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  1. #1

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    B The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide Web')

    Hi.

    My name is John.

    And along with some other wonderful guys and gals, I run an internet forum.

    Running gag between me and Brother Om. One day, we were discussing the crazy obsessions and behaviors of those peculiar cats known as 'internet geeks'. 'Mark...' I said, pausing for maximum dramatic effect. 'We ARE internet geeks.'

    And so we are.

    Something is happening on the web today though that saddens me. It's been going on for quite some time now. One of the most amazing vehicles ever invented to spawn discussion, conversation, argument, and passionate dialogue - the internet forum - is dying a slow but inevitable death.

    Go to any messageboard, discussion forum, or internet board and the death spiral is obvious for anyone to see. Small boards, medium boards, even large forums. It doesn't matter. They're being abandoned at a dizzying rate. What's behind the exodus away from what used to be the backbone of internet conversation? It's a simple question with a complex anwer.

    A decade or more ago, I was forced to read a textbook for some obscure Sociology course I was required to take. It was titled 'The McDonaldization of Society'. The core premise of the text was that our society (and it's uniqueness) is being slowly destroyed by the ideas that drive the popularity of McDonalds. What are those ideas you ask?

    1. Bigger is better.
    2. People don't care about quality - they just want a predictable experience. What they got yesterday, they will get today and tomorrow.
    3. Generic is good.
    4. Getting everything you want in one place is better, even if the product itself is inferior.

    The idea goes far beyond the actual provision of fast food at America's largest chain - it's being applied to everything we experience in America. The author suggests (and I wholeheartedly agree) that it's an entirely negative trend that is robbing all of us of richly unique and satisfying experiences.

    So what's all that got to do with the world wide web and internet discussion forums?

    The same influences that have lead to a number of enormous fast food restaurant chains dominating America's palate and purchasing habits are now fast at work destroying the uniqueness and creativity of what was once the new Wild West - the internet.

    BGO was born because a handful of folks decided that there was a niche need for an internet forum where folks who actually wanted to communicate passionately but civilly about the Washington Redskins would have a place to call home. We wanted to create a place where we could have passionate discussions, even disagreements, but do so respectfully among people we considered friends. And I think we've been pretty successful doing so.

    But this board, like just about every specialized internet forum in existence, seems to be dying a slow death. Go to an internet forum of your choosing, any of them, and you'll see participation and traffic exponentially down, even from a few years ago. It doesn't matter what the quality of the site is, what the composition of it's membership was, or how much energy and effort is going into producing new content or updates. It doesn't matter how much you market a discussion forum. They're dying. Many internet forum and discussion board owners have simply given up and shut their doors. I understand the impulse. It's a lot of work keeping a website like this one open. It's not without expense. When owners and site creators see their member traffic drop to negligible #'s, it starts to become hard to justify the effort.

    I referenced the 'McDonald's' analogy. It fits here as well. Why travel to a more obscure, specialty forum when any idiot can start or join a Facebook Group Page on any topic of their choosing? Why spend the time creating a meaningful or lengthy thread topic on a forum you have to individually log-in to when you can do a driveby post on Twitter or Instagram. The focus on conversation and sharing of ideas is minimized there - it's all about getting the opportunity to share your driveby post with huge numbers of people in just seconds.

    'Listen to what I have to say' is now 'Look at me!'.

    We never expected to have a huge site or membership. Let's face it - as soon as you set a goal to create 'The Most Intelligent Community of Washington Redskins Fans on the Web', you've pretty much ruled out a significant portion of NFL fans. I'm not really sure that most Redskins fans are all that interested in discussing the team we love in a civil, intelligent manner. But the explosion and growing dominance of mindless, driveby, all-topics-welcome megasites is killing the internet discussion board - this one, and thousands more just like us.

    It makes me sad.

    We haven't thrown in the towel yet. We know that if we did shut down, we'd let down the folks here that do still appreciate what we've tried to create, and what is unique about this discussion format. But every year, it gets a little harder to justify the time and expense. In the next 5 years, in order to continue we'll have to change to a new discussion board format, as vBulletin software becomes increasingly obsolete. To continue will essentially require an entire rebuild of the site using a totally new software. It'll be at that decision point that we'll really have to decide 'is there a demand for what we are offering anymore?'

