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THN History Lesson – Pioneers?

By Mark Solway | August 9th, 2011

The recent return of The Wingman got me to thinking this week – thinking about the origins of this site, how far we’ve come, and truthfully, how pioneering THN really was. That isn’t an ego stroke – it’s an observation based on something that you may not have had occasion to think about. Allow me to explain…

TheHogs.net started in the summer of 2002, when some members of a mailing list that I was on, wanted to take photos of training camp and post them to the list. This was 2002 – there weren’t message boards everywhere, or blogs, or Twitter for people to talk Skins with. I was on a Yahoo list managed by Webskinz, as far as I know, the first Redskins fan site, and one of the first NFL fan sites period. It was started by a guy named Christopher Suh; I have no idea where Christopher is today, but if somehow this blog reaches you, drop a line and say ‘hello’. I know the mailing list DOES still exist, though I stopped using it long ago. Running this site is and always has been, a giant, time-consuming venture – an extreme labor of love. So back to the story…

The two guys that were going to camp were not going to be able to post pics because the mailing list didn’t allow for it. I was just learning web design at the time, and thought it would be a great way to learn what I was doing – build a Redskins site. So I volunteered to take those photos and put them on the web for the list to see. As soon as I volunteered to do that, another list member named Keith Duncan chimed in that he owned a web hosting company and would donate some hosting space for us, to put up the pictures.

And that’s how TheHogs.net was born.

When camp ended and there were no more pictures, I found myself wondering what I was going to do next. It didn’t seem to make sense that the only content that I contributed to the web, was some photos for 2 or 3 weeks out of a season. This was after all, at a time when there was little to NO information anywhere… especially here in Canada. It was a different era. We waited with bated breath for NFL magazines to come out in the fall, just to find out what moves our teams had made. I wanted to be more plugged in. I wanted to keep interacting with fans that were in D.C. so that I could be knowledgeable about what was going on with my football team.

My thoughts were many, but I decided that the only way to bring people together, is to provide them with a reason, provide them with some content. About this time, I started to talk with a couple of the existing members of the Yahoo list about writing some articles ourselves for people to read. Scott Moore, Les Barnhart and I – decided that we were going to start writing about the Redskins.

I recognize that many of you are thinking, ‘Big Deal.’ But it WAS a big deal. There were no blogs. There were no message boards. There were no ways to syndicate our content. There was no Twitter. There was no Facebook. Many people asked us, ‘Why do we care what you nobody’s have to say?’

But we didn’t care. We didn’t do it for the adoration of others. We did it for ourselves. We did it because we believed that we WERE making a contribution to our beloved Washington Redskins.

Over time, we grew. I met Scott Hurrey and not only did THN add another good writer, but I found someone that could help me with some of the other things that go along with running the site. If I hadn’t met Scott, it’s quite probable that none of you would be reading this. It takes, time, energy, and effort to run a fan site for more than 9 years – it’s more than one man can possibly bear.

We added a message board, and we continued to write. I met Jake Russell and he started doing a bunch of stuff that helped us bring more Redskins content to Redskins Nation… transaction logs, player rosters, and eventually Jake would start writing as well. Jake’s a young man, but has been contributing for a long time, his contributions to the site are considerable, and appreciated by not just me, but Redskin fans all over the world. I met Scott Peek around this time as well – a brilliant graphic designer – an all round great guy, and as it pertains to the site, someone that could help me with some of the techy site stuff, and help spruce things up with some graphics.

At some point, Bernie Marshall came on board and started tracking accurate Redskins salary cap numbers for people – an amazing resource and tool – the features THN offered grew, and have always improved.

I could go on and on about the contributions of people making THN possible – there have been many over the years – some of them for a short time, some of them for a long haul. All of them have different things, and had different roles – but in the broadest of schemes, all of them just as important. It seems a great point to just stop and say, ‘Thank you,’ to any and all that have ever contributed to the site.

