History of TheSabre.com - Part I
Jul 17, 2002Virginia football fans in the summer of 1996 were enjoying memories of the climactic win over Florida State in Charlottesville that still brought tingles down their spines. Fans were also anticipating the upcoming season with thoughts of woulda, coulda, shoulda still haunting them from the previous season as well. Trying to stay cool in Charlottesville that summer was one Mike Ingalls, a lifelong Virginia football fan.
Mike was distracted from his studies in Criminal Justice by his roommate who suggested that the computer field loomed as a more lucrative option than Criminal Justice, unless he was planning to go into the criminal end rather than the justice end.
Being an honest fellow, Mike decided against a life of crime, thus, on to the computers. He saw on the news where kids with no college education were building web sites and making a lot of money, $60K per year right out of high school in many cases. Mike declared himself to be a website designer. A career was born.
Never having built or designed a web site, Mike decided he should learn something about his new chosen profession. He went to Barnes & Noble a few days later - no point in stressing out about this new profession - and bought the book Creating Cool Web Pages with HTML. He read the book while working as a delivery driver at the Taiwan Garden Chinese restaurant. He found Kung Pao chicken to be the perfect reading aid. The book was rather small and in a few days Mike grasped an understanding of HTML. Now, he just needed to actually build a web site!
After experimenting with a few ideas, he went to work on a web site covering Virginia football, primarily a site to tout Tiki Barber for the Heisman. (No one else was doing it.) The site had a home page with links to post-game articles from each game (starting with the Texas game). There were a few pages dedicated to Tiki, with photos and stats. This was a raw-boned basic web site developed primarily to flex Mike's muscles in his new profession. It wasn't really developed for general consumption but it did have its benefits for those early users.
The site included links to the few UVa related web sites in existence back then. There was no official UVa sports web site at the time (i.e., no VirginiaSports.com). The few web resources related to Virginia were linked on Mike's fledgling Virginia web site, specifically, Donnie Edgemon's site, Wes Colley's site and Chris Horne's recruiting site. (Chris now the writes recruiting-related articles for TheSabre.) Links were also provided to Tiki and Ronde Barber's web sites, which were becoming popular. Mike's site at the time did not have its own domain name. The URL was simply: http://www.cstone.net/~mingalls/football.htm.
Once the 1996 season was underway there was some excitement in highlighting Virginia football on the web. Tim Sherman was the QB, with Aaron Brooks challenging for playing time. Virginia jumped into the top ten with a win over Texas in the driving rain. Barber scored three touchdowns in the first quarter against the Longhorns to blow the game open. After the Texas game, Mike wrote his first post-game article entitled, Tale of the Broken Longhorn. The link to the article was an icon of the Texas logo with one of the horns broken in half. A nice touch reflecting that Mike might actually have chosen the right profession - at a great loss to the Criminal Justice people.
He wrote a few more articles that year. After the Georgia Tech game Mike's article Hands of Steel critiqued the Virginia receiving corps. That was one of the games in which Aaron Brooks came in only to have the receivers put on a sickening display of "the drops". Receivers dropped easy but crucial passes in that game, suggesting that they couldn't catch a cold. Virginia lost the game 13-7, but Mike found that it was therapeutic to be able to write about the game, a particularly tough loss.
He stopped updating the site before the Virginia Tech game in November 1996 without any plans to manage his little test site any further. This was a practice run, and now he had to make some money and pay the rent - his landlord wasn't a Virginia fan. Mike was now working at the Yuan Ho Restaurant doing deliveries but looking for more income.
Now able to tout himself as a web site developer, Mike began to assist a computer consultant friend (Jim Morton of Jemstone Computer Services in Charlottesville) by providing web site design for several of Jim's clients. He got paid for it but still wasn't making the money those inspirational high school grads he read about were bringing in.
Then an interesting thing happened. He started receiving numerous emails from visitors of his now dormant UVa football site. They wanted to know if there would be an update to the site for the 1997 season. The pressing demands of school and work suggested that his "practice" web site would have to be left collecting dust. But he had fans! More emails kept arriving inquiring about his site. Virginia fans wanted more. Mike was compelled to dust off the site and really spruce that puppy up. After all, some of the emails were from chicks! Chicks dig it, Mike does it.
By early spring 1997, Mike became aware for the first time that there were real people viewing his little site. There was no hit counter or stats page set up but the regular flow of emails registered his experiment as a hit. To be a good host, Mike decided to spruce up his place for his many visitors. No problem; he was a professional website designer now.
Mike's stint in the military taught him how tough it was to follow UVa sports outside Virginia. He was determined to answer that need. Time to prepare for his guests necessitated temporarily dropping some part-time employment at Yuan Ho and cutting back to three days a week doing deliveries for the College Inn. School was limited to just two courses for that semester. Mike dedicated himself to re-building the Virginia website.
Since he was a professional web designer now, he had to figure out on his own how to improve the site. Good material was critical and researching the Virginia football media guide allowed Mike to provide good data for his visitors. There were rosters, game stats, schedules, UVA history, traditions, Hoos in the NFL, and other topics of interest to the Virginia football fan. Many of these basic resource areas still exist on TheSabre.com today.
