NCAA basketball tournament tops ESPN searches in 2008

ESPN.com ranks the top searches of the year for 2008.

Originally Published: December 31, 2008
By Maalek Marshall | ESPN.com

Overall Top Three Searches

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1. NCAA Basketball Tournament 2. TitleTown USA 3. College Baseball

Top Searches by Category

Overall: NCAA Basketball Tournament
NFL: NFL Power Rankings
MLB: New York Yankees
NBA: Kobe Bryant
NHL: NHL Power Rankings
CFB: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
CBB: NCAA Basketball Tournament
Autos: NASCAR
Women: Candace Parker
Columnists: Bill Simmons
Contests/Games: TitleTown USA
Shows: PTI
Other Sports: College Baseball



Surprise Search of the Year ...


Top Overall Searches of the Year



  1. 1. NCAA Basketball Tournament
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    It should come as no surprise that the NCAA tournament is 2008's top search. The annual hoops tournament is, for all intents and purposes, an unofficial holiday. As if employers aren't worried enough about their workers' motivation on Mondays during springtime, the Monday following Selection Sunday (aka the official start of March Madness) has been estimated to possibly cost businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity every March, according to surveys by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Basically, it's safe to say "the bracket" is a force to be reckoned with and the amount of searches on ESPN.com echoes this sentiment.

  2. 2. TitleTown USA: Valdosta, Ga., was officially named "TitleTown USA" as an abundance of users searched and voted for the small town with its insane number of state championships.
  3. 3. College Baseball: The combination of the ping of the bats, excitement of the College World Series and users who are hard-core MLB scouts all adds up to one very popular sport in search.
  4. 4. "PTI": Users loved watching repeats of Tony and Mike's hilarious rundowns and antics on ESPN.com.
  5. 5. Power Rankings: For the fan of all sports, this search provides a smorgasbord of different sports' power rankings to choose from.
  6. 6. NIT: True fact: Even though it's now considered slightly less prestigious than the NCAA tournament, the NIT actually pre-dates it.
  7. 7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Rudy may have moved on to become a hobbit, but the Fighting Irish's popularity will always remain.
  8. 8. NFL Power Rankings: ESPN.com's weekly NFL update of "what have you done for me lately" was tops in NFL searches and was responsible for more opening arguments than a courthouse.
  9. 9. Pontiac: Users were very interested in voting for the Pontiac Game Changing Performance in college football.
  10. 10. Fantasy Football: The only reason there were more guys upset about Tom Brady's injury than him taking Gisele Bundchen off the market.

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Top NFL Searches



  1. 1. NFL Power Rankings
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    When only 17 weeks of rankings can bring about more than 4,500 user comments, is it any surprise that it's a top search?

  2. 2. NFL Expert Picks: A fave in search as users consistently checked to see if our experts were on their A-games with their weekly picks -- Merril Hoge definitely was as he led all others (and tied Accuscore's record) in correct picks for the year.
  3. 3. NFL Draft: A sign of a new trend? The '08 draft featured an offensive lineman going No. 1 for just the second time since 1970.
  4. 4. Brett Favre: Favre's promising season with the Jets sputtered at the end, but his abbreviated retirement and trade to Gotham caused plenty of excitement.
  5. 5. Shaun Alexander: Users were searching for Shaun Alexander all year long, even after he was finally signed by an NFL team.
  6. 6. Dallas Cowboys: "America's Team" experienced more highs and lows than the stock market in 2008.
  7. 7. Chad Johnson (Chad Ocho Cinco): Despite a down year in production, Chad received plenty of searches -- both for his given surname and his grammatically incorrect Spanish one.
  8. 8. Michael Vick: Incarcerated in '07, Vick also had troubles in '08 as he filed for bankruptcy and was ordered to repay $20 million of his signing bonus.
  9. 9. Tom Brady: All-world QB was forced to wait another year to try to avenge his devastating Super Bowl loss after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1.
  10. 10. Reggie Bush: "Dash" is his girlfriend but it should also be his nickname after he was clocked running 22 mph while returning two punts for TDs on MNF.

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Top MLB Searches



  1. 1. New York Yankees
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    MLB's most storied franchise said both goodbye and hello to Yankee Stadium in '08 but failed to make the playoffs.