I’ve digressed long enough – no matter how you slice it, we were doing something in 2002 that nobody else was doing – blogging. It just didn’t have a name yet. And we have been doing it CONSTANTLY ever since. We have literally thousands of articles and blogs in our annuls. One only need to click on the ‘Display All’ articles button in the menu, to go back and look at what a 2002 ‘blog’ looked like.

It’s probably hard for anyone that HASN’T been a part of the Redskins online community since 2002, to really understand the scope of it. Sports journalism is such an integral part of our lives these days, that it’s hard even for me to harken back to the glory days and remember the colossal difference in web psyche. I’ll never say that we were the first bloggers; frankly, nobody had enough ‘reach’ back then for any of us to even know that others were doing it (this was pre-Google too). We were however, writing fan opinions about the Washington Redskins, when very few-to-none were doing the same. We created our own space on the web, because we believed that what we were saying was worth reading.

Now everyone is exercising that same freedom – I think that it’s great.

Over the years, many things about the site and the internet have changed, but one thing has remained constant for me, I still believe in exclusive content. I still believe that what a knowledgeable fan has to say about their favorite NFL team is as, or even more poignant, than what the media themselves have to say. I think the direction that sports journalism has taken in general, proves that I’m not alone in my thinking.

So the next time that you’re reading a blog – maybe even this blog – imagine what your sports world would be like without the integration that you now enjoy. Imagine a world without blogs – without Twitter – without Facebook – without Google – without message boards – without web videos – without podcasts – without RSS feeds – without massive corporate websites like NFL.com, ESPN.com, FoxSports, CNNSI etc. If you can truly imagine a sports world that had none of that, then you’ll know where I was when I started this monster many moons ago.

My life has recently seen some massive changes that kept me away from THN for more than a year – the most amazing of which is a 5-month old baby boy and his Mommy. But we’re still here, thanks to the efforts and contributions of Redskin fans that are just like you. They all volunteer time to make sure that you can continue to enjoy the website. This website has a life of it’s own, and has allowed me to experience the Redskins in a way I never dreamed possible.

It doesn’t matter how much my life has changed or will change, I still bleed burgundy and gold every day, and I take great pride in having played a part in helping Redskin Nation do the same.

You might not find me on the boards much these days, but I’m still trying to give Redskin fans something to read in the blogs and articles sections, and you can find me @TheHogsdotNet on Twitter.

Hail!

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4 Responses to “THN History Lesson – Pioneers?”

  1. Not trying to burst any bubbles, or detract from what you’ve all done here, but Blogger has been around since 1999, so there most definitely was a name for what you were doing in 2002, even if you didn’t know it. That said, building and maintaining a site of this size and scope is a huge task, and we thank you for blazing a trail in sports blogging, for providing this long-standing resource for Redskins news and for putting in all the hours of work it takes to keep a site like this a living, breathing organism. Being a Redskins fan right now is hard enough, but I can’t imagine trying to be an informed fan without TheHogs.net. The horror of having to depend on the Washington Post and Yahoo! Sports for Redskins news is unimaginable!

  2. Thanks for the comments Tony… couple of things…
    1) Had no idea Blogger had been around since 1999… having said that, how many people knew about Blogger in 2002?
    2) Definitely was never trying to say we started the blogging revolution – not by any means. But what Redskin bloggers were you following in 2002? My point was merely that at the time that we started doing it – people thought we were crazy – people thought that fans wouldn’t care what other fans thought – people just weren’t immersed in the sub-culture of sports like they are today. And even if there were others doing it – none of us knew about each other. We all had to find our own way with a ‘build it and hope they will come’ mentality – we didn’t have the option of distributing and syndicating our content to basically whoever we want.
    3) Appreciate the kind words.

  3. You know, I had second thoughts about starting with the quip about Blogger. Mostly I just meant to say thanks for the site!

  4. Oh don’t have second thoughts – no offense was taken AT ALL – and I appreciate the knowledge.