Part II – CMAC’s Recollection of the Early Years

CMAC RECOLLECTIONS

The following are recollections from CMAC (Colin McGregor)  as told to me(Quartermaster Bill Johnson).

CMAC Running the HomePort Forums

OK, the first board we had post-Rivals (which came into being about 3 weeks before Rivals went tits up) was Raiderboard.com. That was 2000. I think you’d told me what was going on at Rivals in about February or March, and that was when it was “suggested” it might be an idea to build something else “just in case” (it was more of a “when” rather than an “if” though).

That was the point I built the first post-Rivals boards… 32 of them, plus divisional boards, all in the space of a month. When the end came for Rivals, it didn’t just happen overnight – the Rams fans were up in arms at Rivals already, so I think we moved them early, and you told Rivals that it was either that or lose what was, at that time, the 2nd largest team community after the Raider board, altogether. It was literally only maybe a couple of days after that though that Rivals servers started intermittently going out, and that’s when we pulled the switch. There was a private email sent out to every email address we had telling them, “if you’ve had enough of Rivals, we’re going back to how it used to be”, and that was it.

It happened really quickly, basically we probably took at least half the team communities en masse. The only significant ones that remained with Rivals were the Redskins (because of Stephan’s influence), I think the Cowboys, but they came over later anyway, I seem to recall, and the Browns, who went their own way (there was a really big Browns site elsewhere, and we couldn’t really compete with it, it was very well done). We called the new venture the Sportsfans247.com network initially, because we couldn’t use NFLfans.com while you were still tied to Rivals (which continued a good bit after Rivals even went down for good, was all to do with legalities). That name morphed into Footballaddicts.net (and Baseballaddicts.net, although neither of us really cared too much about Men in Pajamas).

The first message boards ran on DC Forums, and it was a pain in the ass because every other team wanted their board customized to their exact preferences. The Rams in particular were a pain in the ass, even moreso when the servers crashed on opening day and they had me on the phone at 7am Pacific Time (you were “sick”, and I still don’t believe you). Bandwidth was a major friggin’ issue back then. At one point, we were paying $400 or more each per month for no return because we had decided post dot-com crash, there was no point in evening running ads, the rates were too low. We moved servers about 4-5 times, running a combination of virtuals and dedicateds (at one point, we had SIX at $40/each for 35Gb each plus a dedicated with 200Gb allowance on it for another $200, but even then we had other servers in the background because we were always trying to find a better/cheaper solution. A lot of promises from people, nothing ever worked out. I think we did a reasonably good job of keeping things up, considering the resources we had to play with, there was a lot of shifting around all the time to try to manage traffic, but it was never going to be perfect. Draft Days were always a heart-in-mouth moment though, that was always the busiest day of the year.

On the Raiders Side of things, initially it was Raiderboard.com, then we moved it to Raidertalk.com in 2001 (was just a better name, plus it coincided with DCF message forum starting to run on SQL rather than via CGI, so I built the new one on the new domain to allow the old one to continue uninterrupted). Raidertalk grew like a weed, I think we peaked at about 1,500 users, which maybe doesn’t sound like much today, but (a) that was 2001, and (b) what I think was always impressive was the involvement – out of that 1,500, probably a good 600 or so were active, a participation rate forums would kill for today. You could post something in the morning, and it’d be on Page 5 by night time. Better way to measure it was number of posts… I remember counting one year for the draft, and we’d had way over 300 topics and 2,500 posts on that day alone (and yeah, we killed the server that day for a while).

WFIB happened maybe 2004, I don’t recall exactly. That was the first time we charged a membership fee. At that time, Raidertalk was getting pretty antsy, there were a lot of egos clashing on a daily basis. The idea on WFIB was that a membership fee would (a) go towards offsetting some of the Mecca costs and (b) might make some a bit more careful what they said. I do remember some resented it, that we were “all about the money”, but fuck ‘em, they didn’t know what we’d laid out in previous years ‘cause generally we kept that to ourselves. A few knew, but not many.

