Crooked Scoreboard

Remembering and Forgetting Oscar Taveras


If you were tuned into sports media on Monday, you may have briefly heard that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras was killed in a Sunday-night car accident, along with his girlfriend, in his native Dominican Republic. The news probably came to you via an onscreen ticker, beneath a highlight reel of Madison Bumgarner’s dominant complete-game shutout, or in a tweet sandwiched between reactions to JJ Watt’s “selfie celebration” and Tom Brady’s resurgent performance against the Bears. With the baseball season reaching its crescendo at the same time that everyone was caught up in a midseason edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, the 22-year-old’s passing was treated like an early-round French Open match, or that Winter X Games event no one cares about (the Winter X Games).

If nothing else, the lack of attention to Taveras’ death saved us from having to read a bunch of rehashed “life is short” human-interest columns. But it’s crazy to consider the fact that, if just a couple of NLCS games had turned out differently two weeks ago, Taveras would’ve been thousands of miles away from the scene at which his life was taken, probably playing in a different Game 5 at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. Instead, we’re hearing the same well-intentioned but trite lines that have been used to describe others who, like Taveras, have left us too soon. “A wonderful young man… who lived every day to the fullest.” That may be true, but it doesn’t give us much of a sense of who Taveras really was.

If his life and career had gone according to plan, it seemed we were going to have plenty of time to get to know him. Prior to this season, he was rated as the #3 prospect in Major League Baseball. Scouting reports predicted a star-quality future at the plate, and Taveras backed that up with a career batting average of nearly .320 at the AA and AAA levels. He made his MLB debut on May 31 of this year, and while his results this season were mediocre, a rocky  start is pretty much a given for a player of his age and inexperience, especially one who was called up prematurely due to injuries.

Before Taveras, the last active MLB player to die was Greg Halman, a Seattle outfielder who lived most of his life in The Netherlands (seriously) and passed away on November 21, 2011. When it comes to MLB players current and former, it’s pretty hard to get anything past me, but my first thought upon reading his name in reports on Taveras’ death was, “who the hell was Greg Halman?” He was stabbed to death in his native country by his brother, who was acquitted on grounds of temporary insanity due to marijuana use (again, seriously). If that story couldn’t divert our attention from football and basketball and baseball long enough to grab some headlines, it’s hard to foresee a day when guys like Oscar Taveras will get their due.

The Definitive World Series Drinking Game

The World Series is here! We don’t recommend mixing it with alcohol, because it’s going to be a classic, and you’ll want to talk about it with your kids, and your kids’ kids, and random kids you meet on the street who have no blood relation to you. If, however, you insist on making adult beverages part of your viewing experience, here is the preeminent guide to how those beverages shall be consumed:


  • The year 1985 is mentioned
  • George Brett’s picture with Lorde is shown
  • Someone makes a pun on Brandon Belt’s name
  • Kansas City successfully executes a sacrifice bunt
  • Travis Ishikawa’s NLCS-clinching home run is replayed
  • Raul Ibanez gives an in-game interview
  • Ned Yost is referred to as a “mad scientist” (see also: evil genius, chessmaster, Bill Belichick of Baseball)
  • “Hunter Pence Signs” are referenced or shown
  • Someone says “wild card”
  • Pablo Sandoval is called “Panda” or some variation thereof


  • Bowling For Soup’s “1985″ is used as lead-in music to a commercial break
  • Lorenzo Cain misjudges a ball in center field
  • The Yoenis Cespedes trade is mentioned (they still won’t let that go)
  • “This ninth inning is brought to you by ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’”
  • Madison Bumgarner pitches a non-quality start
  • Raul Ibanez gets a plate appearance
  • Barry Bonds shows up and pretends to care about something other than himself
  • Someone Makes a Sergio/Tony Romo joke
  • Someone says “wild pitch”
  • Nori Aoki is called “Panda” or some variation thereof (because that’s racist, and you should drink to forget that)


