3-26-04, 6:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
John Thornton is going to read this.
You know, because he tackles everything about his Bengals and the NFL that streaks across the internet. In fact, the defensive tackle got so tired of racing sideline-to-sideline to track down those nuggets that he decided to build himself and Bengals fans a web site where they can stay in the A gap and get all their news.
In true internet up-by-your-boot-up-straps fashion, Thornton started the page a week ago Monday and in three days he had bengalscentral.com up and running in what may be the only site maintained and written by a NFL player.
"I know a lot of guys have their own web sites, I'm not looking for that," Thornton said as he eyed the first week of off-season workouts. "I was looking for a place for one-stop shopping if you're a Bengals' fan."
If Thornton doesn't sound like your average pro athlete, James Brieger agrees. Brieger, the creator, developer, and chief bottle washer of titanscentral.net, walked Thornton through the basics
for the setup and is excited about where Thornton can take it.
Thornton, who played four years in Tennessee before coming to Cincinnati last March, enjoyed titanscentral.com ever since it came on line in 2001. A few weeks ago, he wrote a posting on the message board looking for the name and phone number of the developer of the site. When Brieger got back in touch with him, Thornton told him who he was and what he wanted to do.
"John is just a normal guy," said Brieger, a Titans' fan who is transportation project manager, of a transportation software company in Norfolk, Va. "He would call me and he'd say 'Do you have a minute?' and he'd ask me about something and we would go over it. He learned from the ground up. He's just a guy that learned to log on to a computer and went from there."
Thornton's page, headlined by "Welcome to the Jungle," has debuted with short features on Rudi and Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer, as well as a news and notes section, and a fan forum that he monitors to keep clean. He says he's not looking to write controversially, but he's not going to shy away from the facts:
"With Corey Dillon expected to be traded before the draft, Rudi will definitely become the lead back for the offense," he wrote. "Factor in the emergence of Carson Palmer into the offense, Johnson's ability to establish the run will be critical in protecting the young signal caller in 2004."
Thornton also reported the Bengals couldn't reach a deal with Eagles cornerback Bobby Taylor: " Looks like Bobby Taylor finally got the blockbuster deal he was looking for. After telling Bengals.com that his client won't play for $ 2.5 million a year that the Bengals were offering, Jason Medlock, Taylor's agent, went out and got him a four-year $ 11.8 million dollar deal ($ 2.95 million a year) according to ESPN.com. Taylor could earn one million more in incentives IF he leads the team in interceptions. From all of us here at Bengalscentral.com, good luck Bobby and congrats on the great deal. "
No problem with the loyalty clause there.
"I'm going to keep it positive," Thornton said. "I'm going to let the other sites be critical. This is mainly a place for the fans to come and see what is going on and for them to state their opinion and to see what others are saying. I'm not a media member."
What makes Thornton's site a must on a Cincinnati fans favorites list is the 25 links on the left side of the page. Ranging from the club's official web site to the NFL Players Association's page, virtually anything written about the Bengals is a click away.
"Those are the sites I always look at. Now they're in one place," Thornton said. "I like reading the gossip, the rumors, who's doing what and who may go where. And what ends up actually being true. I spend a lot of time surfing the net. It's a hobby, really."
One of Thornton's favorites is profootballtalk.com, a saucy, irreverent site that takes shots at everybody in the NFL. Players, media members, agents, general managers aren't immune, and Thornton likes the constant buzz. It's not unlike another of his pursuits, which is keeping up with the daily drama of the soap opera The Young and the Restless. He may be the only guy in the league that can break down Victor Newman and Terence Newman.
Thornton has no problems with fans taking shots at him or any of his teammates on the message board, but he is checking the content and he's going to eliminate the gross. He got about 500 hits during the first two to three days, which was at the height of the Warren Sapp craze.
"If someone wants to say I stink, that's fine. I just don't want the language to be bad. I don't want it to be vile," he said. "I was surprised. There were some people who were glad we didn't get Sapp. A lot of the talk was the draft."
Brieger figures Thornton has dropped about $500 to get to this point. About $40 a month to have someone host the site, $10 a month for the message board, about $25-30 a year for the domain name, and he says Thornton bought a software program called Microsoft Front Page 2003 worth a couple of hundred dollars.
"Because he's a player, I think John can offer things that are unique," Brieger said. "When he gets it up and going, I would think he's going to have some kind of diary."
Thornton, six credits shy of his sports management degree from West Virginia, is suddenly turning into a computer expert of sorts. He's currently e-mailing his stories to Brieger so they can be posted, but Brieger expects Thornton to be doing that himself soon.
"I just want people to have fun," Thornton said. "I'd be doing a lot of this stuff anyway. Might as well let everybody in on it."