This page is dedicated to Die Hard, Blade, and the selfless pursuit of excellence
This site is the brainchild of its original member, Tony DiMarco, aka Die Hard.
The first Die Hard website was named "Hail to the Redskins", and was released in early 1999. The site was hosted on Geocities.com and consisted of a variety of informative Redskins facts, statistics, and links. It was not a message board, but, nevertheless, it was a stepping-stone to the creation of what would eventually become recognized as the best fan forum in the National Football League.
In the late 90s, Die Hard had spent much of his time posting on a message board called The Sporting News Washington Redskins. "Message boards" were relatively new in the 90s, becoming popular in conjunction with the growing popularity of Microsoft Windows and the World Wide Web. It did not take long before a handful of regular TSN Redskins members became the nucleus of what would become a widely popular and growing online Redskins fan community.
Die Hard enjoyed posting on TSN and spent so much of his free time there that Hail to the Redskins became neglected and seldomly updated. However, as the months passed, Die Hard slowly became fed up with the inadequate moderation on TSN - where discussions frequently degenerated into flame wars. Engaging debate was impossible without countless posts from fans of other teams who had no intention other than to provoke a fight. It was during this period Die Hard grew to become allied with Art, a prominent poster on the TSN Redskins board.
After months of frustration on TSN, Die Hard became inspired to solve the problems on TSN by creating his own message board, tapping into the limited experience he had running Hail To The Redskins. The impetus for ExtremeSkins.com was spawned directly from Die Hard's negative message board experience on TSN.
Without much research, Die Hard purchased a license for some message board software called Powerforums Plus+ from a now-defunct IT company, paradise-web.com. It was advantageous because the software was installed on their server and completely maintained by them. Also, the new software shared the same layout and design as the TSN message boards. "If it ain't broke... don't fix it," was his thinking at the time, since his main problems with TSN were the "trolls" and the lack of adequate moderation rather than the software.
Rather than keep the name Hail To The Redskins, Die Hard's message board was released for the 1999 season under the title "Capitol Offense", as he wanted to add some originality to the name. It was the first Washington Redskins website to use a black background. The name Capitol Offense was aptly chosen in recognition of the offensive outbreak led by the newly acquired QB Brad Johnson.
Die Hard then recruited Art, a talented writer and hard-nosed debater, to help moderate and promote the new forum. The two became a team, with Art moderating in the foreground and Die Hard maintaining and improving the site in the background. The site required registration of all members who wished to post in the Redskins football forum, the goal of which was to keep the riff-raff out. Ironically, the registration requirement acted as a filter, keeping the site from growing as fast as it might have grown without registration. Die Hard did not require registration for those who wanted to post in the off-topic forum, however, hoping the off-topic forum would serve as a "tease" to attract registered members. Despite the strong efforts of Die Hard and Art, and despite the fact that the site was the best managed Redskins message board on the internet, Capitol Offense was a hard sell.
Determined to generate increased traffic but unwilling to compromise, Die Hard launched a new "The Underdog" contest available to all registered members. Each week starting about mid-way through the 1999 season, Die Hard provided the point spread of every game. Contestants were to pick only one game in which the underdog team won the game outright. Contestants accumulated points by the size of the spread and the person with the most points at the end of the contest won. Die Hard offered a new custom-made Redskins replica jersey to the winner. The contest was a moderate success. The traffic increased significantly if mainly just to participate in the contest, while discussions maintained a level of civility higher than one could find at other sports message boards.
At the conclusion of the 1999 season, however, almost everyone returned to the old "stomping grounds" at TSN. Disappointed, Die Hard became obsessed with coming up with fresh ideas which would attract and retain new members.
Through the following winter, Die Hard concentrated his efforts in researching the most popular NFL web sites in hopes of finding something rare and unique that he could bring to his own site. A major inspiration came from a popular New Orleans Saints fan website called Ironera.com (Ironera.com has since changed its name to Saintsreport.com). The site still remains to this day the most popular and frequented New Orleans Saints fan website on the internet.
Ironera.com utilized Infopop.com's "Ultimate Bulletin Board" (i.e. UBB) software. Impressed by the loads of new features and flexibility found on the Saints site, Die Hard concluded that UBB was the industry's best message board software, and he purchased a full license from Infopop.