  • Either team wears its 1985 throwback uniforms
  • Someone pinch runs for Jarrod Dyson or Terrance Gore
  • Jeremy Guthrie wears a shirt that says “Actually, Now That I Think About It, These O’s Are Mildly Royal”
  • Someone pronounces “Yusmeiro” correctly
  • A fan catches a ball in his or her beer cup
  • Raul Ibanez gets a hit
  • Joe Buck refers to Harold Reynolds or Tom Verducci as Tim McCarver
  • Someone makes a Sergio Romo/Sergio Garcia joke
  • Someone says “take a walk on the wild side”
  • Barry Zito performs the National Anthem

Home Run:

  • A player attains an OPS of exactly 1.985
  • Jarrod Dyson delivers a postgame critique of the CDC’s response to Ebola
  • A Royals fan wears a shirt that says “Meh, I Like The Chiefs Better”
  • An injury results from the collapse of a foul pole
  • Someone says, “If only this were as exciting as the College World Series”
  • Raul Ibanez is named World Series MVP and Commissioner of Baseball
  • Ned Yost is referred to as “romantically linked to Jennifer Lawrence” (see also: Nicki Minaj, Steve Buscemi)
  • Either team hires Jack McKeon to manage Game 7
  • Someone says “wild boars have stormed the field”
  • The World Series is cancelled because we all decide we’d rather watch “New Girl”

MLB Playoffs Results Represent Scientific Breakthrough

The sabermetrics community, and the analytics community at large, rejoiced yesterday evening when the San Francisco Giants clinched the National League pennant and booked a date with the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. “We suspected it with Kansas City, and now the Giants have confirmed it: Wild Card teams are statistically more likely to make the World Series than division winners. Looking at multiple observations in a year’s worth of data, there’s really no other conclusion to draw.” Those were the words of University of Phoenix Professor of Economics Bob Dolby, and they sent shockwaves through those who spent less than five seconds thinking about them.

“What we’re seeing is a fundamentally unfair system being exposed,” added Hoyt Peabody, a professor of English who specializes in Marxist theory. “The Wild Card games give their winners incredible momentum throughout the playoffs. The impressive institution that is the MLB denied teams like the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels the chance to even play in these contests.” Peabody proceeded to advocate for a new thirty-team playoff format with participation medals for every team. “Until Major League Baseball addresses the inequality that arises from its practices, it will have the blood of many innocent shortstops on its batting gloves.”

Protesters in Baltimore took to the streets following the revelation. “If it was our team, if we won the Wild Card game, we would feel the same way, no question,” said Orioles fan Matt McDermott. He added that he would like to see a grace period of several years before the rules are changed, because “the O’s probably won’t win the division next year.”

Many MLB players weighed in on the uproar. When questioned by reporters, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier had plenty to say. “Playoffs? What are those? October is my fishing month.”

Music of the Diamonds: MLB Walkup Songs

Growing up, there were two things I really enjoyed about going to Cincinnati Reds games. One was the way John Walton would introduce Barry Larkin, and the other was listening to players’ walk-up songs to decide who my favorite player would be that year. (This season’s favorite is Todd Frazier, who went with “Come Fly With Me” and “Fly Me To The Moon” by Frank Sinatra). Of course, sometimes players choose great songs and sometimes they choose… questionable songs. Here’s a list of players from around the league and what their music choices say about them:


Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds

“Lucifer” by Jay-Z, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones: Votto has some dark secrets.


Alex Rios – Texas Rangers

“Beggin’” by Madcon: He wishes it was still 2008, when he had a new contract and was on a team that wasn’t last in its division.


JJ Hardy – Baltimore Orioles

“Flower” by Moby: JJ Hardy is basically the coolest person in baseball. Especially since he didn’t end up with the Yankees.


Michael Wacha – St. Louis Cardinals

“Drop That #NaeNae” by We Are Toonz: I’d like to think he chose this because he was a big fan of the TV show “Martin.” I don’t know if there’s any other explanation.


David Robertson – New York Yankees

“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd: He’s from Alabama.


Ryan Flaherty – Baltimore Orioles

“The Wild Rover” by Dropkick Murphys: Like the Dropkick Murphys, he wishes he was as Irish as his name.


Jake McGee – Tampa Bay Rays

“My Way” by Limp Bizkit: He has a very aggressive personality and he’s filled with angst. Just look at that face.

Alex Schiefer is the founder of Like them on Facebook for updates on artists and events from around the world.

