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John O'Keefe
March 05, 2001
With tough love, a Houston fan translates his obsession with Steve Francis and Co. to the Web
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March 05, 2001

Rocket Man

With tough love, a Houston fan translates his obsession with Steve Francis and Co. to the Web

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Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee get the TV face time, but it's hard to believe any NBA fan puts in more time on his avocation than David Hardisty. An Internet and computer programmer in Austin, Hardisty, 27, spends two to three hours a day on his Rockets website,—one of the more imaginative and thorough fan-operated sites on the Web. (The name derives from the term that was in vogue when Houston won NBA titles in 1994 and '95; webmaster Hardisty is known to site visitors by his online moniker, Clutch.) "This isn't a press release type of site," Hardisty says. "If somebody doesn't play well, we'll say he sucked." On Feb. 3, after the Clippers had humbled the Rockets 101-84, Hardisty's postgame recap was headlined DISGUSTING.

Hardisty claims that gets more than 30,000 page views a day. Visitors see an intelligently organized and information-packed site. The history link has records for every season and player in team history, and Hardisty hopes to provide every box score going back to the Elvin Hayes days and beyond, when the franchise was based in San Diego. The 2,600 bulletin board members sometimes even provide an early whiff of a major story, such as the acquisition of guard Steve Francis (above) from the Grizzlies in 1999.

Hardisty juggles his job, his site and time with his wife, Brenda, and daughter, Emily, 2. Jeff Balke, a Houston jewelry salesmen; Brian Kagy, an Austin technical trainer; and Mike Keeley, a Chicago web programmer, are his main helpers on "[The site] is just for fun. We have real jobs," says Hardisty. "Of course, if something really big happens, we'll be there."