Date: Sun, 22 Dec 1996 13:07:45 -0600
From: Jim Arnold 
Subject: HERKY: Herky in the Gazette

Hawk fans go online
Herky mailing list a cyberspace outlet for Iowa fanatics

By Jim Arnold
Gazette staff writer

It seems you can go just about anywhere and strike up a conversation about the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Cyberspace is no exception.

Hawkeye fans can--and certainly do--discuss the issues online via the Herky mailing list. Free and available to everyone with Internet access, the mailing list allows subscribers to espouse opinions, discuss recruiting and other stories, and keep up with all the happenings in the athletics department.

The list is managed by Minneapolis resident George Miller, who created it in February 1995. The list started with six members and now goes to more than 600 people from Germany, the Middle East, Canada and almost every state in the U.S.

There are many mailing lists on the Internet but Herky is the only one tied to the Hawkeyes. Subscribers send e-mail messages to one address, where a computer forwards the messages to all the other subscribers.

Miller said the list serves as an information provider for many displaced Hawkeye fans.

``Up here, we get a very small synopsis of an AP story after games,'' said Miller, who works full-time for Marigold Foods but does Internet work on the side. ``I went through all the basketball season that year without having any ability to get much information. I wanted to find out more about the season.''

Subscribers from out of state rely on those in Eastern Iowa to provide them with up-to-the-minute information. Those Eastern Iowans have taken it a step further by trying to scoop the local news media.

Stories about basketball player Jeff Walker leaving the program were on Herky days before area media and police got involved. His return also sparked early conversation.

``I'm pretty comfortable with accepting the information as it comes,'' said Alan Kline, a 35-year-old operations technician at KTSF in San Francisco and a member since April. ``You get a feel for who has the contacts and who has the experience and the guys that have the time to not just go to the games but can make the practices. Most of the time when something is being offered as a rumor, they say take it for what it is worth.''

Miller estimates the list will generate 15,000 e-mail messages this year.

During football and basketball seasons, it averages nearly 100 messages per day. Subscribers can fend off the constant barrage of e-mail by subscribing to a digest, which contains all the e-mail for the day, but is sent only once per day.

Most of the e-mail discusses the basketball and football teams, but that doesn't keep the topic from swaying into other Iowa sports. Recent posts discussed men serving as women's basketball coaches and Dan Gable's hip problems.

Gary Gaffney, a 41-year-old associate professor of psychiatry at The University of Iowa, said the openness of the list reminds him of a residence hall.

``In the dorms, there's always somebody hanging around to talk to. It is a virtual dorm floor,'' said Gaffney, who has been on Herky for a year and a half. ``All these personalities and the one common thing is they are real fanatical Hawk fans.''

Herky houses people from all walks of life and almost every age. The older subscribers teach the younger about the days of Nile Kinnick and the Ironmen and the Rose Bowls of the 1950s.

``The major threads include the coaches; the Kingsbury thing, that keep's everybody going; Settles going pro,'' Gaffney said. ``Then you get the old timers that bring up the do-you-remembers. `I ran into Clay Hargrave ' and that sets off a thousand memories.''

Lightly enforced rules keep some of the more liberal fanatics from abusing the list. The list has a rule book (FAQ) and one of the most enforced rules is described in the rule book as: ``Where'd ya get that mouth on ya? Ames?''

``Someone used a profanity today and three or four people commented on it, saying Herky is more of a family place,'' Gaffney said. ``It is a much more gentle and kinder forum than others.

``People get real upset if you swear or get too negative.''

The culture online has spread to the offline world. Members gather at Hawkeye games home and away and sports bars for unofficial Hawkeye Huddles.

Two months ago, Kline set up a web page for people to find old digests, just in case they missed a day of Herky e-mail.

`Official' slant to mailing list
by Jim Arnold

With more than 600 subscribers, Herky e-mail is bound to find its way into the hands of University of Iowa officials.

A pair of those hands belongs to Rick Klatt, assistant athletic director. Klatt learned of the mailing list in September and has been a part-time participant since then.

``I like being on there to see what the lay fan is thinking. It is interesting,'' Klatt said.

``That's a pure, unadulterated source for direct feedback.''

He said he has posted only a handful of times, writing about, the official athletics department web site, or informing Herky subscribers when television schedules change for the Hawkeye sports teams.

Having Klatt and other university officials reading the posts does not seem to bother the list's manager, George Miller.

``He contributes and has a little different perspective on things," Miller said of Klatt. ``He can post the official word on things that nobody else can. Then, a lot of times, there can be bulletin board material on there and he can pass it along to the teams.''

According to Miller, some of the athletes Herky members write about are actually silent members of the list.

Klatt said that doesn't surprise him.

``I think there are more than a few student-athlete types lurking, taking it in,'' Klatt said.

Whether Herky members will ever have a direct link to Hayden Fry or Tom Davis, the two most discussed people on the list, remains to be seen.

Subscriber Tom Kirkendall said that is fine.

``I know that, frankly, anything us fans say would go in one ear and out the other,'' said Kirkendall, a Houston attorney. ``They have other things to worry about.''

c. 1996, Cedar Rapids Gazette

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Jim Arnold    
Cedar Rapids, Iowa    Check out the Cedar Rapids Gazette
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