Some Creative Ways To Punish The Worst Fantasy Football Team In Your League

The other day, I read about a fantasy football league that requires the owner of the worst team to get a tattoo designed by the owner of the best team. Although permanently marking your body over a game which oftentimes comes down to unpredictable coaching decisions, fluke performances, and injuries is a good start, I’ve taken the liberty of jotting down a few consequences for losers which are sure to spice up even the most intense league:

Canings: Do you want your fantasy football league and the Malaysian judicial system to have something in common? If so, you might want to try imposing canings as a penalty for your league’s laggards. Malaysian courts can mete out as many as 24 strokes of the cane for such offenses as drug trafficking and armed robbery. This means that a slightly lesser offense, like believing that Steven Jackson would be a viable fantasy RB1 in 2014, should be punishable by about 20 strokes, by our estimation. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, this sounds like something I might want to bring up to the guys, but what if we’re caning someone and they pass out or something? That’d be so dumb.” To assuage those concerns, we can again take a page from the Malaysian penal code, which says that each stroke left to go should translate to about six months in prison. Since it’s probably impossible to get one of your friends thrown in a cell in Kuala Lumpur on a lark, unless you have the right connections, a good Plan B might be to throw the last-place finisher into a cave or Florida or something for a while.

Ruin Their Lives Using Technology: In this digital age, it’s never been easier for your disgusting personal opinions and actions to get you fired or cast aside by important people in your life. Even if you don’t actually do or feel any things of this nature, someone with your Twitter password and access to your phone sure as hell can make it look that way. If someone drafted a kicker earlier than makes sense in your live draft, then chances are they deserve to lose their livelihood, is how we think about it. Some popular ways of making this happen include the following:

  • Text pictures of random female/male (whichever is worse) butts to their romantic partner (if applicable)


  • Text their boss “I’m going to fake sick on Monday in the wake of the post-party of the Satanic dark mass on Sunday and my idiot boss will believe me”


  • Go on a Twitter diatribe using their handle in which you claim that not only was the JFK assassination was a conspiracy, but their boss did it and is a reptilian with ties to the Illuminati


Arson: Speaking of fire, did your running backs fail to produce this year? Did your risky gambits at quarterback and wide receiver fail to pan out? How about nine of your closest friends come to your home and burn one of your most valuable possessions! More soft implementations of this method see a shed or doghouse incinerated, but real football fans actually have some courage and opt to torch family SUVs or even entire homes, if the margin of defeat is sufficient.

Season 9 of “Scrubs”: Did you know that they made a ninth season of Scrubs which focused on a bunch of new people instead of Zach Braff and his friends? Sounds pretty lame. Make the loser of your league watch it all in one sitting. Reserve for only most severe cases.

The Funnie Side of Football

If there’s one thing I know about the Internet, it’s that the people contained therein are really, really nostalgic about the 90s. I get it, I remember the 90s, too. Clinton was president! People watched Pauly Shore movies! Both things that are different today. But ou people seriously cannot stop talking about this decade, much as people slightly older couldn’t stop talking about the 80s and people slightly older than that couldn’t stop talking about the 70s, ad infinitum. That’s why I wanted to write about a matter that is highly relevant to today’s web surfer: old Nickelodeon shows. Here is one example:

Peyton Manning is essentially Doug Funnie.

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Peyton Manning is known for his endearingly awkward demeanor and freakish skill set at one very specific thing. For Peyton, it’s throwing footballs, for Doug, it’s playing his banjo and being Quailman. Just as Doug’s friends have included such bizarre people as Skeeter (is turquoise) and Pork Chop (is dog who walks on two feet), Peyton has gone through a series of strange best friends in his career, like Marvin Harrison (perhaps involved in a murder) and Wes Welker (perhaps took molly at the Kentucky Derby and gave out $100 bills to spectators). Both have nemeses who have foiled a number of their best-laid plans, Doug has the dastardly vice principal Lamar Bone, who inevitably mucks up any fun he seeks to have and Peyton has suave Ugg model Tom Brady, who cost him the chance to play in any amount of Super Bowls. Both Peyton and Doug have a misunderstood sibling; Doug’s sister Judy wears sunglasses everywhere and is generally cast aside by classmates despite her clear intellect, Peyton’s brother Eli gives off the impression of someone who can barely read, but has won two of the most dramatic Super Bowls ever played.