Subsequently, about late March of 2000 he hired his first programmer to setup, install and customize the new software. The UBB software was installed on another webhost while Capitol Offense continued to be hosted on paradise-web.com. Die Hard purchased the most basic webhosting package available at a cost of $7.95/month. While Art moderated Capitol Offense, Die Hard and the programmer worked on this new, and as of yet, unnamed and unpopulated message board.
The programmer, while capable, was just a high school student. An advantage was that he worked relatively cheap, but his youth presented unique problems. "You know how difficult it is working on a serious and complicated project with a temperamental teenage boy with more know-how than he should have?", said Die Hard much later.
Die Hard knew the new board would be flashy, thanks to the UBB software, so he realized it had a lot of potential. But he also knew that wouldn't be good enough. One of his goals was to find a way to stimulate conversation and he believed he had to have a "draw" to get people to come to the website and post. He needed something special. So, among other things, the customizations of this new board included the use of "avatars", which were small graphic images associated with members' accounts and posts. At the time, the avatar system was completely unique and unheard of on a sports message board. Die Hard set it up so the best, most coveted avatars were only available to members with the highest post counts. Die Hard's board would become the first sports message board to include avatars with rankings/levels associated with post count.
ExtremeSkins Is Born
Although the Capitol Offense site had a catchy name, Die Hard made it a high priority to think of a new name for the new site, as he felt "Capitol Offense" was too similar to another well-established and popular Redskins fan site "Capitol Punishment". The domain name "ExtremeSkins" came to him spontaneously, and he was so struck by the name that less than a day later - on May 13, 2000 - Die Hard purchased the rights to it for 2 years. Hence, ExtremeSkins was born.
As May turned to June, he knew he still needed to find the correct font for his board's title page and other places. A quest to find the classic Redskins font (i.e. the pythagorus font) led him to the webmaster of "WorldWideSkins.com". It was there where he met Eric Leichter, aka Blade, who coincidentally also sought that particular font. In the coming days, they realized they had a lot in common in that they were both huge Redskins fans and both technically adept. Die Hard invited Blade to see his new half-finished board.
As the pythagorus font was installed, Blade became intrigued with Die Hard's site. He soon offered to join in to help do the graphic arts for this new board. Die Hard happily accepted Blade's offer and Blade immediately immersed himself into building the site. Blade became a huge part of the build - more specifically with the graphics. Although Die Hard carried all the expense, Blade invested so many hours into the site and his custom graphics were so spectacular that Die Hard soon considered Blade an equal partner.
One of the more obvious contributions Blade made was the design and creation of the original "EXTREMESKINS.COM" logo. The "EXTREME" part of "extremeskins" was italicized to add emphasis to "extreme." The idea for the horizontal stripe through the "EXTREME" characters came from an old SportsCenter font. The "SKINS" part of the logo was in the pythagorus font. The feather and, of course, the burgundy and gold were borrowed from the team. The X was made extra large not only because X's were cool, but also to balance out the image and fill the blank space that would otherwise exist in the lower left area of the logo.
Copyright © 2000 B & G Productions. All Rights Reserved.
Click image to see a typical thread as it looked in April, 2001
Blade later modified the logo to include flames. Die Hard later created an abbreviated logo by using just the "X" and the feather. It is still being used today.
Another addition to this new site was the Forum Rules. These were borrowed from Ironera.com, then modified by Die Hard, with a few relevant rules added. They have remained basically unchanged over the years, save minor editing and clarifications. The original profanity filter was built into the initial software release. Die Hard eventually found a list of additional profane words commonly filtered in forums and pasted them into the back end of the software, and made a few additions.
Even as Art moderated Capitol Offense through the spring and summer of 2000, Die Hard, Blade, and the hired programmer continued to build and customize what would become ExtremeSkins.com. Art periodically seeded the new ExtremeSkins site with threads from Capitol Offense, then beta tested the site from a moderator and member's perspective as Die Hard and Blade continued to design and build, doing coding, graphics, data entry, etc. It took roughly three months of unrelenting obsession by Die Hard's team before the finished product was ready to unveil to the public. The official launch of ExtremeSkins was in June, 2000, which is when Blade and Die Hard directed the url "extremeskins.com" to finally point to the site's DNS server, making it "live."
