Celebrating Five Years of Waiting For Next Year

WFNY 5 Year Birthday

Five years. Wow, where has the time gone?

In late 2007, Rick was running a blog called Halftime Adjustments, Scott was doing the Cleveland Sports Minute, and I was running my own blog called Cleveland Sports Authority (yes, that truly is the worst name for a site ever). It was around that time that Rick approached Scott and I about teaming up together and forming a new site.

It made a lot of sense. We were all covering the same stories and writing about the same things. We were commenting on each other’s posts and linking back and forth to one another. So we all agreed to form a partnership and in late January 2008 we started this little endeavor.

None of our sites were all that popular. Well, at least I know my site wasn’t. I remember the first time 100 people read one of my posts and I thought it was the coolest thing ever that there were 100 people out there interested in something I wrote. So I don’t think any of the three of us really knew what to expect. All we knew was that we shared a vision…kindred spirits who recognized a common bond that we could build something really fun and special around.

And so as January 2008 came to a close, we locked the doors on our individual sites and launched Waiting For Next Year. The name of the site was chosen because it represents the perpetual pain of the Cleveland sports fan while also recognizing the unwavering optimism of the fools’ errand that is hoping that next year things will be better. We called the site “a tradition of hope, passion, and misery”. It’s more mission statement than slogan. Because beneath all the work put into getting this site up and running, building a staff of the best writers imaginable, and growing a community of fans and readers, we were forever embracing the multi-faceted task of journeying together down the path of Cleveland Sports, Inc.

Fast forward five years, Three site designs, and nearly 25 million pageviews later, and here we are celebrating FIVE years of this little project we now simply call WFNY. It’s a milestone to be celebrated, for sure, as the three of us take an awful lot of pride in how far this site has come in those five short years. But this moment should be about the site itself, and more importantly, the incredible group of writers we’ve been lucky to surround ourselves with. I wish I could tell you all just how selfless these writers are. Despite everyone having regular 9-to-5 jobs and most having families of their own, they’ve all agreed to pour themselves into their posts and bring all their unique voices, skills, perspectives, interests, and talents to the table. And boy have they ever delivered.

And I can’t talk about where this site is without recognizing you, our faithful readers and commenters. One of the first goals that Scott, Rick, and I discussed was how to build the best community of Cleveland sports fans on the internet. I can’t help but feel like we succeeded. You guys are seriously the best. You offer us genuine feedback, you challenge us when we’re not on our game, and you elevate the topics we offer up into something deeper. Really, on behalf of Rick, Scott, myself, and the rest of the WFNY staff, we want to thank you guys for sticking with us through all these years. Were it not for you readers, there’s no guarantee we’d still be doing this labor of love.

So on this day we celebrate five years of Waiting For Next Year, I thought it would be fun to look back at some the absolute best work this site has featured since inception. Along the way, I’ve asked the writers, both past and present, to showcase their favorite pieces and to give some thoughts on the work. I hope you enjoy this look back on five years of Waiting For Next Year.

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Much of my time at WFNY encompassed the height of the LeBron Cavaliers era, and then the subsequent madness of the summer of 2010. That seemed to be constant topic as I went through the archives.

As LeBron’s free agency courting started to hit its peak, I wrote a feature on Jack Nicklaus, contrasting the two “Global Icons” from Ohio as the Memorial got underway in Columbus. Golf is obviously not something regularly covered by WFNY, but this may be my favorite post I’ve done here (same goes for Nicklaus post I did at Ohio’s Global Icon

I think one of my best posts for WFNY was a reaction and recap to the “Not 1, not 2” celebration in Miami just a day after the decision. I think most of the country was aghast, and it’s obviously now an exhausted topic that’s been covered and re-hashed plenty, but I thought I captured and bottled up the reaction well as it unfolded at the time: Heat’s Party Completes Transformation into America’s Most-hated Team

Nearly two years after LBJ’s departure, I wrote about the narrative, mostly negative, that saddled Dan Gilbert coming out of the letter and the lockout negotiations: NBA Trade Rumors and the Dan Gilbert Narrative

When news of Jim Donovan’s illness became public, I wrote a quick post on what his voice on the Browns broadcasts had meant to me: Why I love Jim Donovan

Also, much of my time was spent having fun with Braylon Edwards quotes and Eric Wedge quotes.

