The Man Known as Jim Skane
I'm not exactly sure how I came to know Jim Skane.
I suspect it began with the Cardinals
. For Jim, most things began with the Cardinals. He loved them.
Under the handle of 'Skkorp', Jim posted on Cardinal fans websites, but was never entirely happy with any of them. He had his own theories on how a website should be run – ideas of strong monitoring, enforcing rules, and making it a family-friendly area. From his wheelchair he often observed human nature, and shrewdly saw that the Internet offered great things, and great problems. With the anonymity of the web, it was easy for people to drop even the basic standards of behavior. Anger and frustration could be fully expressed, with little regards to others feelings. After all, no one would know it was 'you'.
So Jim established his own website: arizonasportsfans.com. And while debate raged from time to time over whether it was too strict, Skane's site quickly became one of the most popular meeting places for Cardinal fans.
Whenever arguments would start over the rules, most would bow to the simple wisdom that 'it was the way it was because Jim wanted it'. The respect he garnered, the genuine love for the man, was universal and deserved.
Jim was a decent guy. And somehow, through the odd social structure of the web, that decency shined.
It was Coach Dave McGinnis' second year when I wrote my very first article for Jim. At the time the Arizona Cardinals held a yearly 'Football for Women' camp -- and I discovered this fact through Jim's website. As my husband could not attend I was reluctant to go, but I never regretted it.
It was a blast.
In trying to describe the camp for the guys on the site, I found I'd written a complete article. So in a moment of bravado I sent it to Jim.
For 3 days I waited to see if it would be posted. After the first hour I was sure he'd hated it, that I was a terrible writer. By the second day I was completely dejected.
Then it appeared. And I started breathing again.
I began writing regular articles. Jim's encouragement and support gave me confidence, and I discovered how much I truly loved telling stories.
At the end of the season, Jim told us how much he wished he could get press access. We decided to meet with the Cardinals organization, and simply ask.
I'll never forget the look on Jim's face when they said 'yes'.
Suddenly Jim and I, with our devoted spouses, found ourselves at the facility regularly, entering through the press gate, wearing badges and roaming the practice fields. While the savvy press waited in the air conditioned media area, we would don hats and fill water bottles, and watch.
We had a lot to learn, you see.
And one of my favorite sights was Jim Skane himself, driving the sidelines in his wheelchair, watching, directing us, and pondering the redshirts before him. Being reluctant to approach some of these football stars myself, I gave in to his insistence and waved a tape recorder in many a faceplate. Emmitt Smith, Coach Mac, Ron McKinnon, Scott Player, Josh McCown, and Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald. We met Bill Bidwill Sr, and Michael Bidwill, and found them to be genuine, likable people. Rod Graves took time out to talk to us -- and was a personal favorite of Jim's.
And Michael always, always deeply appreciated the fans.
I believe Michael knew what Jim had always known --- that while the Arizona Cardinals were not hugely appreciated in their home state, they had a vast number of fans throughout the world. Fans who found fellowship, information, and just good times through Jim's magic site.
I remember this guy named Adrian Wilson telling me – with a particular light in his eyes – that his goal was to be in the pro bowl. That was a few years before he achieved it. And when he went that first year, I felt especially proud.
And we were on the field for the famous last game of Coach Mac – where the Cardinals scored twice in the last two minutes to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, knocking them out of the playoffs with the legendary Josh McCown to Nate Poole touchdown pass.
I can still see Emmitt Smith's arms leap up to signal Touchdown.
In my humble opinion, it was in meeting these men face to face, that Jim realized his ultimate principles. That just as there were real people behind the handles on the Internet, there were real people behind the fancy jerseys and 'big star names' on the field. We all could be hurt by cruel words and hasty comments -- and we all deserve a little dignity. Respect.
That we were all, after all, human.
It was during the Denny Green era that we lost our press access. The new media fellow came in, and wanted to tighten the ship. But arizonasportsfans kept growing, because Jim had made it the best place on the Internet for true Cardinal fans. His strict rules paid off.
Jim wrote the most wonderful letter of recommendation for me. A letter which helped me find the courage to pursue my dreams.
Jim, wherever you are, I'm so grateful for the privilege of knowing you. I'm glad your last season was one when our Arizona Cardinals played in the Super Bowl. And next year, each time the Red Birds take the field, each time Adrian gets a sack or Kurt completes a touchdown pass, there'll be many of us looking up through that domed roof, and giving you the thumbs up.
Jim Skane, a.k.a. Skkorp, was truly the Man. The Internet, and indeed the world, is diminished with your absence.
You, sir, will be sorely missed.