    I don't know if we'll soldier on, or give in to the reality of 'what people want' which increasingly appears to be the internet version of the McDonald's drive-through.

    On the plus side - I do like a Big Mac once in awhile
    Last edited by Boone; 06-12-18 at 01:22 PM.
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  2. #2

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    For me it’s an activity issue. I used to spend way too much time here and still would if the activity lent itself to it. Now sometimes days go by with nary a post. Hopefully it’s just a slow time of the NFL year but that really isn’t true nowadays. There is no offseason. I guess come September we will see.

    On a side note, considering the recent exposure to Twitter burner accounts utilized by coaches and front office personnel- was Andyman (back in the ES days) a true in-the-building person using that forum in an equivalent way?
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  3. #3

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    It has always slowed down During the ‘offseason’, but never to the degree it has the past 2-3 years. It will pick up no doubt but it is quite discouraging. And yes, a lack of member activity breeds more inactivity. I honestly don’t get it even though I am well-versed on the web trends and know it’s the norm now on discussion forums.


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  4. #4

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Using new software and scaling down is probably a great idea. I don't think the forum concept will go away and it's possible that it makes something of a comeback in the future. Recycling happens and rebranding to a certain degree can be a good thing.

    From day one, I felt like we could do without these sub-forums:
    NFL News
    DC Sports News
    BGO Oracle
    Political Asylum
    Beltway Boys
    NFC East
    National Football League
    BGO Exclusives
    Redskins Video (Great concept, but takes up too much room/bandwidth)
    Member Blogs (Can be within the main forum)
    The Gateway

    Combining these forums might work:
    Redskins News
    Redskins Blogs
    Redskins Podcasts
    Redskins Video (Maybe)

    I've been trying to push the forum every chance I can get on twitter. I see a few have signed up and that is something, but hoping more will come as we get into training camp and the regular season.
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  5. #5

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    I don't post that much, but I check in everyday to see what others are thinking. I think some of the decrease is simply fatigue, the NFL has shed fans, people are finding better things to do with their time, especially as they age or they become parents. I find myself struggling this year to justify the expense of Sunday Ticket, don't get me wrong I've gone through this for the past several years and still give in. I haven't missed a game in so long but I find myself not nearly as interested. I think for me the past couple years I'm calling it the cousins effect, I never felt we were winning anything with him and the drama just concretely pissed me off. What does that have to do with the forum, I think it's why while my posting has never been heavy has definitely died down. I used to enjoy writing the blognostication, hell could've cared less the past 2 years, I really had nothing to say. I think also what happens is as a society we've lost the ability to debate without getting into trolling and childish antics, once that behavior is exposed those people stop coming because no matter how loud they scream, no one cares. In the end, I appreciate and love all you guys do. HAIL!! Oh and the off season sucks, only good thing I can say about it this year is NO MORE COUSINS!!!
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    I'm still around, but have to admit I haven't posted a whole lot lately.

    I think the off season has, as you say, had a slowing effect on traffic. I do come to the forum every day pretty much and read with interest.
    I don't have much access to College footy over in the UK and so this time of year my knowledge dissipates and I tend to read more than I contribute. I love all the stuff on the draft and the college prospects that I read here because I know very little about it.

    Also I'm a big hoops fan and have been in NBA mode the past few months as the playoffs and final take up my time.

    I am excited about sharing the new season with you guys though It can't start soon enough for me!
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  7. #7

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Couple quick things. I'm not looking for increased activity - from those of you still here, or those who aren't still here. The thread probably reads like a plea for help, but it's not One thing I've learned over the years, asking folks to be more active, to visit more often, to advertise and market - those efforts will not be successful. There's something organic about web behavior and for all the reasons I've catalogued above, people just aren't as attracted to discussion forums as they once were. It's not specific to BGO. It's happening with every messageboard I belong to. This site will either pick back up again or it won't. I don't think anything the owners/staff here do or don't do will have anything to do with it.

