondent.



Later this month the Pro Football Hall of Fame will enshrine its Class of 2013. There are 23 Modern Era Quarterbacks (bulk of their career played after 1950) in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only one, Warren Moon, is Black.

When it comes to pro team sports Halls of Fame other than ice hockey, that is an anomaly.  Every other position in football, plus the basketball and baseball halls, is loaded with African American athletes. Why is the quarterback position so different?

The obvious answer is opportunity. NFL quarterback is the most complicated and arguably the most important position in professional team sports. Yes, pitchers dominate in baseball but even the best starter only plays one game in five. And a goalie can win an NHL playoff series nearly by himself, but they don’t run the offense and they are rarely team leaders.

Historically, Blacks are woefully under-represented at the quarterback position in the NFL. Marlon Briscoe of the Broncos was the first starting quarterback in the modern era, and that occurred in 1968. The general practice of the era was to convert Black college quarterbacks to defensive back, running back, or wide receiver where they would not be forced to lead their teammates or think quite so much.

So if under-representation at the position is the reason behind a lack of African-American Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who among the current and recent Blacks manning the position have the best shot at joining Moon as a Black Hall of Fame Quarterback?

After reviewing the list of quarterbacks enshrined in Canton, there seem to be two qualifiers to becoming a Hall of Fame Quarterback; multiple championships and statistical excellence. Only Joe Namath and Bob Waterfield fail to fit that pattern and both can claim extenuating circumstances.

Namath was the catalyst of perhaps the most significant game in NFL history (Super Bowl III when he guaranteed victory for the AFL Jets over the heavily favored NFL Colts which created league-wide parity in the minds of fans); and Waterfield was a glamorous and popular Hollywood party boy for successful L.A. Rams teams as the league was establishing itself in the 1950s and eventually married buxom movie star Jane Russell.

Both Namath and Waterfield were good players, but not at the level of front line Hall of Fame Quarterbacks like Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, or Troy Aikman. So which Black quarterbacks might be up to that level?

So far, there has not been a Black quarterback who has won multiple Super Bowls.  But there are four that we have identified with the statistical excellence to match well with legends like Sonny Jurgensen, Y.A. Tittle, Fran Tarkenton, and Dan Fouts who also never won a championship.  Those four Black quarterbacks that one could reasonable expect to see in Canton are:

  • Randall Cunningham
  • Michael Vick
  • Steve McNair
  • Donovan McNabb

And as a pick along the lines of Namath, how about Doug Williams who proved conclusively in Super Bowl XXII that a black man can lead a team to the most prestigious team sports title on the planet? It’s too early to tell with Cam Newton and RG III, but it’s gratifying to note that Blacks have become equals behind center in the NFL.


Local Novelist Imagines Repercussions of First Acknowledged Gay in Baseball

“There have been approximately 10,000 big league baseball players in my lifetime,” says 67-year-old East Bay novelist Jack Saunders. “It’s impossible that none of them have been gay, yet 100% of those who were chose to remain in the  closet, at least during their playing careers. “I thought the consequences of the first active major league baseball player to come out and the story behind it would make for an interesting book project.”

That is the back story to Baseball Comes Out, Saunders’s exploration of the first acknowledged gay player to come out while still in the big leagues. As it happens, the protagonist plays for the San Francisco Giants and is portrayed as the best closer in the big leagues; meaning the team would be inclined to put up with the distractions created by such an event. That his partner is the team’s best pinch hitter and a respected veteran of nearly 20 seasons adds further spice to the story.

“In my mind, the plight of gays is the civil rights issue of the early 21st Century,” Saunders said. “It’s easy to forget that right after World War II, African Americans often could not frequent the same restaurants or drink from the same water fountains as white Americans could. Most of us now, naturally, see that as ridiculous. I believe that Americans later in this century won’t understand the furor around same-sex marriage and the reluctance of gay athletes to be themselves in public. The movie 42 featured the heroism of Jackie Robinson but also highlighted the ignorance and bigotry of some of his white contemporaries. I tried to do the same thing with my book.”

Baseball Comes Out is a what-if story. What if a gay major leaguer decided to come out of the closet? How would the baseball establishment react? What affect would a gay player have on his team? How would fans behave?  “This is not the rant of a gay man,” Saunders says, but rather a protest by an offended baseball fan. “The game I love is screwing men I admire. The villain here is the closet itself.”

The author’s background as a professor at Golden Gate University and a corporate p.r. director for Lawrence Livermore Labs and Pacific Bell are especially useful has he takes us behind the scenes for plausible front office and consultant conversations. The book’s characters are multi-dimensional and the baseball segments are realistic.

A gay athlete coming out in one of the four major North American team sports is probably more a matter of when, not if. World class athletes in tennis, rugby, soccer and golf have already done so. Retired gay football and baseball players have published books about their time as pro athletes in the closet. Reading Baseball Comes Out is akin to reviewing the first draft of a coming major event in American sports history.

Baseball Comes Out is available as an e-book on amazon.com for kindle readers.

Youth Sports Approach: Relax and Enjoy the Games

Coaching and watching organized kids’ games can be a paradox. Intellectually, almost everyone in the stands knows that nearly none of these kids will play professionally and very few will even make a high school team, especially in basketball or baseball. Yet, the intensity can match anything experienced at Oracle Arena, AT&T Park, or Yankee Stadium.