Upon its official release in June of 2000, the members of Capitol Offense were asked to re-register at ExtremeSkins.com and Capitol Offense, was soon closed down. Due to the attractive color schemes, graphics, avatars, and timely moderation, the site drew attention almost immediately. The staff no longer needed to advertise the forum as they had in the past as members quickly spread the word to others. As the posting environment at "The Sporting News" had begun to decline, fans quickly flocked to this new ExtremeSkins site. The site continued to grow in membership and, through timely, attentive moderation, sold itself - a precept the current staff continues to live by to this day. As the site grew, new members were inspired to follow the positive example set by established members. Being a productive contributing member became "cool."
However, as the site's popularity grew over the next six months, so did the time required to keep it running smoothly. To complicate matters, Die Hard learned the current webhost was going out of business. For Die Hard, the board had become all-consuming, taking most of every free minute he had. He was already working on the site 40-60 hours a week, in addition to a full-time job and wife. And still the site's demand for attention was insatiable. He found himself running out of adequate free time to commit to ExtremeSkins, and out of funds to further invest in it as well. Although he had initially hired a programmer to install UBB on the initial webhost and customize it - he personally didn't have the technical knowledge to reinstall the current board on a new server. He also didn't have the expertise or patience to hire someone else to do it - and furthermore he wasn't particularly interested in paying for the move himself, as the expenses would be significantly more than he had been paying. So he was prepared to let it die.
Blade Takes Over
It was at this time, about February of 2001, that Blade offered to take over ExtremeSkins in its entirety.
Blade stepped up, did some research, and decided to try to install the board on a new server himself. He chose ADDR.com for his new webhost, and went to work installing the board. "He's a smart dude and figured it out," said Die Hard years later. Blade also assumed the monthly expenses.
At this point, Blade took up an interest in the custom CGI coding of the UBB software. Although the Pythagorus font was already being used in graphics, Blade was able to figure out how to install the Pythagorus True Type font within the software of UBB as well - so that the text of certain titles and announcements could be simply typed out and would show in the classic Redskins font - provided members also downloaded and installed the font on their own machine (otherwise their screens would show a default font). Blade provided the font as a download for his members' convenience to be placed in the Windows Font folder. Once placed in the Windows Font folder, members would see the board as Blade intended. It was just one more small detail of dozens that made the ExtremeSkins site so unique.
The birthday cupcake function was another small amenity. If it happened to be a member's birthday, a cupcake with a single candle would appear to the left of a member's post.
The UBB software had continued to function well as long as the community was small. However, the popularity of the ExtremeSkins online community continued to grow. Various software and ISP issues arose, which caused many problems for the new owner of ExtremeSkins. Blade found himself running out of time and patience, just as Die Hard had earlier.
"Thankfully, Die Hard, try as he might, could never fully extricate himself from Extremeskins," Blade later commented. So Die Hard was finally dragged back in after taking roughly a five-week hiatus. "Once I saw he took care of the dirty work (moving the site to a new server), I offered to come back," Die Hard explained. Since Blade had effectively saved the site, Die Hard agreed to rejoin the team in a similar capacity as before, and they respectfully continued to consider each other equal partners, although the "balance of power" had shifted in Blade's favor, as Blade continued handling all the expenses. Reunited, they both resumed working relentlessly on the site.
In early August of 2001, Om, who had been a member for about a year (originally Omthebard), took it upon himself, with the staff's encouragement, to start something called "The Man" contest which he ran each week. It was a contest inviting members to guess the outcome and scores of Redskins games. Winners received hats, jackets, T-shirts, and best of all, a "The Man" Avatar similar to the one above. It became so popular so quickly, and was managed so well, that Om was soon invited to join the ExtremeSkins staff. Roughly a month later, Om was made a moderator. He also became a very active writer for the site.
Customer service at ADDR.com was not what Blade had expected. In addition, expenses were becoming more and more significant as the demands of the site required the best and most expensive webhost/server packages offering the highest bandwidth, as well as the most current version of software. Trying to find a host that could handle the growing needs of the site, the board was moved to Featureprice.com on Jan. 11. 2002.