  2. 2. Manny Ramirez: The eccentric but talented slugger went from Beantown to L.A. and managed not only to become more popular but somehow even hit better.
  3. 3. MLB Power Rankings: OK, so the eventual World Series winners were ranked No. 5. But users make it a point to search for the power rankings during all 27 weeks of the unpredictable MLB season.
  4. 4. Barry Bonds: Even though Bonds' much-talked-about free-agency status didn't drum up much interest from MLB teams, there were searches and user interest aplenty.
  5. 5. Josh Hamilton: Hamilton's superb season and record-breaking HR Derby performance made him MLB's feel-good story of the year.
  6. 6. Boston Red Sox: The Sawx's bid for a third World Series title in four years was halted by the upstart Rays, but they did boast the AL MVP in Dustin Pedroia.
  7. 7. Alex Rodriguez: Big contract extension, messy divorce, Madonna; even in a relatively quiet year A-Rod still garners plenty of headlines.
  8. 8. Chicago Cubs: The beloved Cubbies had the best record in the National League but weren't able to go as deep into the playoffs as expected.
  9. 9. Roger Clemens: 2008 wasn't a good year for Clemens as he found himself denying both steroid and adultery allegations.
  10. 10. Derek Jeter: Even though his hitting numbers were down for most of the year, Jeter did manage to break Lou Gehrig's record for the most hits at Yankee Stadium during its final season.

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Top NBA Searches



  1. 1. Kobe Bryant
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    The NBA's reigning MVP stayed busy in '08, whether he was nailing jump shots for the Lakers and Team USA or jumping over pools of snakes and moving cars.

  2. 2. LeBron James: LBJ played brilliantly for the Cavs and Team USA but also caused plenty of commotion with the Vogue cover and not-so-subtle hints that he's willing to play elsewhere after the 2010 season.
  3. 3. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lake Show fell short of the championship but looks stronger and more poised for another Finals run in '08-'09.
  4. 4. NBA Draft: Rose and B-Easy highlighted the '08 draft, but it also featured the first time ever that the son of a WNBA player (JaVale McGee, son of Pamela) and twins (Brook and Robin Lopez) were drafted in the first round.
  5. 5. Team USA Basketball: The "Redeem Team" brought gold back to the U.S. and respect back to U.S. hoops.
  6. 6. Boston Celtics: The Celtics went from worst to first and won the NBA Finals ... and haven't looked back since.
  7. 7. Chris Paul: The MVP runner-up remains a favorite in search due to his great scoring, brilliant passing ... and of course his perfect pits.
  8. 8. Michael Jordan: His Airness still commands plenty of searches even as an exec for the Bobcats who repeatedly dodges Cuba Gooding and Charlie Sheen in Hanes commercials.
  9. 9. Derrick Rose: The disappointment of losing the NCAA title game seems a distant memory as Rose went No. 1 in the draft and looks poised to become NBA Rookie of the Year.
  10. 10. NBA Power Rankings: To quote "The Choice is Yours" by Black Sheep, "You can get with this, or you can get with that," since the NBA power rankings offer both daily and weekly versions.

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Top NHL Searches



  1. 1. NHL Power Rankings
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    With the NHL's complex scoring system, our power rankings are what puckheads go to for the real deal.

  2. 2. Detroit Red Wings: In 2008, Hockeytown became the NHL's titletown for the 11th time in franchise history.
  3. 3. Sidney Crosby: Even during a season limited by injury, "The Next One" was able to help lead the Pens to the Stanley Cup finals.
  4. 4. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins' amazing run to the Stanley Cup finals came to a halt as they lost to the Red Wings, but they remain as popular as ever in search as they feature some of the NHL's best young players.
  5. 5. Sean Avery: The outspoken Avery had an eventful '08 in which he recovered from a lacerated spleen in the playoffs but also got himself ousted from the Dallas Stars for making derogatory comments.
  6. 6. Alex Ovechkin: The high-scoring Russian helped the Capitals make the first round of the playoffs in '08 and looks to lead his team even farther as the Caps are off to one of the best starts in the NHL.
  7. 7. Philadelphia Flyers: Early '08 saw the "Bullies" return to Broad St. as the Flyers reached the conference finals before being defeated by the explosive Penguins.
  8. 8. Fantasy Hockey: Imagine a world where penalty minutes and plus-minus can actually make some defensemen more valuable than some forwards -- ya gotta love fantasy hockey.
  9. 9. NHL Playoffs: The '08 NHL playoffs featured plenty of tough series, which resulted in a matchup between two of the NHL's most exciting and high-scoring teams.
  10. 10. San Jose Sharks: Early-season picks to win Lord Stanley's Cup, the Sharks have garnered plenty of searches as they have gotten off to an excellent start in '08.

