Editor’s note – This article originally appeared on AstrosConnection.com on July 11, 2002.
So I don’t write much around here, but I figured in the wake of the recent turmoil and our decision to hang ’em up after 6 years, I should probably chime in to 1) remind everyone that I exist and 2) just talk a bit about what the experience of running this site with Kev has meant to me. If you’re not interested in the nuts and bolts of the site or my personal ramblings, you can check out now and save yourself some time. But I figure there’s been a lot worse crap written on this site, and if that can fly as content, well then I think y’all can tolerate me for a spell.
I can tell you that it doesn’t seem like 6 years since we kicked this thing off. It was Kev’s idea — we both had an interest in the Web, and of course we were both Astros fans. Kev had the bug before me growing up. He followed the 1980 and 81 teams. I hitched my wagon to the Astros in 1986, which of course was a hell of a time to be an Astros fan. I was 12 years old when Kevin Bass struck out in the bottom of the 16th inning in the greatest game ever played and I was genuinely heartbroken, but ironically enough it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that will last until there is no more pro ball in Houston, or until I kick the bucket.
I have no shame in being a proud fan of a team — I’ve worn the hair off my head with an Astros cap since ’86 and have a stack of jerseys that don’t fit any more. It takes balls to stick with a team through thick and thin, and I always found fans like myself and Kev hard to come by. In the Internet’s early days, the first thing I did in when the middle school library got itself a Prodigy connection was spend my lunch period hunting down message boards that were talking Astros. I found them, and I became a regular contributor, bringing my 13-year old wit full force on the poor bastards who happened to be in there. I thank them for tolerating my ramblings — these days I wonder if I had been run, would I have ended up doing what I do.
So suddenly it’s 1996 and I’ve graduated college with my English degree and I wonder what the hell I’m going to do with my life. I owe thanks to the State of Louisiana for employing me as a COBOL programmer (of all things), as they are desperate to correct the dreaded Y2K problem before all hell breaks loose at the millenium. It’s at this point that Kev and I start talking about an idea for an Astros web site. We both have a need — we need to know how this stuff works for different reasons. If you’ve ever spent more than about 2 minutes looking at COBOL, you’ll understand that I was desperate to do anything else. The State was developing a “Web team” — I wanted in, but I needed to know what I was doing.
So an HTML 3.0 book later, Astros Connection launches amid no fanfare whatsoever. Inspired by the old message boards, we manage to track down a wobbly CGI script that functions as a classic threaded BBS. By some miracle of Jesus, Kev gets it working and he and I spent countless hours exchanging ridiculous messages with each other. We diligently register the site in search engines (we’re so lucky we did this when we did — it’s just not that easy anymore). To my amazement (I am still amazed to this day), OTHER PEOPLE start making posts to the board…and reading the content…and coming back. It was just so funny to me that anyone would know we existed at all, let alone have an interest in what either of us had to say. It didn’t take long to realize that we were onto something.
We quickly got too big for our britches. Site traffic grew exponentially as we quickly established the site as the first of its kind — a fan site that was regularly updated. People knew it and depended on it, and suddenly we had a responsibility. In one of the first interviews we did, one of us commented that we’d be watching or listening to the game anyway, so we’d just as soon give our take about what happened. It was a pleasant alternative to the traditional media that was already becoming inane by then and has become a fucking caricature of itself in recent months. We realized we weren’t alone in our opinions and that made us all the more eager to share them. Kev and I’s roles switched — he to the editorial and me to the technical. This was something that brought me great joy. By this time I had written the StatMonster, which was a major achievement for me technically. The feedback I got from that application encouraged me to do more and push the site into more of a data-driven direction. I had big plans for the way the site should function, but we were quickly burning through site hosts who weren’t able to handle the load presented by the droves of freaks who were finding their way into the already legendary TalkZone.
With the last redesign, the site found its way to EATEL, which is also where I found myself employed after my stint with the State ended. EATEL is a regional phone company based in Gonzales, LA, and they brought me in to do web development. I run their web development production shop now, and I owe them thanks for laying some fresh tracks for the Big Freight Train when it looked like we may have hit the end of the line nearly 2 years ago (Ashley Phillips, Jason Domangue, Eric Doolittle – thanks). My dream for the site was realized at this point, as nearly the entire site was converted to a dynamic data-driven platform that allowed us to update content more efficiently than ever. Even the TZ got a back-end facelift that gave the TZOL unprecedented control over his domain. It may not sound like much, but it was quite an achievement and it is still the project of which I am the most proud. And I’ve built a lot of web sites at this point. The database is truly a work of art — some of the best parts of this site are what you don’t see. It was a labor of love all along — many hours that I can’t explain spent troubleshooting code that I cussed up and down til it worked in the middle of the night. I quit caring about how much traffic we were getting a long time ago — it just evolved into something we felt like we had to do. But now we’ve decided not to, and are very happy with the decision.
So on the eve of bringing this train into the station, how do I feel? Great. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to this site. I owe my career to it — it gave me a guinea pig on which to operate and a feather in my professional cap that no one else could match. It challenged me to be a better programmer and a better problem solver. It let me discover talent I didn’t know I had. It gave me a creative outlet for my weird ideas. It gave me the forum of knowledgable Astros fans I had always been looking for. It brought me many good times and new friends. It brought me and Kev closer together — I’d put us up against anyone when it comes to designing a great web site. He’s a hell of a designer and a better writer than I’ll ever be. He’s also a great bass player, and I figure if I keep after him we’ll likely be playing Buffett songs in BR taverns sooner rather than later.
All good things end. We swam the turbulent seas of the site for 6 years, and have outlived countless sites that I thought were the best thing since sliced bread (and a lot more that sucked). I take pride in the fact that we stuck to our guns to the very end. We always did things on our terms. We ran the TalkZone our way — if you were an ass, you got run; if you were talking anything other than baseball, you got run. We were never afraid to tell the truth, and as much as we love the Astros, we never ever kissed their ass. I want to thank everyone who ever lent us a helping hand, wrote a column or series preview, wrote us fan or hate mail, or made a post in the TZ, GZ, or ill-fated SZ. Although most of you know me as a shadowy figure of few words, know that I know all of you and appreciate what you’ve done to contribute to the success of this site. It is as much yours as it is ours, and I know you respect what we’ve done and intend to do. Thanks for reading and for being around. You’ve contributed to an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, except maybe a championship.