    To be truly open, not sure why I felt the need to bring it up. I guess to recognize and acknowledge the obvious. I do have doubts as to whether we have the energy to sustain the thing at a quality level without a energetic membership to sustain it FOR and discussing the challenges openly maybe helps nudge me along to some kind of inevitable eventuality.

    I do appreciate those of you who still hang your hats here and care enough to post occasionally. I even appreciate those that don't for their past contributions. This place is really an amazing one when folks participate and discussion is humming.

    We'll see what happens as we go along.

    In case anyone doubts my core premise - that the internet discussion forum is in a death spiral all over the web - here are a couple of recent threads from a web development site I frequent.

    Are Forums Dying?

    The Discussion Forum Universe is Dying - I Know Why
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  8. #8

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Quote Originally Posted by Burgundy Burner View Post
    Using new software and scaling down is probably a great idea. I don't think the forum concept will go away and it's possible that it makes something of a comeback in the future. Recycling happens and rebranding to a certain degree can be a good thing.

    From day one, I felt like we could do without these sub-forums:
    NFL News
    DC Sports News
    BGO Oracle
    Political Asylum
    Beltway Boys
    NFC East
    National Football League
    BGO Exclusives
    Redskins Video (Great concept, but takes up too much room/bandwidth)
    Member Blogs (Can be within the main forum)
    The Gateway

    Combining these forums might work:
    Redskins News
    Redskins Blogs
    Redskins Podcasts
    Redskins Video (Maybe)

    I've been trying to push the forum every chance I can get on twitter. I see a few have signed up and that is something, but hoping more will come as we get into training camp and the regular season.
    There is certainly some value in streamlining the site - and I think that's good feedback, especially were we to do a full-blown relaunch. Overall though, how a site is organized only has so much impact on traffic and membership loyalty. We've had a very consistent site structure from day 1 and only in the past 3 years (never worse than this offseason) have our traffic numbers and member activity levels significantly dropped. In fact, with essentially the same structure, our numbers significantly rose every season until the most recent ones. There's more at work than how the site is built unfortunately.

    The other supposed *truth* about successful high traffic sites vs. those that are less successful or popular is that 'content is king'. In other words, sites that constantly provide fresh content will thrive and those that don't, won't. Perhaps that was true at some point, but I think we've seen our member activity plummet regardless of how often the site content is updated.

    Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other generic mega-sites like them have swept away discussion board memberships and I'm not sure there's anything that can be done about it. We may cook a mean burger, but we'll never ever be McDonalds.
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    And to expound on this idea, Boone, the whole net neutrality issue could dampen even further if internet infrastructures are slowed by the giants, choking off the little guy like we see in "Every Town" America with Lowes and Home Depot, McDonalds and Subway...
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    The more things change...the more they stay the same. It's like deja vu all over again.

  10. #10

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Like SO I blame Cousins. Maybe a leader who actually wants to be here, and will be here, will turn the tide.
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    i dont post as much but its more because I am just tired of being a fan of a mediocre team, its been over 20 years since we were a serious playoff team and its hard to sustain fandom. you guys do good work and i still log in every few days to read a few posts. when we were terrible, people posted to vent, teams that are bad generate posts and teams that are great generate posts, teams that are meh? not so much
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Quote Originally Posted by Rymanofthenorth View Post
    i dont post as much but its more because I am just tired of being a fan of a mediocre team, its been over 20 years since we were a serious playoff team and its hard to sustain fandom. you guys do good work and i still log in every few days to read a few posts. when we were terrible, people posted to vent, teams that are bad generate posts and teams that are great generate posts, teams that are meh? not so much
    That'll change this year

    SUPERBOWL BABY!

    Joking aside I am optimistic about a good year this year. Our team looks the deepest and most talented it's been in a while across the board, and if that translates to the field then we could see a really good season ahead. I also think the team is motivated to compete with the Caps. They've seen a fellow Washington team capture a championship, which means that the Skins aren't the only game in town anymore. That's got to provide some impetus right?

