The beginning of Extra Point
by original editor Steve Careford
I received a call from Paul Stewart a little while ago. ‘I thought I would do a bit of about Extra Point, can you do a bit about how it started etc. etc.’
Crikey, I thought. I can’t even remember what I did last week, let alone 16 years ago!
So how did EP come about? At the time I was just winding down my football playing career for which me and a friend used to write a football programme/magazine in a satirical fashion. However my love for American football was taking over and, finding myself at a loose end I decided to muck about with a few ideas which a few friends suggested, as usually happens, that I make into a full blown fanzine and before I knew it EP 1 was finished with, as I think I recall, Tim Brown on the front as batman (don’t ask me why!), with the artwork design by my football fanzine partner, Dave Craig, who also drew the ‘toilet’ that is still used today in my Bucs articles.
Having decided I was going to do this, I then needed both advertisement and readership, so a quick letter went off to First Down and before I knew it the postman was inundating me with letters and subscription requests plus all other sorts of information and offers to help or get involved. One of the very early letters came from Neil Watson, who went on to become my EP writing partner, and Nick Barnes. Nick opened my eyes to the number of fan clubs out there, and suggested that I gave some bloke called Paul Stewart a call, who ran the Bucs fan club.
Now, the one and only time that the paths of Paul and mine had crossed previously were at the Chicago Bears/Dallas Cowboys Wembley match in 1986. I was wearing a Bucs shirt which had been brought back for me from holiday and as I strolled around outside Wembley, an enthusiastic young man broke off a game of flag football to come running up to me. ‘Are you a Bucs fan?’ asked the wide eyed wonder.
‘No’ I’m just wearing the shirt’ I responded. ‘Well, *** off then’ came the reply and before I knew it he was off to continue his game of flag football. Who knew at that stage that all these years later Paul and I would become, and remain good friends?!
So, back to the call to Paul, after a laugh and a joke about our first meeting, this was clearly something that appealed to his sense of humour and he got right behind the fanzine, writing articles and putting me in touch with other fan clubs.
Before I knew it, I had grown a giant. From nowhere I had over 300 subscribers, support from all of the UK’s fan clubs who were now actively writing articles, First Down were giving publicity almost on a weekly basis, Sportspages - the sports book specialists - were stocking and selling out of EP, celebrities such as Nick Halling and Mike Carlson were freely writing articles, Weeb & Bear (the legendary college football fanzine) were contributing and I had become a member of AFWAB (the American Football writers Association of Britain).
What was special about those early days of EP was that in no time we had something completely unique. One must remember that although this was only 16 years ago, the Internet, amazingly, was very new (and very slow) and not many of us had access to the web. In fact I remember the early days of SKY Sports live NFL coverage when they had no access to anything that was happening in other matches – no computers and no internet.
And there I was one Sunday night, watching the game, when my home phone ran. It was Nick Halling calling me live from the studio, wanting to know if I could check my internet and tell him the latest scores from some of the other games! Honestly, that’s how basic things were!
So therefore, there was a heavy reliance on information, and magazines such as First Down. But as informative as First Down was, it couldn’t do what we were able to do. Give our readers dedicated articles dedicated to a single NFL team, written by contributors with vast knowledge and passion for their teams as well as providing an outlet to meet likeminded people with a love of American Football.
But what stood us out in EP more than anything was the satire. Having met Neil and Nick, it became apparent that we were likeminded in so much that we had a weird sense of humour, and the ideas flowed very quickly.
I’ve been asked many times how ‘NFL stars on the toilet’ came about, but it was really a continuation of my football fanzine where we did something similar and something I thought might work. A simple idea but it took to the imagination of EP’s readers and I was never short of suggestions for the next edition!
Neil and I quickly went into overdrive together and the ideas came thick and fast with the Scottish Claymore Power Rangers, John Elway’s uncanny likeness to a young Prince William and a parody of Rhein Fire Head Coach Galen Hall, which we converted into a Planet of the Apes gag.
Dave Craig, a fellow Raiders fan, chipped in with revised lyrics to Elvis’ Return to Sender’, titled shut out by Denver’ after we suffered humiliation in an NFL game.
But as much as I would like to claim it, ‘turn on the juice’, which is probably my all-time favourite, was the brainchild of Nick Barnes and was a parody of the OJ Simpson trial. Nick found a fantastic picture of an electric chair and, well, the rest wrote itself! This became so popular that I recall some of the AFWAB guys telling me that this EP edition made its way around most of the newspapers in Wapping with much hilarity!
But the thing that gives me great satisfaction is that we somehow managed to balance the satire side with some excellent and informative articles from our contributors. We also had some of the most comprehensive draft coverage that you could get at the time, and as EP grew, so did our credibility. Indeed, Neil and I even landed writing positions with the London Monarchs, writing match reports, and contributing to the match day programme as well as interviewing players for the programme and post-match interviews.
I was also asked to write Monarchs match reports for my local newspapers.
I recall meeting Paul in a pub before one of the Monarchs’ games at White Hart Lane and it was a surreal experience with complete strangers actually recognising both of us and just coming up and talking to us.
Yes, we became mini celebrities, but we NEVER EVER sold out!
And as well as the good there was also the bad. As time went on, Neil and I took monthly turns in completing the edition and it was not uncommon for either one of us to be up until the very early hours of the morning as we struggled to finish the edition in time.
And we also had our fair share of fruitcakes I particularly! remember one reader (whose name I clearly remember but won’t name just in case he starts stalking me again!). He had a habit of writing to me and just chewing the fat, at first anyway.
But the letters started getting stranger and stranger to the extent that he would tell me where I was the following night and make comments like ‘I was sat in the corner watching you.’ Very freaky….! But I always responded in a friendly way as I never wanted to antagonise him.
However, when Paul took over as editor that all changed! Before we knew it Paul was receiving threats of a legal nature and all other things from this loony, which now that I was on the other side was very funny!
The classic one though was when this character sent Paul another threatening letter and signed off by telling him ‘you are nothing but a punkrabbit’. To this day we still don’t have a clue what punkrabbit means but I loved it so much that it became my user name for all websites that I use – so if you ever come across ‘punkrabbit’ there is a very good chance that it’s me!
Another brainchild of mine was our Lord Moon meets. Again, at the time there was nowhere for like-minded fans to meet but we also realised how widespread across the UK the fan base was. Originally I wanted to do a type of roadshow, getting fans together in their local regions, but it became apparent that this would become too big a job. So eventually I settled for London and we advertised the meets in EP and First Down.
One thing I cannot seem to remember was why we settled on the Lord Moon, although I think this may have been Nick’s idea as it is in easy vicinity to the major stations. At its height I think we were getting about 50 people turning up, from all over the place, which made for some very messy nights!
I still look back with pride on what me and the gang managed to achieve with just a small fanzine. It opened so many doors and gave me many great memories as well as making many lifelong friends. To this day, Paul and I still meet up at the Lord Moon with a few of the old gang although as we get older these meets are a lot more sedate these days.
But I still can’t help giving an occasional look into the dark corners of the Lord Moon just in case there’s a loony sitting there in a Punkrabbit tee shirt!