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Top College Football Searches



  1. 1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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    The luck of the Irish seemed to run out as they lost four of their last five games. However, Notre Dame's bad luck in bowls might be changing as it soundly defeated Hawaii after losing its previous nine consecutive bowl appearances.

  2. 2. Heisman: Users kept tabs on our experts' top candidates and even exercised their right to vote for their pick (Colt McCoy received more votes than actual winner Sam Bradford) on our Heisman Watch page.
  3. 3. Michigan Wolverines: After going 8-4 and winning their bowl on Jan. 1, 2008, the Wolverines were definitely feeling blue in the '08 season with a 3-9 record.
  4. 4. Alabama Crimson Tide: The Crimson Tide bounced back from a mediocre '07 to go 12-1 and play in the Sugar Bowl.
  5. 5. Nebraska Cornhuskers:The Cornhuskers had an 8-4 season in '08 and were invited to the Gator Bowl one season after being below .500.
  6. 6. Ohio State Buckeyes: Michigan's lackluster year took the excitement out of their annual rivalry game, but the Buckeyes managed to go 10-2 and face the Longhorns in the Fiesta Bowl.
  7. 7. USC Trojans: After a huge upset loss early in the season to unranked Oregon State, the Trojans won out and earned themselves a trip ... to Pasadena.
  8. 8. Penn State Nittany Lions: It just seems fitting that 82-year-old JoePa's Nittany Lions are playing in "The Granddaddy of Them All."
  9. 9. Bowl Projections: Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach's projections seemed to change drastically every surprise-filled week of the college football season -- and users still searched for them faithfully.
  10. 10. Bottom 10: David Duffey's weekly list of college football's most inept teams, with its various themes and hilarious comparisons, aptly takes the 10th spot in the year's top CFB searches.

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Top College Basketball Searches



  1. 1. NCAA Basketball Tournament
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    After years of making bracket-fillers look silly for choosing all top picks, '08 was the first time in tourney history that all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four.

  2. 2. NIT: The popular annual hoops showdown at MSG ended with the Buckeyes defeating the Minutemen in '08.
  3. 3. North Carolina Tar Heels: With most of last season's team still together, the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels begin their '08-'09 season as favorites to win the NCAA title.
  4. 4. Duke Blue Devils: Coach K has the always-dangerous Blue Devils ready to play spoiler in the ACC and the NCAA tournament in '08.
  5. 5. UCLA Bruins: The Bruins' trip to the Final Four was spoiled by Memphis but they look to bounce back this season, even after losing Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the NBA.
  6. 6. Kansas Jayhawks: After winning one of the most thrilling NCAA title games ever, the Jayhawks have a tough task trying to repeat with most of the starters from the championship team now gone to the NBA.
  7. 7. Memphis Tigers: The Tigers just fell short of a championship and lost their star player to the NBA.
  8. 8. Arizona Wildcats: The Wildcats were ousted in the first round of the tourney, but it was Lute Olson's sudden departure that was the biggest story for Arizona.
  9. 9. Syracuse Orange: After losing in the NIT in '07, the Orange have started off '08 looking to make a run for the NCAA tournament title.
  10. 10. Davidson Wildcats: They lost by a slim margin to the eventual champs in the '07 NCAA tournament, but sharpshooter Stephen Curry is back and Davidson has its sights set on getting past the Elite Eight.

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Top Auto Racing Searches



  1. 1. NASCAR
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    Easily the most popular league in motorsports no matter which cell phone provider name the sponsor goes with.

  2. 2. Formula One: Led by breakout star Lewis Hamilton, who basically seems to be F1's version of Tiger Woods and Sidney Crosby, Formula One garnered the second-most auto sports searches in '08.
  3. 3. Danica Patrick: Danica made history by becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race when she won the Firestone 300 at Japan.
  4. 4. NHRA: Tony Schumacher continued his dominance in the NHRA's Top Fuel category, even after the races were shortened.
  5. 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: NASCAR's most beloved driver improved his standing and made the Chase in his first season with Hendrick.
  6. 6. Scott Kalitta: Tragic death of the Funny Car driver prompted the NHRA to shorten the races and seriously look into safety improvements.
  7. 7. Tony Stewart: 2008 was a slightly down year for Stewart, but he still finished ninth and will be leaving JGR for Stewart-Haas Racing in '09.
  8. 8. Indy 500: Plenty of users checked out the recap and video of the 92nd Indianapolis 500, which featured plenty of caution flags, a Danica tantrum and a victory swig of milk by winner Scott Dixon.
  9. 9. Carl Edwards: Edwards had an outstanding '08, totaling 16 wins in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series, but somehow managed to finish only second in both series' standings.
  10. 10. IndyCar: IRL's Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon also finished first in the standings during an all-around exciting and historic season for the league.