Whether it worked or not? Partially. Probably because I felt guilty taking someone’s money and then saying “fuck you, you’re banned”, so I let a lot of things slide I maybe shouldn’t have. The problem, to be honest? I’d written a very specific set of rules, but then it was a case of having to apply them to everyone, no matter whether I liked them or not, and a few times, I let things go because I liked the individual concerned. Also, a lot of people can be utter assholes on the board, but when you try to mediate in the background by email or whatever, they come across as really reasonable people, and *then* you’ve also got the ones who’re professional wind-up artists, they just hook people for fun, but then other people don’t understand the humour, etc, etc. Shit, *I* knew they were joking, but hell, we had a lot of sensitive souls…

The result of all that was that if anything, WFIB sometimes got worse than Raidertalk had ever been, because with a smaller group, it got more personal. I suppose there’s a sociological lesson in there we learned, familiarity bred contempt. Also, with WFIB, with the membership thing, we couldn’t really go down the route of letting opposing fans on (who’d pay?), which some people said they really missed (actually, I did!), but actually, if you looked at the other boards that were still open at that point, the whole drive-by thing (which was VERY big back in 2000 or so) had really dried up anyway. There was very little good smack being talked anymore, and that was actually a problem in itself. Instead, it’d become all about egos with some posters who couldn’t stand being disagreed with, everything was taken personally (remember the rule, “nothing personal?” – Christ, it had ALL gotten personal!).

Probably in retrospect (and I’ve not thought about this for a LOT of years)… yeah, I maybe should have been a lot harsher, and because I wasn’t, it stopped being fun. That’s when I said, screw it, enough, I’ve got other things I could be doing, and that’s when I met you at Starbucks, gave you what little funds we had in the FIB account (about $95, I remember that, that was all we had left, so much for being “in it for the money”…), the T-Shirts etc, and signed the remaining domains I had in my name over to you.

On the whole though, yeah, it was a good experience. The good outweighed the bad, at least. I probably got too much into it if anything, when I should have been doing other things. It all got a bit obsessive maybe (and I don’t think just for me). Could we have done some things differently? Yeah. And better. But fuck it, nobody had a “how to” manual for all of that.”

 

 

CMAC’s RaiderMecca Recollections

First one was ’98, at the Hilton. Nothing was organised, it was just a big drinking session. It may have been the best attended of all though, because it was new and everyone who was anyone was there. Some would have said there were 500-600 there, and I remember Saturday night, that would have been more than possible because the bit between the Hilton and the bar/restaurant area was just teeming with people and it was 7 or 8 deep at the bar. That was the year I ended up crashed on a bench after going on the room-to-room tour with a bunch of people I didn’t know, falling asleep on someone’s bed, waking up to find the room deserted apart from a snoring biker on the next bed, and leaving (quietly, once I’d satisfied myself that my cornhole was intact). I went outside, found one of the benches, laid back, went z-z, and only woke up when I fell off the bench (and in doing so, avoided a security guard who didn’t see me lying on the ground behind the bench – I only found out about that bit after the fact).

I will always maintain Mecca I was the best. I suppose for everyone, their first Mecca is always the best, but that first one was special, because no-one knew each other, even the locals generally didn’t necessarily know each other in person, just as screen names on the board.

I only JUST made ’99 – in fact, I hadn’t even moved from Scotland… I did Mecca, then flew back the next day to pack up my belongings and come back to CA the week after to start up. I think I’d only been offered the job the week before. What I remember about that one was that it was quieter than expected, and we found out after the fact (or during it) that it was because there’d been very little local publicity (Tim Del Rosario’s area, you know the rest).

That was probably the spur to do a lot more in 2000 – that was the first “Mecca as we know it today”. I definitely remember we had the first brainstorming session drinking beer outside your house early in 2000 (I’d moved out to CA about 6 months earlier). That was certainly the first time we’d mentioned Survival Kits (your idea) and the Tour (my idea, but the idea of the facility as a centrepiece was little more than a “how cool would it be if…?” throwaway statement). Because we had so much to plan, that was the first year we didn’t make the “Mecca Game” an open vote. Had to be home opener, and we waited ages to get confirmation of the date. The Raiders initially wanted to fob us off on Morris Bradshaw, but we were lucky and you got through to Marc Badain.

The first kit was the T-Shirt, a couple of novelty items (plastic bottle openers and something else, not sure what), the first Hall of Fame Pins (Eric Turner, Jim Otto, Jack Tatum), and the lanyards and ID cards. We really got in over our heads with that one and left it to the last minute, thinking we could easily pre-pack 220+ kits in one evening, despite (a) everyone having different “levels” of kits (some got the ET pin, some got everything, some had the tour, some didn’t, different T-Shirt sizes, etc). Yeah, and we ended up doing it the night before, at your dining room table, with two laminators running red-hot, trying to get everything stuffed into those damn grey bags and names written on with sharpies.