Fans, mostly parents, whoop and holler as if a Super Bowl Championship is on the line. Middle aged coaches pressure and manipulate officials, many of whom are adolescents. If you win you exult, if your team loses there is despair a plenty.

As a veteran youth sports coach I have some perspective. I was as intense as anyone when I coached my children, especially in baseball. Some teams with whom I was involved won championships and we took home gigantic trophies that seemed very important, almost vital, at the time. Because our teams were often winning, opposing parents and coaches would taunt and distract our 10-year-old pitchers to help their teams and, following the lead of those parents, the games were rudely reviewed by children on the school yard the next day.

If I had a good team that lost a midseason game I would get calls from our team’s parents with “suggestions” for avoiding future such calamities. During those seasons the results of games played by elementary school students would dominate the lives of many families.

Parents of the less talented players would want to play the games for fun, while parents of the star players would want to play to win, which created friction in the stands. Leagues would often encourage even-handed roster deployment, and then publish results and standings in the newspaper and host formal trophy presentations at the end of March-Madness style playoff tournaments.

Basically, a lot of the focus on results was a waste of emotion and energy. Watching players grow and develop while building some lasting relationships was terrific. However, with a few exceptions, the best players can be identified by third grade and everyone else is playing for fun or to fulfill the expectations of a parent.

Baseball is most problematic. Because it’s impossible to have a good game without pitchers who can throw strikes, the best young athletes wind up on the mound. This creates a series of one-on-one confrontations where the top players are matched against average-or-worse players with predictable results.

At least in the lower levels of soccer and basketball it is possible to hide a weak or one-dimensional player and assign a role that can lead to some success. In baseball, everyone has to eventually step into the batter’s box and face the music.

If you’re just beginning in youth sports try to realistically assess the abilities of your son or daughter and get him or her into a sport that best meets their needs. If you have an older friend or neighbor with a sports background it doesn’t hurt to get an assessment that isn’t tied to wishful thinking or love. It’s great to be on a team and learn about sportsmanship and cooperation, and it’s even better if those lessons are learned in an environment where the child has at least a chance of performing well.

Then, go to the games, pull for your child and his or her team, and then have a post game snack and forget about the outcome. If your young child is obviously better than most then it’s certainly okay to pursue higher levels of play. Just understand that there is loads of attrition in youth sports and that if making a high school team is the focus a lot can happen between third grade and ninth grade.

And at all times try and model behavior that will make you proud years after the trophies tarnish and the mitts and cleats are relegated to the attic.


New Book Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Swingin’ A’s Second Straight Title

The Giants get a lot of attention around here for winning two World Series in the past three years, and rightfully so. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

What few seem to remember is that 40 years ago another Bay Area team, the Oakland A’s or The Swingin’ A’s if you prefer, won three consecutive World Championships and five consecutive division crowns.

That team is commemorated in a recently released book, Swingin’ 73: Baseball’s Wildest Season. This is the eleventh book by noted baseball author Matthew Silverman, and his first that primarily covers a California team.

“One of the aims for this book is to shed positive light on both the A’s and the landmark season that marks its 40th anniversary this year,” said Silverman. “It was a significant year in a memorable era that also saw one of the great comebacks to that point in history by Oakland’s World Series opponent, the Mets; the end of the original Yankee Stadium after 50 years; the owner as celebrity antagonist in Charlie Finley and the new guy on the block, George Steinbrenner.”

According to Silverman, the three straight World Series championships gives the A’s a special place in baseball history. “It’s a unique number when it comes to baseball champions. No franchise other than the Yankees has ever won three straight titles, and the Yankees (1998-2000) are the only team to do so since the 1972-74 Oakland A’s.”

Silverman went on to say that it’s unfair that many people remember the A’s more for what went on around them than their unique accomplishment. “As it is, history remembers the yellow uniforms, the mustaches, and the mule more than the championship club built from scratch and kept together on the cheap.”

Finley was known for his shoestring organization. He usually had fewer then ten front-office employees; there were times when the A’s games were broadcast by the UC Berkeley campus radio station, and the World Series championship rings presented to the players in 1973 and 1974 are the only ones bereft of diamonds since the advent of such awards in 1922.

That core group of players won another division title in 1975 and then was broken up when baseball’s free agency period began and the stars who made all those titles possible left for teams willing to pay them what they were worth.

“Oakland challenged the status quo and thought outside the box with an innovative — if meddlesome—owner,” Silverman said. “They also had a manager who supported his players to the hilt but always let them know who was in charge. When (Hall of Fame manager) Dick Williams left, (after a series of events that culminated in Finley attempting to fraudulently change the A’s World Series roster) even the players he feuded with were heartbroken they couldn’t follow him.”

Swingin’73: Baseball’s Wildest Season is published by Lyons Press and is available at Amazon.com and several Bay Area outlets. At 272 pages it is a fun and engaging book that takes readers back to a time when player and fans could more easily relate to one another and before the players had all the rights they enjoy today.

Silverman has done a terrific job capturing the era and those great Oakland teams. Anyone who grew up with those A’s or enjoys reading about baseball history or the 1970s in general should buy a copy.