If any of this seems like a stretch, it probably is, but one thing is certain, any quarterback who ever throws a pass to Tiquan Underwood is definitely Arnold to Underwood’s Gerald.


Keeping it Royal with Kansas City

I’ve never been within 200 miles of the state of Missouri, but that didn’t stop me from taking an interest in the Kansas City Royals’ playoff hopes throughout the summer. I didn’t exactly jump on the bandwagon, but I followed close behind it. A team poised to end a 29-year playoff drought is bound to catch the fancy of some of Major League Baseball’s more neutral fans. When the AL Wild Card Game pitted the Royals against the A’s, choosing my allegiance was easy. Oakland is often a beneficiary of my small-market sympathies, but the Moneyballers nearly collapsed thanks to some very un-Moneybally moves this season, and would have been bounced from the playoffs by the more deserving Mariners if the season had been, oh, four or five games longer. Before the first pitch at 8:05 local time, I threw on my only royal-blue apparel: a Milwaukee Brewers throwback shirt. Close enough.

On this Tuesday night, there were no other sporting events worth paying attention to, so I channeled all of my rooting energy toward the Royals. The Athletics, a team I had no concrete reasons to dislike, existed in my mind as the Northern California branch of Al Qaeda. My blood simmered as imagined how often Eric Sogard has been late turning in library books, and all the times Jon Lester has done 60 in a 55. The Royals, meanwhile, lived up to their kingly nickname. The only reason they didn’t run away with the AL Central by 20 games, I told myself, was that they spent too much doggone time visiting children’s hospitals.

When Kansas City took a 3-2 lead in the third, I yelled so loudly that the neighbors must have suspected some sort of attack. When they tied the game at 7 in the bottom of the ninth, I convinced myself that no one else in the house could possibly be sleeping at the approach of midnight. When the Royals erased an 8-7 deficit and sealed the 9-8 win with a two-run twelfth, I switched my celebration into silent mode, but made up for it with a series of fist pumps that could only seem appropriate coming from a season-ticket holder.

It was the best baseball game I had ever seen, and maybe the best baseball game ever played.

I know, I know. Anyone who uses the phrase “best [noun] ever” is usually not worth listening to. In my case, this is particularly true. But there were two ties and five lead changes, two of which occurred in do-or-die situations for the Royals. There was a lot of offense, but no pitcher got shelled. Kansas City stole seven bases. It was a winner-take-all affair, and the home team won, in front of a massive crowd of its long-suffering and shockingly loyal fans.

I wanted to share the joy of this game with my family and friends. None of them are Kansas City fans, but even if they just watched the highlights, they would be. I voiced my support for a proposal that would remove World War II from Missouri’s history curriculum, and replace it with a unit on the one-out Eric Hosmer triple that turned into the tying run.

But then I wondered how I would have felt about the game if I had wanted Oakland to win. Would I still have seen it as one for the ages, or just an inexcusable collapse by a seemingly snakebitten team? If I were a tried-and-true Oakland fan, instead of just a temporary blue-wearer, would the game pop up in my nightmares for years to come, with the Kansas City infield chewing on human eyeballs instead of bubble gum?

Maybe my enjoyment of the game was entirely due to a relatively arbitrary choice I had made not too long before it started. But the beauty of sports is that whether I’m a bandwagoner (er… bandwagon-follower) or a true Royal, I can still get caught in the emotions of the game. Sometimes, those are positive emotions that help us forget that our rent is past due, or that we live in a country where ebola is waiting to strike us down.

So thank you, Kansas City fans, for allowing me to share in your positive emotions. I promise not to wear a red shirt during the ALCS, even if that may be my best bet for revisiting last night’s thrill of victory.

Selig Introduces End-of-Season Innovations

Let’s face it: this weekend of baseball will be boring. Sure, the Mariners and A’s are “technically” in a “wild card” “race” (quotation marks are for emphasis, right? Good, I thought so). But who cares about a couple of boring teams from the West Coast with weird names? I mean, seriously, Mariners? Is this 1857? And the Athletics? Really? Anyone who thinks Adam Dunn qualifies as athletic has never watched any other sport, ever.