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Top Women Athletes in Search



  1. 1. Candace Parker
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    Parker's popularity in '08 can be rivaled only by her accomplishments as she led the Lady Vols to the NCAA title (earning Most Outstanding Player honors), went No. 1 in the WNBA draft and won both WNBA Rookie of the Year and MVP, and helped Team USA win the gold in Beijing.

  2. 2. Dara Torres: One of the many highlights in Beijing, the 41-year-old swimmer showed us all that age ain't nothing but a number and won three silver medals for the U.S.
  3. 3. Danica Patrick: Danica did it all in '08, whether it be endorsements, winning her first IRL race, throwing tantrums on the speedway or getting into a shouting match with fellow female driver Milka Duno.
  4. 4. Michelle Wie: In '08, Wie played her first-ever tournament on the Ladies European Tour and qualified to play full time on the '09 LPGA Tour.
  5. 5. Shawn Johnson: Won the gold in the balance beam as well as three silver medals in Beijing.
  6. 6. Serena Williams: Serena fared well in '08, winning the U.S. Open but losing to sis Venus in the Wimbledon final.
  7. 7. Ana Ivanovic: Ivanovic had an outstanding '08, winning the French Open and reaching the Australian Open final.
  8. 8. Maria Sharapova: The '08 Australian Open winner may get overlooked in her Canon commercials, but not in search.
  9. 9. Paula Creamer: The former LPGA Rookie of the Year had an amazing '08, winning four LPGA Tour events.
  10. 10. Alicia Sacramone: Sacramone blamed her mistakes for the U.S. team's silver-medal finish in the gymnastics team final, but her story resonated with users as many showed their support for her effort.

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Top Columnists in Search



  1. 1. Bill Simmons
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    Even after taking a two-month sabbatical to finish up his book in '08, the Sports Guy was still our most-searched columnist.

  2. 2. TMQ: The verbose Tuesday Morning Quarterback remains a fave with users as his columns during the NFL season are insightful, wide-ranging and witty.
  3. 3. Uni Watch: Whether he's informing users about uniform changes or educating them on the history behind logos and protective gear, Paul Lukas' Uni Watch is a must-search.
  4. 4. Mel Kiper: The NFL draft is a sports holiday for football fans, and Kiper's extensive knowledge is the gift that keeps on giving.
  5. 5. Rick Reilly: Though he joined ESPN in June of 2008, the ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine writer ranked as the fifth most-searched columnist.
  6. 6. Joe Lunardi: Imagine companies' productivity losses if everyone were a year-round bracketologist like Joe Lunardi.
  7. 7. Matthew Berry: The Talented Mr. Roto is here to save us all from fantasy failure.
  8. 8. Dick Vitale: Dickie V was the ultimate PTPer in '08 after getting inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
  9. 9. DJ Gallo: Sports is definitely serious business, but it's a good thing DJ Gallo is around to also show us how humorous it is.
  10. 10. Jemele Hill: Whether she was facing off against Skip Bayless on "First Take" or taking on athletes for making unthinkable mistakes, Hill always kept it real ... even when it came to her hometown Lions.

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Top Contests/Games in Search



  1. 1. TitleTown USA
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    The people spoke loudly with their votes and Valdosta, Ga., beat out such big-name cities as Boston and Green Bay, Wis., for the crown.

  2. 2. Pontiac: Allowed users to vote on the college football game changing performance of the week and the year.
  3. 3. Fantasy Footballl: Search is doing its part to keep fantasy football easily accessible -- and extend its phenomenal appeal among sports fans.
  4. 4. Tournament Challenge: ESPN's way of adding to the loss in productivity during March Madness -- but seriously, isn't it fun?
  5. 5. Streak for the Cash: Congrats to Samuel-Louis Charles for being ESPN.com's inaugural Streak for the Ca$h winner with 25 consecutive correct picks ... not to mention the cool $1 million he received.
  6. 6. Fantasy Baseball: There's a reason our 2008 ad campaign for Fantasy Baseball had a soap opera theme -- every week was truly endless drama.
  7. 7. Arcade: ESPN.com's convenient and addictive arcade offerings just might cause mall arcades to go extinct.
  8. 8. Pigskin Pick 'em: With all the surprises in '08, even filling out the nonspread version of Pigskin Pick 'em must have felt like taking a college calculus exam.
  9. 9. College Bowl Mania: The combination of picks and confidence points makes this game an annual favorite as users gear up for all the bowls and test their prediction skills.
  10. 10. Greatest Highlight: Chris Berman took users back, back, back, back to help them pick the greatest sports highlight of all time.

