I thought Denzel Washington was a pretty good testimonial. One for the ages, in fact. A mega Hollywood super star unconditionally promoting our product was as good as it gets or could ever get.
Or so I thought.
Three years ago, I reluctantly approached the on-screen Malcolm X/Hurricane Carter/Herman Boone after his son Malcolm Washington
led his Windward High School (Los Angeles)
team to a California state basketball championship.
I just wanted to ask him about being on the other end of cheers and adulation.
"Mr. Washington, I hate to bother you, but my name is Mitch Stephens and I'm with MaxPreps and I …"
Before I could spit out my question, Washington said: "You work for MaxPreps? Larry and I are on that site all the time."
Larry Cherry was his longtime stylist whom Washington immediately introduced me to. We all shook hands.
"Larry has a daughter (Nailah) who plays in New York (Roosevelt High
) and I can follow her on your site," said Washington.
Cherry said: "And I can follow Malcolm from New York. It's great."
It was great, I thought, connecting friends and family. Sharing the triumphs and defeats of high schools sports by the click of a button was an instant pleasure and something I hadn't really comprehended until hearing it from an Academy Award winner.
And he didn't just tell me once in our eight-minute discussion. He repeated it several times.
"I don't know what I'd do without MaxPreps and you can quote me on that," he said.
And I did, in a column. And I did out loud to several friends and family, not only to show that we rub shoulders once in a blue moon with Hollywood Elite, but also that our product serves a greater purpose, connects lives and brings a little joy to the world.
But that was three years ago. As we moved forward, so did our commitment to connect, to report in the here and now. Scores and statistics a week or day later are still relevant, but to stay ahead of the social media curve was vital.
The advent 13 months ago of Qwixcore — an instantaneous update of game results from mobile devices — has allowed fans to update fans from across the street, neighborhood, state and nation.
That helped lead 6 million users to the MaxPreps site in September, making it one of America's largest digital sports properties. Nearly 50,000 varsity teams will be tracked this school year with game-by-game statistics, thus earning the site's credo of "America's source for high school sports."
The immediate tracking through Qwixcore, however, now allows fans and family who otherwise can't get to the games to follow each play and each score. Someone like Tom Smith, whose son plays on the Conifer (Colo.)
Tom Smith has multiple sclerosis.
"Our home field announcer (Jeff Stewart) always enters the flow of the games (into MaxPreps)," Smith wrote. "This allows me to follow the games, even when I cannot be there. I really enjoy knowing what is happening as it unfolds."
That immediacy is key — not just for journalists who want to hit deadlines — but for Lompoc (Calif.)
head football coach Andrew Jones, whose dad follows his games at all odd hours in England.
Jones was the starting quarterback for Lompoc in 2002 and his dad became the team's biggest fan. When Jones transitioned to coaching, pops still made every game, home and away, until he accepted a job overseas.
Dad sets his clock for 3 a.m. for some games and follows the Braves religiously. He hasn't missed a Lompoc game since the advent of Qwixcore in 2011.
"It makes it a little easier not being there," Jones' father said.
It's not easy for the members of the large Misipeka-Ward family in Pago Pago, American Samoa, who miss watching
, a standout football player. He, his mother Vanessa and sisters moved to Montana, where Aaron stars on the Florence-Carlton
"We have a very, very large family who follows Aaron's play on Qwixcore," Vanessa said. "His uncle played for the University of Hawaii and he loves to hear and see how he's doing."
Qwixcore is being followed all the way in Germany as well.
The Johnson boys from Wimberley (Texas) moved to Stuttgart, where their father was stationed in the military. There, the boys not only star for Patch American High School, but they get to follow all their friends at Wimberley
each week, which delights their grandmother Christy Johnson, who is still in Texas.
The boys helped Wimberley to a state 3A title last season.
"I just wish they had Qwixcore (in Germany) so I could follow their games," Christy Johnson said.
Judging how far MaxPreps has progressed, that might not be far off. Since the inaugural week in October, 2011, nearly 14,000 varsity football games have been scored live using Qwixcore. On average, 147 displaced fans track the results remotely on their mobile phones or desktop computers.
With more than 1,000 games a week being scored, Qwixcore is helping nearly 150,000 parents, relatives and other fans keep up with their favorite high school team as the action happens each Friday night during the fall. The same will be true this winter during basketball season.
Those numbers are impressive, but pale compared to the miles between users from Germany to England to American Samoa to Texas to Montana.
Or from Hollywood to New York.
"We live on the site," Denzel Washington said. "You click here to get information on your team, then you click there to get your opponent, and click here to get their stats and rankings. It's great."