I remember the first RaiderMecca  tour was Englander/Long Branch, then down to Jim’s Cards & Comics in the South Bay, then back to the Facility, where we emptied the little shop they had there (in doing so, inventing e-Commerce for the Raiders, ‘cause it was at the Training Camp Open Day next year when you spoke to Badain that he was freaking out over how we’d picked the place clean, so technically, we invented Raider Image and are owed millions in royalties…). We had other ideas over the years: flag football in the park (very naive, no insurance, and everyone was too damn tired at that point), the Wizard Brewing “My beer’s all gone off, the power went out last night!” disaster, leaving everyone standing in some industrial park in the middle of nowhere for an hour or two), trying to get John  Vella to give us an audience (bet he wishes he’d listened now), etc, etc. but over time, we pared it back to the core events – Facility, Raider Image, because that seemed to be all anyone actually wanted anyway.

Note on 2000 Tour: “This is where Jano does GHB”. You know what I’m talking about. And our subsequent thoughts of “well, it was good that one year we could do it…”

2000 was also the first year we moved to the Comfort Inn (as was). The Hilton hadn’t been that keen, and were asking for thousands in deposit money we didn’t have for function rooms we didn’t want and rooms for people to stay in. We tried a couple of other venues over the years (Holiday Inn one year for sure – not exactly sure the year, but THAT was the first year we entered the HOGFARMER Beer Cooler Redecoration Business, that I remember for sure), but the Comfort Inn generally seemed to be the most accommodating.

2001 got fucked up because of 9/11. Cancelled the event, inevitably, and postponed it to the Jets game in about Week 5. Obviously that screwed everyone up who was coming from out of town, but we had a pretty good local turnout that year – we’d fenced off Ricky’s Parking Lot and were running a shuttle bus back and forward from the hotel all night. We did Ricky’s on the tour for a few years, but think we stopped maybe 2004 or 2005 – whatever year we had Randy Moss, because I remember he showed up and signed expensive autographs.

To be honest, after 2001 or 2002 it all blurs a bit, it became more of a “same as last year” exercise. Think we’d got the formula at that point, and let’s be honest, we wanted to do a bit less ourselves because it was becoming too much work and it wasn’t until late Saturday or so we actually got to do anything ourselves instead of just handing shit out.

It was after 2005 Mecca I left CA, so since then, it’s kinda been an every 2 or 3 years thing, just don’t always have time. I do know though that since I left, every Mecca I’ve been to (5, I’m pretty sure), we’ve won. Yes, it’s 8 years since I saw the Raiders lose in person. Yes, it’s true, it’s true… when it’s a CMecca, we’re riding a 100% winning streak. You love my magic pixie dust… <sprinkle, sprinkle>…”

More CMAC comments he emailed to me:  

“My other Mecca Miscellanea remember:

Tirade’s “I can kick like Jano” attempt with a beer can in the Hilton Parking Lot (2000 or 2001 I think) – he missed the can, went completely airborne to the extent he was horizontal in mid-air, then crashed down on the concrete. I heard his baldy head smack off the tarmac… horrible sound, I just thought, “oh fuck, he’s probably dead, but we’ll need to take him to the ER anyway”. He’d deny it, but there’s no question he was out cold for a few secs, then he started laughing. He got up just in time, as someone had taken a piss between the cars parked, and the long stream of urine was winding its way towards him. Would he have noticed? We’ll never know.

UBM being carted on a luggage trolley. Or was that Ben? Aren’t they interchangeable?

“Bill… Bill… tell me that story again about…” (while I sit here with my eyes closed and my hands in my pockets).

“Bill… Bill…  where are they now…  Mars… Mepriapus… Idaho Mike… Manny… BlindPooh… Otto The Fly…” – Willie does it better than me.

Mecca I – the legendary Carolina Raider. My first encounter with a real, live Raiders Fan, staggering out of the Hilton Sports Bar. I’d no idea what to expect, he had no idea who I was, but we got fucked up drunk together the whole weekend. He confessed he was there getting out of his head ‘cause he had to go back to a probable divorce. Convinced every woman loved him, and was serious about making a mother & daughter bid on some combo from Florida. God bless ya Tony, wherever you are. That’s the one guy I would love to see out there one more time.