On Jan. 14, 2002, a new license was purchased for an upgraded UBB version 6.1 which was installed shortly therafter. Unfortunately, the upgrade wasn't a smooth transition as a lot of data was lost or modified during the import. This included thousands of posts which negatively affected post counts. In addition, many member numbers and join dates were found to be incorrect after the upgrade. It is suspected that much of this data loss was due to the custom hacks built into the past version of UBB which confused the new version (because of this confusion, the site incorrectly celebrated their two-year anniversary on May 22, 2002 - Die Hard's Join Date still shows the incorrect date to this day).
During the lull of the offseason, the ExtremeSkins Mock Draft competition was initiated by member Braves On Warpath preceding the 2002 NFL Draft. In his subsequent absence during future off-seasons, Die Hard and Om assumed control and direction of the contest. It has since been institutionalized as an integral part of the ExtremeSkins annual off-season curriculum - at least through the coming merger.
With expenses mounting, Blade and Die Hard began asking the membership for contributions. Many members contributed, and a few contributed a significant amount. Members were rewarded with a 5-level contribution rating system next to their avatar ("contributor," and bronze, gold, silver, and "platinum contributor"). Blade also gave away 2 free T-Shirts (one black, one burgundy) with ExtremeSkins logos for any new member who contributed $28.
click image for larger photo
Blade also delved into the retail business. He ordered customized T-shirts, ball caps, sweatshirts and jackets with the ExtremeSkins logo which were offered for sale to the membership. He later added knit caps and fleece jackets. This created revenue which helped pay for the cost of running the site, but the time involved with taking orders, tracking orders, shipping orders, getting T-shirt sizes right, re-ordering in bulk, stocking inventory, keeping records, etc. took significantly more time than he envisioned. Blade found himself spending more time doing the mundane work of keeping up with orders than doing what he really wanted to do: improve the site. Although the demand for ExtremeSkins products was high, the demanding time issues forced Blade to eventually give it up.
The board was eventually moved to Rackshack.net before Blade and Die Hard realized it had grown big enough to warrant its own server. Blade then hosted the site on his own machine at home. The extremeskins.com site was moved to its own dedicated webserver on March 6, 2002.
About April of 2002, Die Hard and Blade realized they had modded their UBB software so much that they found it difficult to install new sophisticated features. The problem was not for lack of trying. A lot of the modifications (or "hacks") were bug-ridden because the code for them had been written by programmers who weren't familiar enough with the UBB software to begin with, which made the programs run inefficiently. Furthermore, Blade and Die Hard learned some of the written functions they wanted to implement could not co-exist with other new functions or the whole board would become completely unstable and unusable. So adding cool new functions, which was their forte, was becoming more and more difficult and quickly approaching impossible.
Regardless of the fact that ExtremeSkins was clearly the best Redskins message board on the internet, Die Hard was not satisfied - and he was not about to accept the idea of his legacy becoming stale. Determined to quench his passion for applying his ideas as new functions, he realized that it was time to strongly consider using a relatively new message board software called vBulletin, which was actually specifically written to overcome many of the limitations of UBB. Although Die Hard had his eye on vB for over a year, he did a little more investigating and was thrilled to learn vBulletin had a lot of functions built-in by default which were already being used as hacks on the ExtremeSkins UBB site. "And there was the potential for a whole new collection of hacks that could be added that were awesome," Die Hard later commented with a smile. It seemed the UBB software had out-lived its usefulness. Blade agreed. Needless to say, the decision to move to vBulletin was easy, even if the task was not.
With the move to vB, which was a expensive and major time-consuming undertaking, Blade and Die Hard decided to take the opportunity to dramatically reorganize the site's front page, narrowing it to provide margins on either side. The margins were used to provide visible and easily accessible links to a variety of informative pages. The links, providing quick and easy access to all sorts of Redskins team facts and stats, were similar to those provided by Die Hard's very first Redskins website. See the change here: Before After
In May of 2002, Blade paid for renewing the rights to the site's domain name, listing himself as the new rightful legal owner.
May was also the month that Buddha joined the ExtremeSkins Staff. He provided well-researched salary cap information, various database info, and other things. Again, much of this info was provided via links in the margins of the front page.
The one-thousandth member registered on May 14, 2002. (click for historic front page example)
In July, 2002, the site introduced the ExtremeSkins interactive Fan Map, which Die Hard had installed with the help of a hired programmer. He had borrowed the idea from Ironera.com. Click the link above and check it out. It still works!