The point is, the Giants clinched yesterday, it’ll take an act of God for the Royals to miss the playoffs, and Derek Jeter capped off his stay in New York by fulfilling every Yankee fan’s lifelong dream of seeing Jose Pirela score a game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth. So what’s left for the rest of this regular season? Not much. Awful, meaningless series between pitiful teams like the Mets and the Astros, a bunch of September call-ups looking like deer in the headlights at the plate, and debutante pitchers who walk five batters in a row and say, “Eh, I’m just happy to be here.”

Fortunately, thanks to quick thinking and questionable use of executive power by future former Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, it doesn’t have to be that way this year. The final weekend of regular-season baseball will feature a series of special rules and incentives designed to keep the game fresh, even in its lowest-stakes period.

Bunts! No swingers allowed! This weekend’s series between the Tigers and the Twins will be bunts only. Miguel Cabrera will sit out the series to maintain his .300 average.

Shorts! If you’ve ever been to Texas, you know that it’s in the South, where the sun can get quite roasty-toasty. That’s why the A’s and Rangers will wear shorts all weekend. Don’t worry; they’ll still wear their usual jerseys, tucked in and everything, so they’ll bear a resemblance to your middle-school gym teacher.

Metal! Have you ever watched college baseball and said, “Man, I wish the majors were like this!” No? Well too bad. The Cubs and Brewers will play with aluminum bats throughout the weekend. That’s right, Anthony Rizzo could get the ten home runs he needs to become the league leader! The commissioner was initially worried about the safety implications of such a move, but then he was reminded that Jose Offerman has been out of the league for several years.

Oldies! You know what’s more fun than watching players on out-of-contention teams play? Watching retired players’ protrusive bellies jiggle as they round second. That’s why the Astros and Mets will take part in a series of old-timers games. Will Mo Vaughn be able to complete his home-run trot without cramping? Maybe! Will Craig Biggio still be better than the vast majority of active second basemen? Almost undoubtedly! Will Mike Piazza airmail balls into the outfield and make us nostalgic for his 10-10-220 commercials? Yes, at least one of those things will happen!

Stuff! Bud Selig must be a fan of the Freakonomics series, because he understands that people respond to incentives. The Nationals have clinched the NL East, and the Marlins are out of it, but both teams will have something to play for this weekend. The team that wins this series will receive VHS copies of Muppet Treasure Island, AND, according to the commissioner, “that movie where Kevin Costner hits a golf ball a bunch of times.” Selig insists that these rewards were carefully chosen by the league’s competition committee, and are not at all related to the commissioner’s recent efforts to clean out his garage.

Uncommon Bonds: The Decline of the Sports Villain

It was 2006, the last of my junior-high years. Two of my homeroom classmates sat behind me, fresh off their morning “SportsCenter” viewing, going back and forth about Barry Bonds’ latest antics. I don’t remember what Bonds had done, exactly; he had plenty of antics back in those days. Whatever it was, none of the three of us had taken too kindly to it. Sensing an opportunity to have a friendly moment with a couple of guys who looked like they might try to stuff me into a locker sometime soon, I turned around in my desk-chair combo and tried to jump on their bandwagon.

“I hope Barry Bonds dies. That would be awesome!”

The kids stopped talking and looked at me as if I had just said the cruelest, most despicable thing they’d ever heard. Years later, one of them would serve jail time for a knife-related incident.

At the time, my hatred for Barry Bonds burned so brightly that my words were hardly an exaggeration. I hated his smug, whatcha-gonna-do-about-it attitude toward his blatant steroid use. I hated his knowing smirk, his whiny voice, and the cross-shaped earring that hung ironically from his left earlobe. I hated the fact that he had an absurd .609 on-base percentage in 2004, his fourth consecutive season in which that mark was above .500. Most of all, I hated the sheer number of press conferences and “Baseball Tonight” segments that resulted from all of this.

