General, WWW

A Decade of Waiting

Of all writing assignments, the toughest ones are those where you know, deep down, whatever words you link together and whatever graf breaks you toss in to space things out, none of it will do the topic justice. Don’t get me wrong—much of this paralysis can be internal and based on the surroundings. Sitting down in The Q’s writers room following a Cavs game, or heading back to the pressbox at Progressive Field, its easy to have a feeling of inadequacy wash over you as you stare at a blinking cursor, praying to the Greek God of syntax and creativity that whatever you file can at least hold a candle to those pieces being sent in by those around you.

The other ingredients in this Inadequacy Stew come in the way of the subject matter. The world of reporting and writing tends to develop experts that rise to the top and render everyone else as fodder, but other times the subjects are just so big and encompassing that no one column could produce enough emotion to be worthy of the time. One of these subjects: The kickoff post for the 10-year anniversary of the existence of WFNY.

As I went back to read Andrew’s thoughts on our five-year anniversary, scoping out the pieces we all chalked up as some of our best, the entire narrative that is carried through was a look back at what we had accomplished, personally and site-wide. Whether by accident or it simply wasn’t in mind, we never addressed the next five years. Never did one of us think about what was to come. In retrospect, who can blame any of us? When your outlet is a day-to-day smattering of thoughts based on recent or near-future events, penned by individuals with ever-evolvin lives at personal and professional levels, and is housed on the internet, thinking that far ahead could be a fools errand.

When we opened the doors in February of 2008, we didn’t have Twitter accounts. We didn’t have a Facebook page. We didn’t know what podcasts were, and certainly didn’t have a YouTube landing spot. (You should subscribe to this, by the way.) Mobile sites didn’t exist, and our site had three columns and a weird cream-colored background and the content was the very definition of flying by the seat of our pants. I’m fairly certain we had initially aimed to get by with one or two pieces per day, but quickly learned that if the site was going to grow, it was going to be through the number of lines we cast into the blog-based lake.

We would send emails out, daily, to larger, more established sites with the hopes that they would link to something we thought was different than what the others were doing. More often than not, this was met with radio silence, but every so often, we’d get a link at Deadspin or Extra Mustard and would sit back and watch as the hits rolled in—sometimes by the dozens, but every so often in a way that would shut us down until our server could stomach what had just taken place.

To say the game has changed would be a massive understatement. When WFNY started, newspaper-based outlets didn’t have blog-based coverage; they only published what was going to be in that day’s paper. Major players didn’t have podcasts or video or any of the things today’s web culture provides. And while we continue to try new things—some have worked, while others have not—we have always taken pride in the fact that our independence has always allowed us to make decisions in a way that have allowed us to stay ahead where we could. Others may have eventually caught on and utilized their resources in a way we simply could not, but there’s always a point of pride in being a part of the disruption.

That my name is at the top of our masthead down below is happenstance. Had Andrew’s last name come before mine, it would have been his. Our decision to never have a sole editorial voice is one that has been met with some criticism in the past—as this is not a common practice; they’re called Editor in Chief for a reason—but is one I feel has allowed WFNY to become what it has over the last 10 years. A post about Kelvin Sampson and Dan Gilbert starring in “Armageddon” has been published on the same pages as a behind-the-scenes deep dive of the Cavaliers and their analytics team.

Anyone who knows me knows I have the tendency to cut before measuring. I’m a ‘yes’ person who just assumes he will figure it out along the way. This has its pros and cons, naturally, but I’m a big believer that conflict can be used as a means to make bigger, bolder decisions and often leads to more exciting outcomes. Failure is an important part of growth, and things rarely go as planned. In a landscape like media, by the time you measure, things have already moved in a different direction.

We’ve been forced to make countless decisions over the years, but none of them have been made without at least three of us doing what we felt was best for the collective. I don’t know how different the site would have been had I been the one pulling all the strings, but I do know that I could not guarantee it would still be thriving the way it is today if not for the rest of the individuals who have published a byline anywhere between Year 1 and Year 10.

When we started this in 2008, the Browns had just come off a 10-win season; the Indians were up 3-1 on the Boston Red Sox, only to fall short of the World Series; and the Cavaliers were rolling off 60-win seasons, and having a ton of fun doing it. It goes without saying that these moments were fleeting. We’ve covered some good times, and some really, really bad ones. And while another championship or two would have been nice over the last 10 years, I don’t know if WFNY would be what it is today without the headwinds. What started as a fan site for our friends and family has morphed into one of thought leadership and analysis that I could not be more proud of, even if there’s only been one parade to show for it. (OK: Two.)

I could not be more thankful for everyone who has contributed to our growth over the last 10 years. Writers. Commenters. Friends. Family. Fellow media members. To put this all in perspective: When I first met Craig, it was at a Terry Pluto book signing at a library in the middle of nowhere (for a west-sider, anyway), and his wife was concerned about him going to meet up with “internet people.”

Now fast forward to today.

There is little that can be said to justify the accomplishment that is 10 years of doing anything on a daily basis, let alone this, here. But in a way, there is a part of me that wonders if any other sports market would be able to provide the backdrop for what WFNY has meant at both a personal and professional level. The pieces we’ve written, the podcasts we’ve recorded, the individuals we’ve met along the way… No level of delusion would have led 26-year-old me to think we would still be doing this today. But in the same regard, WFNY has become such a large part of my life that now, I can’t imagine my days without it.

Thank you for being a part of this journey.