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Top Shows in Search



  1. 1. "PTI"
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    Wilbon and Kornheiser are a winning combination on TV as well as in search.

  2. 2. ESPYS: Sports' version of the Academy Awards always gets plenty of searches as users want to vote on the nominees and many can't wait until the broadcast to find out the winners.
  3. 3. "Mike and Mike": Golic and Greeny bring plenty of laughs in the morning and users love to check out any parts of the show they may have missed on ESPN.com.
  4. 4. "SportsCenter": Our flagship sports program went live in '08 and also launched its own site on ESPN.com, allowing users to get to know all the SC anchors.
  5. 5. "E:60": The show was a constant search throughout '08 as users wanted to rewatch many of its compelling and hard-hitting segments.
  6. 6. "Outside the Lines": The Emmy Award-winning show continues to examine the complex issues in sports and searches remain consistently high for it each week.
  7. 7. "First Take": Whether users are trying to rewatch an exchange between panelists, check out a guest or just e-mail their take on an issue, "First Take" remains a strong search.
  8. 8. Mayne Street: Kenny Mayne's irreverent webisodes were a big hit with users in '08 and were among the year's top searches even though they didn't begin to air until November.
  9. 9. "Around the Horn": The popular show features video clips and podcasts on the site for all who missed any of the sportswriters' battles on TV.
  10. 10. "Madden Nation": Madden Nation features gamers who are so hard-core they actually get upset at themselves when they score only 90 points to defeat the football player they're representing.

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Top Other Sports Searches



  1. 1. College Baseball
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    Could college baseball be replacing frat parties as the national college pastime?

  2. 2. Poker: Twenty-two-year old Peter Eastgate took home more than $9 million as the WSOP's youngest-ever winner in 2008.
  3. 3. Olympics: The '08 Summer Olympics were a hot search as users followed the U.S team's progress in winning the most medals.
  4. 4. Softball: Searches for softball increased in '08 as the U.S. softball team captured the silver in Beijing.
  5. 5. Kimbo Slice: 2008 wasn't great for the popular MMA brawler, who suffered a disappointing loss to relative unknown Seth Petruzelli and then became a free agent after EliteXC declared bankruptcy.
  6. 6. Michael Phelps: Phelps was a juggernaut during the '08 Olympics and unquestionably the top story as he won eight gold medals, setting seven world records in the process, to become the most successful single-Games Olympian of all time.
  7. 7. Little League World Series: The diminutive sluggers from Hawaii made it a fourth consecutive year that a U.S. team has won the LLWS title.
  8. 8. Boxing: Rumors of the sport's death have been greatly exaggerated as exciting bouts from Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins and especially the dynamic Manny Pacquiao highlighted 2008.
  9. 9. MMA: Even after Kimbo's recent loss, the up-and-coming sport continues to grow in popularity and nip at boxing's heels.
  10. 10. Tiger Woods: Although he was severely limited in '08 due to injury, Tiger proved what we knew all along: Even on one leg he's an infinitely better golfer than any of us will ever be.

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Surprise Search of the Year



Lil Wayne
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Lil Wayne enjoyed quite a memorable 2008 as his Grammy-nominated sixth solo album, "Tha Carter III," was No. 1 on Billboard and went platinum in its debut week, his son was born, and, most relevant to this column, he became a blogger for ESPN The Magazine. At first, it might seem like an odd pairing, but despite his occupation and his small frame, Weezy is a true sports fanatic who once even played fullback (yes, fullback) in middle school. Lil Wayne's blogs cover all sports from tennis to football and he even keeps up with fantasy sports and injury news. Users can't seem to get enough of the young rapper and he is easily 2008's Surprise Search of the Year.

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Check out the new ESPN Search Index for all the latest sports buzz in search, including the top daily searches, surprises and movers.

Maalek Marshall is ESPN.com's search editor.

Note: The results listed are the summation of actual search results that were manually typed in by site users of ESPN.com throughout the year 2008. All prelinked searches (including columnist archive links) were excluded from this summation.


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