I don’t still hope for Barry Bonds’ death, though he will die eventually. What is more surprising is that I can’t even muster up any of that old hatred for him anymore. Everything I just said about him is still true, but thinking about Bonds doesn’t cause me to do much more than sigh and wistfully browse Baseball Reference. He finally left baseball after the 2007 season, as a 43-year-old whose body was starting to break down, even with all of its pharmaceutical enhancements. He could still hit better than most, but no one wanted Barry Bonds on their team, because he was the biggest villain in all of pro sports.

There were many others before him. As far back as Ty Cobb, who played so long ago that historians aren’t even sure human civilization existed in his day, Seven years later, we’re still waiting for someone else to step into the Darth Vader suit. Many athletes have tried, but all have failed to bring together the right combination of personal attributes and cultural circumstances needed to pull it off.


Bad, But Not A Monster: It may seem strange that I’m nostalgic for sports villainy at a time when various NFL stars are in the news for their illegal and injurious acts of aggression against other human beings. But these players far exceed the line between “hate” and “love to hate.” We take an interest in the human drama behind their stories, but we mostly just want to see them put to justice and sent out of our lives for good. Bonds was a brazen cheater, but he never directly caused anyone physical harm, so we were more inclined to put up with him. He never broke any laws, save for one conviction on charges of obstruction of justice. Giving a bunch of prosecutors headaches doesn’t exactly engender the same moral outrage as violence against women.

Best of the Best: When an athlete is putting up the muscular numbers that Bonds recorded from 2001 onward, he’ll get plenty of notice no matter what fans think of him. In the NFL, Richard Sherman has some promising villainous characteristics, but as great of a cornerback as he is, he’s nowhere near Bonds’ level of notoriety. He plays defense in a fantasy-centric football culture. Most of his fantasy owners were required to draft Sherman’s Seahawks teammates Bobby Wagner and Greg Scruggs along with him. In other leagues, DeMarcus Cousins, Yasiel Puig, and Bryce Harper don’t seem to care much about what people think of them, but they each have a long way to go to establish themselves at the very top of their respective sports. If those guys do manage to grow into superstars, they’ll be under pressure to portray more benevolent versions of themselves. Their financial success depends on it, because we live in…

…The Era of “Nice”: This is the big one. The Twitter and Facebook machines mean that sports fans have far more access to the details of athletes’ personal lives than ever before. This is neither wholly good nor wholly bad. For those who want to know what Steve Weatherford has for dinner on a typical Wednesday night, it’s wonderful. But the increased access to athletes means that the major sports leagues, especially the NBA, have shifted the focus of their marketing from teams to players. And the hero is always more marketable than the heel. You can find a lot more Superman costumes than Lex Luthor costumes at those weird seasonal Halloween stores in strip malls. Post-Decision LeBron James figured this out the hard way over the past four years, and then did a complete about-face when commercials in which he ran down streets with young children did nothing to rehabilitate his reputation as the league’s bad guy.

Athletes are their own mini-corporations, and their images are meticulously manicured by agents and team officials, whose eyes are all turned toward the bottom line. Children’s hospital photo-ops are disseminated, and apologies are carefully worded to fit 140-character constraints. The surprise is that more people don’t recognize that it’s all bullshit. @RayRice27, an account that’s been dormant since February, painted a picture of a devoted family man.



Maybe Barry Bonds just happened to play baseball at a time when he was allowed to be who he wanted to be, who he really was. But it’s hard to imagine that he would act any differently if he were still playing today. He was a real shithead, just like countless other athletes after him have revealed themselves to be. It would be nice if more of them would admit it. It goes back to that old question about whether it’s better for good things or interesting things to happen. If nothing else, at least Barry Bonds got that one right.

Five Sports Poems


You sir are called out!
The play is under review.
You sir are called safe…

“Have you guys heard? ING is now Voya!”


Probable or out?
So much depends on a toe
Football Fantasy

John Clayton is doubtful for ESPN's Week 3 NFL coverage (acute chopstick finger)

John Clayton is doubtful for ESPN’s Week 3 NFL coverage (acute chopstick finger)


Out of “love” the lashing begins
Punishing the foolish pupils
The spanking never stops



I’ll assist you in a moment
But first, I must crossover
Don’t miss the sign


Assist Wizard Brendan Haywood makes a pass


There once was a dimple
Whose wish was so simple
Make me a bird called an eagle

photo posted on

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