Sometimes the Muse just doesn’t strike (especially when the stress levels from everyday life are high). On those occasions, I think I’ll post a blast from the past.
When I first signed on to the magical America Online (I think about 1995?), it was actually a big disappointment. I mean, they had all this “content”, but it was relatively simplistic and kind of boring. There was also the per-minute charge, plus the fact that the connection was always busy. I subscribed for a few months, said, “This is for the birds,” and quit.
About a year later, I heard from a friend about a dial-up service (nobody had “high speed” or even knew what it was, at least among the general public) called Arkansas.Net, wherein you could get on “the Internet”. I told them I had already been on the Internet, and didn’t think much of it. “No, no, no, you were on America Online. Try the actual “Internet”, all these companies are getting “web-sites” and you can do things like read the paper “on-line”. As my paper was soaked that morning from storms, I thought, “Now there’s an idea” and called up Arkansas.Net. In short order, I had an account and started “surfing the Internet” for the first time.
Being a huge Razorbacks fan, of course I looked for Razorbacks-related stuff. Arkansas.Net provided me with “email”, and I somehow found this “Listserv” wherein members would post a message and the server would email it to everybody. I happily signed up. That’s where I first “met” my friend Kathy Beaumont, posting on the listserv. Actually, I stated something incorrectly and Kathy corrected me (don’t remember what it was now). I didn’t post much after that, didn’t want to look foolish (well, I sure got over THAT one, didn’t I?).
As I “surfed”, it occurred to me to look up (on this new Yahoo! thingy) the TV stations in Little Rock. I checked out KATV, then KARK, then KTHV. Interestingly, in the “Sports” section on the KARK site, there was a “link” for a “Bulletin Board”. Hmmm, whassat? I clicked on it and there were “threads” containing “posts” from apparently just regular people. Some of them used their names, but many used funny “monikers”. I began checking that bulletin board every day for any interesting chatter.
One of the regulars on the KARK board was someone posting as “booth” (my friend Booth Rand, a Little Rock attorney; I didn’t know Booth then). Booth was known as a “flamer”; he’d get on there and “flame” people (post scathing remarks about them) who were obviously stupid or who were supporting any other team. He got warned repeatedly by management, then finally banned. He started his own website, The PigPen. Overnight, most of us “migrated” from the KARK board to The PigPen (the KARK board never recovered).
So, I was reading the posts on The PigPen, but far to shy to actually post anything myself (why would anybody want to read my scribbles? They all knew more than I did anyway). But, this poster on The PigPen, who went by “rickb” (I remembered him from KARK), asked a question to which I actually knew the answer. When nobody answered him, I decided to do so. I had noticed two or three new posters who used their town name and the word “Hog” or “Hawg”. I liked that, so decided to use it, but leave the space out and capitalize the H (and I’ve never liked “hawg”). So, I signed in as “MalvernHog” and answered Rick’s question.
Several of us on there, rickb, me, NuttHawg, Pigseye, SwineFlew, ewest, a couple of others who will remind me if they read this, decided to meet at a War Memorial Stadium game for a tailgate party. Dad and I had been doing KFC and Miller High Life on the actual tailgate of the pickup, but we took our KFC and Miller High Life over and met my “online” friends. It was the genesis of the WebHogs Razorback Club, which Rick and I and some others basically ran for several years; we wound up having tailgate parties for 200+ people with pulled pork BBQ (provided by “SwineFlew”), big screen TV’s (id10t and WherezThePork), and fun for all. I had some of the most fun of my life with this group of rabid Razorbacks fans who met on the internet.
(Kathy also had migrated with us from the listserv and KARK to the PigPen, where she began posting as “Petunia Pig”). We had the best (funniest) monikers in the Southeastern Conference internet community.