The Delaware woman. “Blue Hens! Vaaaaycccaayyshuun. How do I say it?”  Err, not like a retard?

“Look, I’m trying to help you guys… I’ve got business experience…”. You know what I’m talking about. Apparently, business experience involves not setting up meetings we drove all the way from Sac for, smoking skunk in the car, and talking about upskirt opportunities.

Best Guest: Ray Guy, ‘cause we were down with him, and he even forgave Q for stealing his towel. Worst Guest: Plunkett (“next question… c’mon, let’s move it along…”). Actually, speaking of Legends, one of my favourite memories was 3 or 4 years ago (before Rams game, 2011?) and the Legends Pre-Party we had in the parking lot of the Coliseum, just having a beer with Jeff Barnes, Otis Sistrunk, Ray Guy, Flores, etc. That was unspeakably cool, just seeing them without their “public faces” on.

Mecca has also been the scene of the continuing degeneration in condition of our nautical accomplice. It was, lest we forget, at Mecca when Willie (quicksilver) was christened “Admiral”. It wasn’t in good circumstances either, and this was another one that definitely happened “the Holiday Inn year”. I asked him, late at night, when he was crashed on the floor (we were too tight to have a separate room back then) what his rank had been in the bathtub navy – up to that point, we had referred him as “commander” (and his wedding tackle as “the little commander”). When he informed us he had been, in fact, a warrant officer or something, I told him to fuck off, I was expecting a rear admiral at least, and threatened to kick him out of the room. I certainly told him there was no fucking way he was getting a bed. Fucking peasant.

It was also around that time he christened the hotel maid Maria, which only propelled him into his inevitable annual random launches into show tunes, a facility we have suffered ever since. Willie only joined the coastguard because he saw Pirates of Penzance.

Of course, no mention of Der Reichsadmiral would be complete without bringing up what I still rate as my all-time favourite Mecca Memory – and possibly the finest Mecca Moment ever. Actually, screw “possibly”: it IS the finest moment ever. The finest, because it was so simple. I need only to say the words… “Oh… yeah, Hi… Willie…”. Have we ever seen a man deflate so completely in one instant? After spending much of the day going, “Is she definitely going to be here? When? When’s she getting in?”, then having to witness you and I hugged like the manly heroes we are while he was relegated to… well, “yeah, hi… Willie”. BWWWAAAHAHHAA!!! Was it the following year he lost his moustache? Think it might have been. Not surprising, it drooped so badly that day I think it finally lost the will to live, so he shaved it off. Right down to the bare metal, so at least they had something in common.

Speaking of that of course, it was his obsession with her that led to the invention of the term “Baby’s Arm”, prompted, as I recall, by me taunting him about exactly how SHORT and TIGHT the denim short-shorts she’d been wearing in Cleveland were (shall I tell you again, Willie?). I remember coining that one in the car riding to Ricky’s the year after. I thought you were going to have a coronary laughing, and you were driving, which was a concern. We had someone in the car along with us too, who I think was rather more reserved, and didn’t like our ribald humour judging by his silence. Should’ve got your own fucking ride then, pal. It’s how we roll.

We should also mention the utter fucking DUMP that is Oakland itself, and our inability to sneak off and get something to eat without being interrupted by the inevitable “What do we do now?” stuff.    But FFS… the Hungry Hunter? Only if there’s not a shooting tonight. How sad is it that the premier restaurant in that entire area is Denny’s? The Days’ Inn Diner actually isn’t bad, not sure if it’s still open. But Lord, how bad can it be? What’re we meant to do, go to the Fruitville Popeyes? 

And the residents! All our trips to WallyWorld… Willie and I being told “if I had a gun, I’d shoot you!” from that fucker outside Starbucks begging for cash to get to Emeryville (it’s ALWAYS Emeryville) because his momma’s dying of cancer. Or how about 7-11 Crack Ho… “Gimme 5 bucks for gas, I’ll give you ma ring, s’ PLAT’NUM!” And of course, the screams of who-knows-what emanating from Motel 6 next door, the only hotel I’ve ever been in where the reception’s behind a chicken-wire fence. Classy joint”

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