OffTackleEmpire started up back in 2008 as a collaboration between law students Graham Filler and Jon Franz on Blogspot originally named "The Rivalry, Esquire" and quickly it was picked up by SBNation as the very first conference blog. OTE grew organically and steadily accrued writers and commenters and became a place where fans of each team in the increasingly misnamed Big Ten conference could cheer on their team, make fun of other teams and other commenters and talk about Big Ten football.
At the same time, a community of Big Ten football fans was growing in the comment sections of the ESPN Big Ten Blog articles written by Adam Rittenberg and later Brian Bennett. One of them, Brandon, also known as AAWolv, got married last weekend to a former fellow ESPN commenter known as bleu_girl_04 aka Kate. AAWolv was able to answer a few questions tonight.
LPW: So how long have you been commenting about Big Ten football on the internet?
AAWolv: I've been commenting on ESPN since August 2008, and then transitioned to OTE shortly after ESPN planned to replace the anonymous commenting system with Facebook accounts in July 2013.
[Ed note: Facebook requires you to use your real identity. SBN does not]
LPW: What was the community like over there?
AAWolv: There was a group of 50 or so people that would go on there on an infrequent basis, know who each other were (at least the screen names). A lot of the commenting crew have been there since 2008 or longer.
LPW: What's the difference between commenting at ESPN and OTE?
AAWolv: The 50 or so regulars were friendly with each other, but we had to deal with a lot of trolls. Sometimes things got vicious. OTE is a friendlier place.
LPW: Were Rittenberg and Bennett ever aware of the community commenting in their articles?
AAWolv: I know at one point they were aware that we graded their Lunch Link articles regularly, I’m not sure that they were too fond of that, or really anything relating to our crazy comments. They seemed to avoid the comments section like the plague (and probably rightly so).
LPW: What did you like about OTE and SBN once the entire ESPN B1G blog community decided to migrate to OTE?
AAWolv: The live commenting section is totally better. It's easy to see new comments in real time, and typing Control-z to jump to new ones is fantastic. Also, it's helpful to see the number of existing and new comments on articles before you even load them.
LPW: Did your wife make the jump to OTE as well?
AAWolv: She didn't stick around much (if at all) after the migration.
LPW: Who decided to invite Bennett to the wedding?
AAWolv: Kate did, but I thought it was a great idea. We had no idea he would actually come, much less write a story on it.
LPW: Thanks for your time
AAWolv: It's been a pleasure
AAWolv was one of 160 new members in July, 2013!
Ever since, it's been a great success and OTE has grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the number of comments across articles and our offtopic fanshots.
Tell your friends, tell everyone that OffTackleEmpire is the best place on the internet for fan-driven coverage of Big Ten football. It is truly the voice of the fan and the blog of Northern Aggression.