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Snappy barbs to regurgitate while drinking tall boys and sitting on a tailgate in front of Washington-Grizzly Stadium are plentiful at eGriz.com. Here's one that might win you friends next time you mingle at a Griz football game:
Q: "What does the average MSU player get on his SATs?"
The humor is fitting, considering that eGriz.com founder Chris Lynn conceptualized the message board in 2001 while he was in Bozeman, attending Montana State University. Lynn is a diehard Griz fan from Spokane who landed in enemy territory: The Bobcat blue-and-gold that fuels instinctual competitiveness in Griz fans was everywhere. Fortunately, he was able to transfer to UM after his freshman year. The Garden City offered more comfortable surroundings. Not only does the home team wear a pleasing maroon, it also significantly outclasses the MSU Bobcats. Lynn, a computer whiz, went on to earn a bachelor's in business information systems from UM and grow eGriz into a sprawling site that reflects the best—and worst—of Grizzly sports.
eGriz offers multiple forums for fans to exchange thoughts on topics ranging from cheerleader attractiveness to the way Monte the Griz mascot entered the stadium during the last game. Scores and schedules are easy to find. And site contributors, all of them volunteers, often break news. If you want to know who has verbally agreed to join the Griz football team next year, or which UM athlete most recently was charged with DUI, chances are eGriz will be among the first to report it.
"There's fans out there, I don't know how they do it, they know stuff before I think the people that it's happening to know it," Lynn says. "I don't know what they do in their free time."
eGriz had more than 1.5 million page views during a recent 30-day period. Jokes, scores and breaking news draw traffic, but it's the smack talking—eGriz offers the opportunity to talk about pounding the crap out of opposing teams among like-minded folks—that seems to lure many.
This post from eGriz commenter "tojo70," written just before UM clashed with Eastern Washington, reflects typical fare: Eastern Washington players "act like they're the talk of the town and can do anything they want. They brag about their red field and how it's the greatest thing in the world...They like to jaw and act like they're so great...and they're not. They're cheap, chippy BS'ers."
Lynn says that after 10 years hosting the website, he's grown accustomed to the fervor that fuels online discussions. He chalks much of it up to the loyalty locals have for their hometown. "Everybody in Missoula seems to be passionate about the things that are Missoula. There are some people who are extremely passionate and nothing could be wrong with Grizzly athletics. They're always 100 percent right—they call it maroon-colored glasses. Some fans will defend them on anything, and cause big arguments. There's a few of those people out there that go a little over the top."
And then there are the trolls, the people who appear to the cruise the site just to make waves. In a sports venue, where competitiveness already runs high, the tension created by such figures can be especially acute. Word is that "David2" is a troll. "CDA Griz" thinks he's an old guy. Some posters surmise that he's crabby because the cheerleader-rating threads offend him. Many seem to agree that he's a know-it-all. The trolls "just come to upset people, whether or not they believe what they are saying," Lynn says.
When anonymous eGriz participants are particularly abrasive, self-policing site regulars go out of their way to track them. "Those characters sometimes disappear once they're outed," Lynn says. "It's kind of humorous."
Trash talking sometimes makes barb recipients angry. Because Lynn received no formal education in media law prior to launching the site, he's had to educate himself on the ins and outs of libel and slander, to ensure he's protected. "At first, I didn't even think about it," he says. "You know, young kid, I'm just having fun...And then, once I got my first threat of a lawsuit, I was like, 'Okay, I better get serious about this."
Lynn has become adept at navigating the challenges of moderating comments, something that often still confounds mainstream media. For instance, Lynn's solution to highly abrasive or crude comments was to create a forum, "The Bench," for high-intensity smack-talking and explicit discussions.
Lynn is 29 now. Even though his site is breaking even after years of running in the red, he still has a day job, as a web specialist in UM's Admission's Office. He also runs internet forums for every Big Sky school except Montana State. eGriz volunteers make Lynn's juggling act easier by consistently posting pictures and video and helping to moderate the site. It's that kind of support and camaraderie Lynn appreciates most about eGriz. Connections he's made there in the past decade go beyond the virtual. He tailgates with eGriz friends. They hang out and tell Bobcat jokes, referring to each other by their user names. As they do online, they stake out passionate and often divergent perspectives on their home team.
"It's a great community out there," Lynn says. "There's tons of different opinions. I think that's what the success is...people can go out there and talk about what they love 24 hours a day."