    We've been saying the lasts few years that the ship has been slowly turning around, and finally with the Cousins divorce it feels like we are finally at a fresh start. We FEEL like a professional team again in most regards coming off a sensible Free Agency and a solid draft.

    Now I say that because if that's the case then it could possibly drive traffic to all manner of Redskins related websites up. Team success will begat online success. Fans will jump back on the bandwagon and many will be looking a place to find more information or talk to like minded people about the games every week or the team. It would be interesting to see what effect the Eagles SB win last year had on any Eagles related websites/forums etc. Did they get a surge of membership? Did they get increased traffic though their sites?

    Obviously I haven't been able to go to FedEx, but with our languishing in mediocrity (especially late season) all I hear are reports that our home field advantage is eroded and some games have more opposition fans than home fans. Blame I guess could be put on the expense, but that goes hand in hand with the fact that the on field product has been pretty poor at times. People will pay through the nose if the product is good, but you can't keep high prices if it's bad. (I've been reading the new releases about the Season Ticket list today...)

    If the Skins can put a good competitive exciting product on the field this year, fans will start to come back to the games. If that happens maybe that interest will filter through to the internet and to sites like this one. We can only hope.

    I do think Ryman is right though, the mediocrity hasn't helped at all, and only the hardcore fans have kept the faith.
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  13. #13

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    While I agree that better results from our team will inspire more participation, like Boone, I think much has to do with "the latest thing" in social media. It's the nature of the beast for people to get interested in something, and roll with it until the next best thing comes along. Would be nice to see things turn around once the team is once again making noise in the post season.

    To a lesser extent, I think the Political Asylum used to be the thing that kept things going during the offseason. But once it was killed, that aspect was lost forever.
    Add to that the loss of long time members, due to repeated rules violations, despite more than ample warnings, and incredible leniency from the staff, and here we are.
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  14. #14

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Quote Originally Posted by Rymanofthenorth View Post
    i dont post as much but its more because I am just tired of being a fan of a mediocre team, its been over 20 years since we were a serious playoff team and its hard to sustain fandom. you guys do good work and i still log in every few days to read a few posts. when we were terrible, people posted to vent, teams that are bad generate posts and teams that are great generate posts, teams that are meh? not so much
    Certainly some truth to this and to your comments Knight. When Gibbs came back, it sparked a ton of enthusiasm in every possible way. Ditto when we won the division in RG3's rookie season, and even when we were hosting a home playoff game a few years ago. But lots of mediocrity and hopelessness otherwise. I think there are bigger factors in play, but yes - winning would certainly drive people to come and start posting again. We're glad you're here Ryman and Knight.
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  15. #15

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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Quote Originally Posted by Ax View Post
    While I agree that better results from our team will inspire more participation, like Boone, I think much has to do with "the latest thing" in social media. It's the nature of the beast for people to get interested in something, and roll with it until the next best thing comes along. Would be nice to see things turn around once the team is once again making noise in the post season.

    To a lesser extent, I think the Political Asylum used to be the thing that kept things going during the offseason. But once it was killed, that aspect was lost forever.
    Add to that the loss of long time members, due to repeated rules violations, despite more than ample warnings, and incredible leniency from the staff, and here we are.
    I think that's exactly right. We brought back the PA forum because it did generate site activity and posts - irony is, since bringing it back for good, no one seems interested in using it. Also true that our most prolific posters were actually far more active in the 5 O'Clock and PA Forums, not the football ones. And our most prolific posters unfortunately seemed to be the guys that couldn't color between the lines and consistently violated core tenets of the site, that we be decent human beings to each other online. It was really hard moving on from some of those guys who I still love and miss, but we felt like we had to. It did suck some of the energy and life out of the site though. I also think you hit on something when it comes to politics in general. There are a handful of our absolute best members who no longer post (or rarely do) purely because of the current political system, or because they find the current NFL abhorrent. I wish that weren't the case. Personally I compartmentalize some things in my life. I love NFL football and the Redskins too much to let my feelings about some aspects of both impact my fanhood. I get it though - some choose not to (or can't) separate those things and I don't judge anyone for that.
    Last edited by Boone; 06-14-18 at 11:53 PM.
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Boone