After two years of talking to each other for hours on the phone on an almost daily basis, Die hard and Blade finally met for the first time on Sept. 16, 2002.
click image for larger photo
Mods, Hacks, Bugs, and Nightmares
In some ways, Blade and Die Hard became victims of their own high ambitions and intolerance of anything less than excellence. No matter how good the site was, it was never good enough. They were both constantly working on new functions which they were both convinced the site had to acquire. And this meant an unending line of professional programmers hired to write the sub-routines, or "hacks," which would be inserted into the body of the software's programming code.
"We went through a ****load of programmers," Die Hard said much later.
Die Hard and Blade would submit a carefully described project which appeared like an advertisement in certain websites which were managed to accept such proposals. Programmers would bid on them. Unfortunately, many of the so-called professional programmers couldn't deliver on their promises, or quit halfway through a given project because they unethically accepted and started working on other projects worth more money. This left the ExtremeSkins site abandoned with a modification half-written, the logic of which nobody could easily follow. New programmers were hired to finish half-written sub-routines - but because programmers tend to write software differently, it would take significant time for the new programmer to read and understand how the existing code from the first programmer was written. Sometimes the new programmer had to give up and throw out the half-written sub-routine of the old programmer and just start over.
Blade in particular was discouraged with how incompetent and shady a lot of these programmers were - and he was paranoid about giving all of these relative strangers access to his server and code. He was worried about the possibility that if any of their relationships ended badly, a programmer may well have the ability to hack into their server and do catastrophic damage.
The two-thousandth member registered on November 6, 2002.
Another major ExtremeSkins project was the Game/Player database. Blade and Die Hard aspired to develop a database which held details from all the Redskins games going back as far as possible, so that intimate statistics of any game could be brought up instantly with an easy search. They also wanted their database to hold the name and complete biography of every player who had ever worn a Redskins uniform going back to 1932. They wrote their goals for the database down on a sheet of paper, and immediately moved forward.
They began by acquiring old game programs from everywhere they could think of. Rich Tandler also provided significant help with game descriptions. They then manually entered statistical data from each game and detailed biographies of each and every player. One by one, the game opponents, scores, and game description was entered, one character at a time. In addition, the bio of each player was also painstakingly poked in with a keyboard. The search routine, which would access the database, was written from scratch by Blade. It took months of tedious labor by both of them before the task was written, tested, de-bugged, tested again, and finally implemented into the site.
click image for early example
When finished, the database and search function as a whole was truly one-of-a-kind. There was no other Redskins database anywhere in the world that had this database's thoroughness and versatility. See one example of what the game search would pull up here. Player searches could be done by first name, last name, jersey number, position, college, year played, or any combination thereof. For example, if a member wanted to know who wore #43 between 1932 and 2003, all that would need to be done was to type "43" in one of the appropriate search boxes and press the search key. The database would then produce a list of players names who had worn #43. Or, if a member wanted to know who in team history played S (safety) and also went to the University of Miami, that list could be found just as easily. A simple click on a given name within the list would, of course, bring to the screen all details of that specific player, including full name, seasons played, position, height, weight, birth date, birth place, high school, and college. The amount of data available and the ease of access coupled with the versatility of the search was unprecedented.
But building the greatest Redskins database and search function in the history of the world wasn't good enough. In true ExtremeSkins fashion, these two were not about to sit on their laurels. Within a few months, the Blade and Die Hard team released yet another version of the database, this time to include the front office & coaching staff history and also the draft history of the team going back to its founding day.
The current Roster with links to individual player stats was another cool function. This one was current in 2003. Check it out. It still works.
With the passage of time came a more defined evolution of the Die Hard / Blade partnership. Neither of them were particularly interested in moderating - so in that sense, they were very much less visible than Art. Blade's interests seemed to have an artistic flair to them. He liked doing the graphics, and he was very good at it. And he also dealt with the merchandise end of the site, since the merchandise bore logos he had designed. He also had a knack for the technical end of maintaining and improving the site.
Die Hard, on the other hand, was always looking for ideas. He was the R&D guy. What would make the site better? What cool new feature could be added this month? He had made it a habit to check weekly through the various sports sites and all the current Redskins forums, looking for new ideas and trends. If he became interested in a particular modification, he'd spend hours poring over posts on the vBulletin site, to be sure that the idea would be functional as a hack for his current version of vB, and that it would be a solid hack and not an unstable bug-ridden hack. If a new function needed data entry, Die Hard did it. When the product was finally nearly finished, he'd spend hours beta testing it to be sure it was stable and worthy of adding to the ExtremeSkins board.
