Part I – In The Beginning
Whether you just stumbled upon this or recall some of the early days… here’s some history of the HomePort websites/forums. This historical narrative is presented as factual to the best of my knowledge – Bill Johnson aka Quartermaster.
We start with the Raiders playing in L.A.
Avid Raiders fans were stuck waiting for radio talk shows, newspaper articles and magazines to provide information about their team. But the internet started to gain some steam in the 1990’s. There were a couple dial up providers where fans could interact. By the early 90’s there were forums on America Online (AOL) for sports fans. AOL provided forums for each NFL team. The AFC West forums were administrated by an AOL member who was a Broncos fan(WyoBronco). On AOL, several of the Raiders fans would verbally spar with their lower life forms counterparts(fans of the other AFC West teams). One by one Raider fans were warned and then banned from their own forum by this incompetent admin. This Broncos fan admin took sides against Raiders fans in their own forum and there was no one at AOL who would listen. One by one Raiders fans were getting banned.
Around this same time, I published a hardcopy “zine” called “The Raider Fanatic”. This hardcopy mini magazine full of Raiders stories, stats, photos etc. At it’s pinnacle it had maybe only 80 paid subscribers. I also put up a website website and was publishing both to the ‘zine and to the website. As I got my 2nd strike at AOL, I decided I better figure out how to put up a forum. The famous quote is “Necessity is the mother of invention”. In this case, a bitch donkey fan was the Mother-F*** of invention.
So in or around 1994 I began trying to figure things out. A friend I knew who was a Houston Oilers fan had written a threaded style forum in a CGI language called PERL and I paid him like $50 for a license to use it. We were off and running by Al’s birthday in 1995.
The Homeport website in 1995 was running at a web site called this: http://www.wco.com/~homeport
The poriginal HomePort included a forum(Bulletin Board) but was also a website that delivered news and information.
This website featured “Otto The Fly” which was a news and rumor site by Eric Nilson
“Morning Star” by OreRaider and later AllyOop, a news link/commentary site that linked to all the Raiders news of the day… later renamed to raidernews.com.
“Vertical Game News” a compilation of news and stats by David Brooks.
Some of the writers for the Raider Fanatic ‘zine and the online HomePort at raiderfans.com were:
- Quartermaster’s Storm Watch
Navigator’s Position – Davis Brooks
From the Masthead – Manny Baldenegro
Willie’s Pieces of Eight – Quicksilver Willie Gabel
Silver & Black Empire – Cass Cunningham
Raider Ship on British Tides – Paul Johns from the UK
The Stern Word – Keith Sarson aka Blackbeard
From the End Zone – Eric Nilson
The Spyglass – Jason C. Boyens
Kinsky’s View – Terrence Kinsky
The Sword of Veracity – George Manley
Calculating the Course – Stats analysis by Bedros Bedrosian
Captain’s Journal – by Capt Mike Frantz
Crossed Sabers – by Rick “Crossbones” Laub
Masters of the Ages – by Andrew Castro aka Mepriapus
Master of the Battlefield – by Michael van Elgort, aka Mars
*** get in the time machine and go back 18 years:
After we managed to link together a nice network of Raiders sites, I started NFLfans.com and did the same for all the other NFL teams. Out of that adventure we built a thing called “The AFC West War Room” which was tied together by a forum that had admins from Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Seahawks fans. I found a NFL merchandise guy who funded the servers and before you knew it, we found advertisers. I had some partners, but most dropped out. It was basically me and a Chiefs fan named Marc Centanni. Well when the money came in for the advertiser, Marc convinced me that his wife would help us in our endeavor as the financial officer.
Long story short, the Chiefs fan ripped me off for $4,000 that I had secured from the advertiser. I had no choice but to part ways with the Chiefs fan.
Marc Centannio later apologized and said he had a bunch of unpaid parking tickets and needed the money. But the choice had been made – he wasn’t paying the money back so we cut him out. The Chiefs fan tried using some of the funds to copy everything I had built and put up his copy cat web resources. He failed.
In 1998 I took on a new partner, a Redskins fan, Stephan Miller.
By 1999 my partners in NFLfans.com were the NFL Merchandiser guy and Stephan Miller, a Redskins fan who lived in SoCal (his website was capitalpunishment.com. His wife was an attorney and his Uncle had many successful business ventures. So we were able to create a California Corporation and began raking in advertising $$. Stephan Miller became a close friend of mine. He told me he wanted to do for the Redskins fans what we were doing for Raiders fans. He and his wife came out to Raidermecca (it was 1999) and after seeing what we had, he immediately put together HOGFEST 1999, an annual event for Redskins fans. HOGFEST lives on to this day.
Anyway, by early 1999 a company called Rivals.com contacted me and Stephan and we flew up to Seattle. They wanted all the NFLfans stuff and whatever else. They wanted all the Raiders resources we had created and I could not compete. So I turned all the Raiders stuff (blogs and forums) over to CMAC, who had moved from Scotland to the USA. Because CMAC stepped up, we were able to keep ownership of the Raiders sites and didn’t have to lose our forum to Rivals control (Rivals was forcing all their sites to use a non-threaded forum and it wasn’t going to end well for HomePort. But to get funds for those who were working with me, I transferred Raiderfans.com, Raidernews.com, Raiderfanmagazine.com to Rivals.com.
By 2000, Rivals was getting ready to go IPO and make us all wealthy. Meanwhile CMAC was spending lots of his own money(apprx. $700/mo) keeping the 120 or so paying members in decent forums. Then something happened. Advertisers started bailing on the internet and the dot com crash happened. Rivals had been sponsoring the Hula Bowl and they spent millions keeping all the sites paid off. I was making the highest salary of my life working at home and my main job was to make regular phone calls and discussing publishing with all the people I had writing NFLfans.com blogs – who were now bloggers for Rivals and receiving money from Rivals.,com.
But the end was near. The dot com crash basically killed Rivals.com and the 300 or so emloyees became a skeleton crew of about 30. Stephan and I were made an offer and we took our severance packages. I went back to my IT job with the State of CA. Stephan Miller went to work for the company the ended up buying what was left of Rivals.com – that company was Scout.com.
The next part hurts to think about. But I rarely spoke with Stephan once we left Rivals.com. I had two young kids by then so I wasn’t able to dedicate a lot of time to NFLfans.com. And Stephan had his own thing anyway. But Stephan’s brother was a wild animal trainer and owned a company “Predators in Action”. In April 2008, I was informed that Stephan Miller was mauled by a 5 year old grizzly bear and died. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephan_Miller