When I first got on the Web, it was 1997 and I think I was 14. My whole life revolved around futbol then. My favorite company was Nike and my favorite team was Brazil’s national team, even though it was sometimes difficult to catch games in Korea since not all of them are televised. Still, I would hunt-out television stores with satellite dishes and walk the aisles four hours trying to piece together an entire game.

When I got on the Web those first few times, of course my first stop was nike.com. It didn’t find what I expected. Everyone back then were doing those Flash movies (you know, the kind everyone immediately skips). That was fine since most of those things sucked then anyway (or crashed whichever browser you were using). There was a little of that on the Nike site but not much.

Instead, it was more like a magazine. They had revolving stories about their special shoes—the ones made for a specific athlete. I had already bought the Air Jumpman Pros (I’m a big Michael Jordan fan even though my sport of choice is futbol). There was a story on the development of the shoe, it’s features, and the designer who made them—and why they fit Michael’s needs. There was also a story on Ronaldinho and Romario, the two stars of the Brazilian national team. It was great.

The coolest thing on the site was this thing where you could answer a question and it might be posted to the site for everyone to see. I remember one on “why do you play?” and there were all of these answers by other kids just like me, along side answers from famous athletes. That was cool. I answered a lot of these “pulse” questions but mine never made it onto the site. That’s cool, I’m sure there were a lot of people doing the same thing.

It was just great that Nike cared about what its customers thought, instead of being totally wrapped-up in the athletes they sponsor. That’s kind of the message you get from the TV ads and the ads in magazines and billboards. It’s all about the celebrity thing sometimes. On the website, though, it was more than that, It was still exciting and cool, but it was mostly about the fans and what we thought.

They had this thing for Spring Training that year where they interviewed a bunch of kids who went down to watch and made baseball cards with their photos and info and put them on the site. For the US Open that year, they did a whole thing on the site where kids could send messages to Tiger Woods (I’m not a big golf fan, but hey, IT’S TIGER WOODS!).

The site’s still cool and MUCH bigger, but it’s also more corporate. They still have stories about the shoes but all of the cool stuff where they wanted to hear from people like me is gone. It’s more like television: there’s a lot to watch but no place to contribute.

more stories of making meaning >