He secured the domain name www.virginiafootball.com and launched his new, improved site around the middle of May 1997. Shortly after that, Wes Colley decided to stop updating his site and suggested that Mike start linking to news stories in order to take over where Wes was leaving off. Wes also provided a message at the top of his website stating that he was going to stop updating the site. In that message, dated May 30, 1997, he posted a link to Mike's new web site. Wes' WAHOOWA site still exists at http://www.astro.princeton.edu/~wes/random/uva.html where the original link still exists - at least as of this writing.
As the summer of 1997 began, Mike resumed working at Yuan Ho - remember, his landlord was not a Virginia fan and actually insisted that Mike pay him in U.S. currency, so Mike went back to the Chinese restaurant to make the necessary coin. More summer classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College meant Mike was plenty busy that summer.
Apparently, the powers that be didn't feel there was enough excitement in Mike's life - the return of spicy Kung Pao chicken just didn't do it. On June 2nd in 1997, armed robbers came to the Yuan Ho looking for some of that same U.S. currency Mike was trying to earn. Mike's life took an unexpected turn.
Doing deliveries for the Yuan Ho on Maury Avenue behind Scott Stadium, Mike often found himself in the restaurant waiting for a delivery order. On June 2, 1997, at 9:34 p.m. Mike was sitting on a chair reading while waiting as his next delivery cooked. A quiet evening was abruptly punctured by a loud voice yelling, "Give me your (expletive) money!" The Yuan Ho was being robbed.
Where Mike was sitting was out of the view of the robber, who made the demand for money on Helen Chan, the owner of the Yuan Ho, who was at the cash register. At first, the incongruity of the robber's demand with the quiet evening prevented Mike from recognizing what was taking place. After seeing the startled white eyes of the robber peering over a bandana covered face, Mike knew.
The robber suddenly realized there was more than just an elderly Chinese lady to confront. Mike recognized the gun the robber was holding as a starter's pistol so he walked over to Helen, slammed the cash register shut and told her not to give him a thing. Next, he looked at the robber and said, "You don't have a real gun, get the hell out of here." Then the action really began.
He pointed the gun at Mike, pulled the trigger and nothing happened. The would-be robber quickly made an about face and ran out the door. Mike followed him, running up the street, when suddenly another man joined the initial robber, only this one had a real gun, which he fired at Mike as they ran away.
Mike's first thought was "Where did that other guy come from?" and then he heard the crackling of gunfire. Mike stopped chasing at that point, more incensed at the outrage of what the robbers attempted than afraid. What he didn't realize was that a bullet had ripped through his bicep, entered his rib cage, tore through a lung and come to rest in a muscle in his back.
A burning sensation on his side began to make its presence known to him. His chest began to feel the pain, with increasing pressure on his lungs making it more difficult to breathe. Helen had followed him out the restaurant in a state of shock herself. Mike's knees buckled slightly as he told Helen to call the police. Helen's son Phillip also arrived where Mike was standing and Mike immediately told Phillip to take him to the hospital. Mike knew he had to get to a hospital fast, as he could see the blood flowing and feel the effects of shock taking over. They both got into Mike's car. There was no time to lose.
Phillip then announced that he couldn't drive a stick shift. Mike said, "Just drive!" and gave Phillip on the job instructions on how to drive a stick shift, while moaning in pain. Traffic seemed to be moving much slower than the flow of blood, and Mike feared whether they would make it to the hospital. Pulling up in front of the University of Virginia hospital emergency room, Mike got out of the car, still bleeding, and told the nurses, "I've been shot." With bureaucratic efficiency they told him to "Have a seat in triage." "No, you don't understand," he said and continued walking through the double doors to the ER rooms. Doctors and nurses soon realized that this was the guy they heard about on the scanner. Mike laid down and doctors and nurses started flying into the room, cutting clothes off, peppering him with questions, "Are you allergic to medicine?", "Who is your next of kin", etc.
As the questions slowed, Mike looked up at the doctor and said, "Do you have everything now?" The doc responded affirmatively. Mike then said, "Can I go to sleep now?" He then passed out, woke up the next day with tubes in his throat, nose, chest, and I.Vs in various parts of his body. He was alive and the prognosis was good, though the bullet would have to stay; it was too risky to remove it. Mike's body reflected two bullet holes in his arm, one in his chest and an extra piece of lead in his back. The next two days were spent in a dazed state in surgical intensive care, after which he was transferred to the regular recovery room.
Mike's web site was put on hold while he recovered at UVa Hospital. Rumors that Mike's brain was switched with another patient while he was in the hospital have been steadfastly denied by UVa hospital officials. (Mike was not the complaining party on that count by the way.). While he was recovering, his roommate called to tell him that he had received over 50 emails from visitors of the site offering get-well wishes. Wow! He didn't even know most of the people who were sending their regards. That was a real boost to the healing process.
A gift package arrived at the hospital from the UVa football office from then-assistant coach Danny Wilmer. A get-well card signed by the entire Virginia football coaching staff accompanied the gift basket. There was a UVa hat, UVa shirt, a media guide and several UVa magnets. Maybe crime does pay, Mike was thinking. All of this support was totally unexpected, and it served as motivation for Mike to ignore the doctors and get the heck out of the hospital sooner than was recommended. Six days after entering the hospital, Mike was on his way out, determined to get back to his baby, VFB.com.
The history of the Sabre.com will be continued.
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