Of course, none of this mattered if Blade didn't also agree that Die Hard's idea was a good one, because ultimately Blade would do the graphics for the new function and also Blade was the one who would most likely have the technical know-how to physically add the function. While Blade liked most of Die Hard's proposals, Die Hard would occasionally have an idea that Blade was adamantly opposed to, in which case, Die Hard's plan would never come to fruition. Nevertheless, most ideas were embraced and worked into the board, when possible.
Like most partnerships, the Blade/Die Hard partnership was not always a bed of roses. Blade's family began to grow, and Blade would abruptly vanish for months at a time. Since he was the only one with server access, improvements to the site became stunted, and routine maintenance would fall behind. But he'd eventually return. "We'd get into arguments about proper protocol to avoid it from happening again, but it was a continuous cycle for 3 more years.", Die Hard later commented.
Die Hard, during times without server access, spent a significant amount of his time teaming up with member Tarhog, marketing various items for sale to members to help finance the site. Die Hard still has great respect for his good friend's work ethic, passion, and commitment to the site, adding "Tarhog played a huge part in our development."
In Oct., 2003, Blade was interviewed by a reporter from WUSA 9 about ExtremeSkins:
"That's (Die Hard's) goal - to build the best Redskins website in the world. And I've been feeding off his energy all these years. ExtremeSkins is really made not by me or Tony, but by the people who come here to talk about the Redskins. Those are the people who make this site meaningful." -Blade
The four-thousandth member registered on November 5, 2003.
The site's population tended to grow in spurts. Membership was bolstered when ExtremeSkins began to feature Bang Cartoons - satirical animations about the NFL, in the fall of 2003. The cartoons already had a huge following, so fans league-wide registered with ExtremeSkins in large numbers to continue viewing them. Bang Cartoons became a weekly feature and Bang continues creating new cartoons to this day. Bang also provided a professional-quality, dramatic flash video on the site's opening page featuring the re-introduction of Coach Gibbs, the subject of which also promoted massive registration of new members.
As time went on, Blade began learning more and more about computer programming. He bought books, installed computer language compilers, and wrote simple software programs at first. He then learned structured programming. More sophisticated programs followed. He was a fast learner, and eventually reached the point where he could write and install most of the ExtremeSkins modifications himself, which saved significant money and removed considerable risk.
About January of 2004, Om came to terms with the fact that he was completely enthralled with ExtremeSkins. He was one of only five staff members, and he was already greatly committed to the site, but after two-and-a-half years on staff he wanted more. He sat down one day and wrote an impassioned letter to both Blade and Die Hard, telling them he thought the site was "really special," and he "was prepared to throw in with them with all he had." Blade and Die Hard considered Om's letter carefully, measured his enthusiasm and writing talent, considered the pros and cons for several days, and finally invited him to join them as an equal partner. No money changed hands, there was nothing in writing - just a verbal understanding that Om would be an equal partner from this point forward.
"I forgot the old adage about being 'careful what you wish for,'" Om later commented with a wry smile.
The eight-thousandth member registered on February 13, 2004.
Due to massive growth in membership over the previous winter, the staff realized it needed to add staff members, and add them fast. In April of 2004, with much fanfare, four new staff members suddenly joined the site - some to help Art with moderating, others to fill other needs. All of the chosen staff were regular and long-time posters at ExtremeSkins who shared the goal of fostering a pleasant environment for discussion - not only of sports-related topics, but humor and current events as well. Each of the new staff members was carefully hand-picked from the pool of the available active membership because the staff felt they, through their posts, exemplified the characteristics, attitude and values consistent with the standards originally set for the site.