    I used to be a lot more active here, and on ES as well as theHogs.net. These days I only come here, and that infrequently. For what it's worth, I appreciate what you and Om and any others are doing, and am glad you will continue to do so, despite the mounting difficulties. In case I haven't said it yet and may not say it again...thanks. This place means more than you may suspect to those of us who understand it's value. Carry on, my man - and don't change a thing unless you believe you should. I trust your judgment will out for the best.
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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    Quote Originally Posted by DudeRedskin View Post
    Boone

    I used to be a lot more active here, and on ES as well as theHogs.net. These days I only come here, and that infrequently. For what it's worth, I appreciate what you and Om and any others are doing, and am glad you will continue to do so, despite the mounting difficulties. In case I haven't said it yet and may not say it again...thanks. This place means more than you may suspect to those of us who understand it's value. Carry on, my man - and don't change a thing unless you believe you should. I trust your judgment will out for the best.
    I'm pretty sure I'm dead-on correct in terms of the specific factors in play here and elsewhere - but I sincerely appreciate what you and others have said. The only reason we would keep a place like this going is because of the great members we do have. Thanks to you and others for taking the time to give us some positive feedback and encouragement. It means a lot!
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: The Death of the Internet Forum (aka ... the 'McDonaldization of the World Wide W

    As a Brit I have no skin in the game politically with what's going on in the States at the moment. And as a person I'm not heavily political one way or the other. Here in the UK I've lived under Labour Governments, Conservative Governments and Coalition Governments and generally I find the more things change the more they ultimately stay the same. *shrugs*

    As an outside observer watching what's happened since Trump came to power I'll say that I've never seen a more divisive leader on both a domestic and world stage. My facebook feed contains American friends both pro and con Trump and it generally seems that never the twain shall meet. There's no middle ground and the arguments have got really heated in the past. I've noticed over the past year thought that an for most of my American friends an uneasy truce has now come into effect where politics is simply no longer talked about bar the occasional snipe. Many of them have gone from being friendly to being simply civil with each other, but chatter has nosedived. It's the same on other forums I go to also (not that I frequent many).

    Just me musing, but it feels like on the subjects of politics and the things that revolve around it not many people are capable of compartmentalising. It's a subject many are passionate about. So I think some people perhaps just decide it's best not to talk about it at all. But then you have an NFL off season which has storylines which closely link to Trump and the kneeling protests, arguments about whether it's about disrespecting the flag or peaceful protesting on civil liberties, or the fact that the Eagles had their White House visit revoked(/weren't going anyway) arguments. So even NFL matters can't avoid politics.

    Add to that a Redskins team that has been mediocre to the point of eroding the fan base and it all adds up.

    For myself, as I mentioned, I've been embedded in the NBA for a while now. I'm a Cleveland fan (picked them in the 80's simply because they wore the same colours as the Redskins! As a Brit I have no location based preference. When I was a kid I simply picked them based on their uniform colour!). As you can imagine the past few years have been an exciting time with Lebron back in Cleveland. (As an aside I also root for the Washington franchises too. At least as regards the Bullets (I refuse to call them the Wizards) and the Caps). The NBA has really helped itself by steering well clear of the politics that has bogged down the NFL lately and the fact that it drives a 12 month news cycle. Interest is still buzzing at the moment because of the exciting Free Agency period we're now in. By contrast the NFL seems to be a badly led organisation which has lulls of activity.

    Like Boone I compartmentalise my life. I don't care where you live, what you do, who you are, who you voted for, your colour, gender or sexual preference. To me when you post here you're a Redskin fan and that's all I really care about. With the draft now over and us heading into the pre-season soon enough I'm fully engaging with Football again. Even dusted off Madden for a play the other day. LOL

    I love this place. I love having somewhere to come daily for my Redskin needs. Long may it continue.

    And I can't wait for the game chats again!!!!
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