Not sure how to follow up on @BigNatty ‘s uncomfortably detailed (but largely accurate) story of my origins …
This is going to be spotty. And some of it is lifted from a 10 year anniversary post that I kept in the event someone got bored enough to ask.
In some form or another, this site has been around since 1998. Initially, it was literally hosted at members.aol.com, so a lonely and semi-ambitious teen could communicate his feelings about the Detroit Lions.
Some things never change.
The late Stephan Miller reached out to me in 1999 to partner up. He ran NFLFans.com, a message board community, and needed a Lions admin. At the time, there were maybe 8 posters— five of whom were my aliases. I’d continue to scribble barely coherent ramblings for my “blog” and grow the forum.
(Important note: Stephan Miller was my friend, mentor and avid Skins fan. He was sadly killed in a bear training incident several years ago. But for all the credit I get, he’s the only reason any of this happened. I think of him often)
In 1999, NFLFans.com was purchased by startup rivals.com. Miller brought me along for the ride, which included a signing bonus and (gasp!) a professional website and, of course, the latest forum software. But the big thing was joining a network of successful sites, allowing fans to explore and find our community.
This was at the peak of the dot-com explosion; if you had a reasonable .com name and an idea (any idea would do), people gave you money like it was Skittles. So Rivals had a front page spot in the USA Today after securing $75 million in funding, was going to transform sports media as we know it, put ESPN out of business, etc.
Two years later, we went out of business (along with about half of the internet at the time, so it only mostly destroyed me). I put up a temporary web site until something better came along … it did.
In 2001, Jim Heckman, the original founder of rivals.com, called me personally to tell me of this great plan he had to start an(other) sports network. It would be comprised of niche team sites, and essentially be a portal for sports fans of varying interests. It would be …
Rivals.com. Again. Only it was called TheInsiders.com. And later rebranded to Scout.com. And bought by Fox Sports. And sold/bought/sold again under various groups.
I dunno, it wasn’t like I ever got any cut.
(Someone PMed me here once and insinuated that I’ve sold this forum multiple times. I’ve never sold it. I’ve joined and left networks, sure, but sold? Nah. But if someone’s ever in the market…)
It always made sense to have a stable network host the forum. It’d save me any major cost and I’d reap better technology and what usually amounted to $75/mo in ad revenue (not an understatement).
But really, it was stability.
For some reason, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing this place.
Eventually, a couple years ago, there were rumblings that the last network we were a part of was going to shut things down. They did. I’m sure it made sense financially, but painful to watch nonetheless.
So I moved us to a Facebook group for a minute before relaunching the forum upon request.
It’s been a helluva ride, folks. We’ve had some amazing and entertaining moments, we’ve watched and chatted and messaged and complained and cried and laughed during games, we developed close bonds to people that we have never met, we were together during 9/11, we all read LionMom’s post when spike died (a moment that still brings tears to my eyes), and later, learned of her own passing.
You’re my brothers, my sisters, and my weird uncle, even if I’ve never met you. If we didn’t have the Detroit Lions, we wouldn’t have each other. And as long as the Lions are in Detroit, as long as you folks wish to stick around, this web site will be here.
As spike so poetically wrote, “Nothing since 1957 … but we’re working on it.”
Thanks for reading and becoming a part of this crazy community. I hope you stick around.
PS — If I ever seem oddly defensive of the moderators, it’s because most have been around for a long, long time, dating back to that first network. In particular, @Weaselpuppy and @REMRebound. So be kind and tip well. The history of The Den doesn’t mean a goddamn thing without the moderators keeping things in check.