Henry and Tarhog joined the staff as moderators. Bubba9497 was added as manager of the news section. Park City Skins took on the title of "Supreme Extreme Contests Guru." In addition, Om, who had held the position of moderator, moved up to Administrator. He was also designated as the "Public Face of ExtremeSkins." He would write editorials and provide premium content (Q&A's w/ special guests, interviews, original content, etc.). At this point, the moderating staff was comprised of Art, Buddha, Tarhog and Henry, although Blade, Die Hard, and Om all had moderator permissions, which they used as needed. Buddha would leave the staff weeks later due to personal reasons (although Art, noting Die Hard's resignation and return three years earlier, explained to Buddha that nobody ever leaves ExtremeSkins Staff, they simply go on a hiatus, because an ExtremeSkins Staff position is a lifetime position). Henry was then crowned "Head Mod", although Art, much to some of the staff's exasperation, seemed to take on the roll of the "Outlaw Cowboy Mod", who roamed the forums and threads with guns blazing, answering to no one. Art has been heard commenting that when the site was exceptionally busy, "...sometimes I'd ban blocks of 50 members at a time, just to clear things out..." Nobody seems to know for sure if he was joking or dead serious.
The fifteen-thousandth member registered on July 26, 2004.
As the board grew, so did the sense of community. Friendships were spawned, and many members found the opportunity to meet for the first time in 2004. This is largely due to the launch of the "Official ExtremeSkins Tailgate," on September 12, 2004. Founded and managed by Pez & Huly, the first Extremeskins Tailgate hosted 25 to 30 people. Die Hard and Blade donated their cloth "ExtremeSkins" banners with the ES logo to Pez & Huly, which was proudly displayed during each ES Tailgate event. It became a very popular affair and grew very rapidly. It eventually began being hosted in conjunction with Redskin-Roadtrips.com, and has become known as "The ES/RR Tailgate." It has expanded to sometimes include away games as well, and also Draft Day. There have also been off-season picnics and get-togethers, all managed by Pez and Huly. By 2009, the popularity of the game day ES/RR Tailgate would grow so much that it would include over 600 people, and the continued growth of this internet-borne celebration shows no sign of slowing down.
During the 2004 season and unbeknownst to the public, the Washington Redskins began to think about adding a message board to their official team site, Redskins.com. Realizing this would be a complicated task, the team considered acquiring an established forum rather than starting from scratch. After looking at all of the serious Redskins sites on the web, they found that ExtremeSkins was the busiest, best managed, highest quality site available. The team liked the way ExtremeSkins was run, the quality of discussion, and the friendly, hands-on approach of the staff.
Meanwhile, the site's membership continued to grow. In January, 2005, TK was hand-picked from the membership and added to the staff as a moderator.
The thirty-thousandth member registered on March 17, 2005.
The Washington Redskins Come Calling
Although a team representative and an ES staff member had, for months prior, already informally discussed the idea of merging the site with the team, it was in April, 2005, that serious talks began between a representative of the team and the four most senior staff members at ExtremeSkins. The Redskins assured the owners of ExtremeSkins that no significant changes would be made to the site as a result of the union. This meant no changes in site management and no censorship, which were main concerns of the staff. Information provided by members would not be deleted or otherwise hidden from the membership at any time for any reason. Furthermore, the staff would remain in place, and operations would continue as it had in the past. In addition, there would be advantages such as allowing ExtremeSkins staff to cover Training Camp and Practices, allowing staff to attend press conferences, getting press credentials to send a staff member to the press box for coverage during both home and away games, have a staff member photograph from the sidelines of all games, interview players in the locker room after all games, and staff would be included in press releases sent directly from the team for timely communication to the membership. Unfortunately, because of the team's understandable hesitance to accept the custom built-in hacks into its own vBulletin software and server, many of the site's amenities would be lost, such as Bang's front page video introduction & cartoons (Bang would move them to his own server) and, unfortunately and quite tragically, the ExtremeSkins Game/Player database.
Because of the huge respect the three ExtremeSkins owners had with the ExtremeSkins staff, the Redskins' proposal was carefully considered and then voted on by all seven of the ES moderating staff members. The team's proposal was accepted by a vote of 6-1, with Die Hard casting the lone opposing vote.
In August, the merger became official. ExtremeSkins.com became the first pre-existing fan site ever acquired by an NFL team. Below is a photo from the restaurant in Leesburg on the August evening the merger was officially and legally consummated (pictured below, left to right: Henry, TK, Die Hard (f), Om (b), Tarhog, Art, Blade).
Note: The sixty-thousandth member registered on August 27th, 2006. The current number is in the six-figures.
Contributors to this story: Die Hard, Henry, TK, Blade, Pete, Dan T., Om