But back to the bulletin boards. As happens sometimes, in the early days it was great, everybody got along, fun was had; then bickering and dissent set in. There were groups that just wanted recruiting talk; others who wanted to talk about their lives (the niche Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter now occupy); still others who just wanted to flame. Booth got tired of messing with it, too. We began diversifying into other boards. Woopig.net was one big group. Clay Henry, my friend and publisher of the magazine HawgsIllustrated, started his own board as an adjunct to the magazine. I had subscribed to the mag for years, and went online with Clay on the “HI Insiders” board, while still checking in on the ‘Pen (and lurking on Woopig).
There are a lot more ramifications of this story, of interest ONLY to those who were involved, but several things came of this:
- I made some of the best friends of my life off these boards
- I’m still friends with many/most of them
- There were some really good times on those boards
I’m not a “Recruiting Guru”, nor am I a “Football Expert”. I could never match wits with some of those people; they are obsessed fanatics (the “X’s and O’s” guys can break down plays till my eyes cross; I can’t get all excited about what some 17 year old boy in Smackover, Arkansas had for breakfast --- “He was observed in the town cafe having BACON with his eggs; that can ONLY mean he’s ready to commit to the Hogs!!!!”--- no, that means he likes bacon. He may be eating the bacon while he mulls his offer from LSU…..). I decided my specialty would be “…and YOU were THERE” type posts. I read an autobiography of one of the astronauts (Space being another big interest of mine), and he said that the question he got most was, “What was it really LIKE? What was it really LIKE to actually BE THERE?” I decided to write about that.
When I was a little kid, my Aunt Shorty and Uncle Cal traveled all over the Southwest Conference, attending Razorbacks games. They had a GREAT time doing it, and I always wanted to do it. I had not missed a home game (Little Rock or Fayetteville) since 1994; season ticket holder, Razorback Foundation contributor. In 1998 (egged on somewhat by RickB and other friends) I decided to make it ALL games, home and away. My streak was unbroken (except for one Auburn game wherein I was in bed with 103 degree fever) from fall 1998 through fall 2006, home and away, regular games, SEC Championship games, and Bowl Games. I would travel to the game, attend, then write the “…and YOU were THERE” piece. What was it like being at the Cotton Bowl when we stomped Texas’ ass in 2000 (glorious, I’ll tell you that right now!)? My friends had already broken down the games in play by play mode; the recruitniks had weighed in on how that game might affect this recruit or that one. I told “the folks at home” what it was REALLY LIKE to sit there roasting in the sun and watch the back of Fred Talley’s jersey flap in the breeze as he took off from the 6 yard line and ran, all alone, chased by the entire Auburn football team, to score the winning TD at Auburn.
I didn’t save any of those posts---but my friend Marty (Baumbastic Hawg---she’s a huge baseball fan and Arkansas’ baseball stadium is “Baum Stadium”) saved several that she liked.
So, bringing it round to the start of this post: hopefully the Muse will strike me regularly this football season. When it doesn’t, I’ll haul out one of the old posts Marty saved, and post it as a…
One of my best friends in the world, Keith Burtner (Texas ‘79), and I at Y2Cotton (The 2000 Cotton Bowl), just before he decided he had had enough of me for that day (“Was the double-barreled birding of the Texas fans really necessary?” “Um, yes, absolutely!!”) and conceded (“I’ll be at my house, tell me how you want your steak…”),
January 1, 2000, taken with my first digital camera, purchased for the occasion
In 1969, Arkansas and Texas played for the National Championship (be quiet, Penn Staters, nobody cares about you anyway! ;-). The Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, down the street from the campus, was a Rabid Razorbacks Fan. He posted on the church marquee: “Football is just a game, Life is Eternal; nevertheless, GO HOGS!!!”. I always remembered that. When I started posting, I decided to use it as my signature line. So, as you see it below, it means, “AllTheForegoingDrivelI’veWrittenWhateverItMayBe; nevertheless, GO HOGS!!!”. I’ve signed my posts that way for years---
(be sure and read the comments below, and leave a comment if you visit)