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Joe Haden doesn’t wear Yankee Hats he wears full Cavaliers uniforms. I was actually in the hallway near the Cavs locker room area when Joe Haden first came through wearing a full Cavaliers uniform in March of 2011. Totally caught off guard by the look, I didn’t get a picture or even a quote. But I did later write this blog celebrating the first time Haden rooted for our Cavaliers like the biggest fan in CLE.

Bob Feller had died a couple days prior to me writing about the time I first met him. It felt good to recall that special moment from my childhood with the WFNY community. Always appreciated everybody taking the time to read that one, still do. The Day I met Bob Feller

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This is Our Armageddon

These bears are riding horses — Let’s smile about that, at least briefly

Charting Anderson Varejao’s Enthusiasm

Your 2012 All-Animal Playoff Team

I like these four, though the Bears-riding-horses story is by far the best piece of writing I ever did for the site.  I didn’t include the sad bear story because people never like fun things.

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My list has to start with this, which was probably my first break-through post that generated a lot of discussion. I know the title and my photoshopped image had a huge part to do with it, but I hadn’t been on staff long when this piece came out: Groundhog Day — Don’t Throw Angry

I liked this one because it bucked the meme or dwelling on our past by looking forward to the future: A Brighter Future for No. 23

I liked this one because of the series we did, and to a larger extent that’s one of the things I liked most about WFNY as a writer: collaboration. Learning about what each writer cited as their sports confessions was truly cool. Plus, my last paragraph proved to be so eerily prophetic: These are my Confessions: DP

(Bonus tip of the cap to any and ALL posts that featured the Tim Couch Bear. For reference: Seneca Wallace thinks he will start, water is wet – that’s right Denny, I haven’t forgotten that furry little orange bastard. Also, don’t publish this one, but remember that you guys used to let Denny and I run amok with no discernable point or topic: We Blind you with Science: Actual Proof that the Cavs are Good) [Editor’s Note: *Sorry DP 🙂 ]

Sometimes it’s just fun to write a reflection on a game that isn’t a recap and isn’t just based on the nuts and bolts. WFNY was always a great place to do that, because the community always contributed: Browns beat Steelers, Colors Seem Brighter

WFNY gave me my first chance at doing any kind of writing about sports to an audience. I solicited Rick, Scott, and Andrew back in 2008, because they had literally two articles on their site about the Blue Jackets, I enjoyed hockey as well as the other pro sports teams they covered, I liked their blog, and I thought I could add something to their site. They graciously gave me a chance to sing for my supper, and then gave me the chance to join their team. I got my first press credentials to cover a team I love because of WFNY. These are all things for which I’m eternally grateful.

What I loved then and still love now about the site is that no one person tries to do it alone. It’s true that WFNY’s writers have become more compartmentalized in terms of the sports they write about, but it’s because they all know that the other sports are in such good hands with other writers that it’s OK to focus on what you know the best. The site is successful because they open it up to as many people as possible, they foster community, discussion, and debate, and they all realize that they’re only successful if it’s an inclusive endeavor.

But, it comes down to one thing with the WFNY team: they’ve earned everything they’ve gotten. I’m proud to say I got my “blogging” start with WFNY. I may write only about hockey for The Cannon now, but I know I wouldn’t be as good a writer there if I hadn’t spent three and a half years working with these guys.

Happy Birthday, WFNY!

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^my tanking manifesto.

^my “lay off of CLE fans for rooting for OKC” post.

^My NE Ohio disc golf primer.

^hooray abusing footnotes!

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The fact that WFNY has made it to the five year mark is something to be celebrated. Rick, Andrew, and Scott should be commended for bringing such a quality group of writers together who have diverse opinions, no agendas, and work well together. I, like many of you, was a fan of this site for years before I received the honor of joining up with these guys. In a little less than two years on the job, more than anything I’m amazed by the community of readers, commenters, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends we’ve built. I also enjoy corresponding with these guys on the e-mail chains on a daily basis. This crew has some of the most intelligent, level-headed, and funny people who care about Cleveland sports that you’ll find anywhere on the web, and I’m reminded of it not just this but every other day.

The choices that I selected from my own personal WFNY vault reflect on some of the more passionate issues for me. With the Thompson piece, I remember that being one of my first pieces that got significant social media love (John Telich and Terry Pluto mentioned it, I believe), and it made me feel like I had arrived in some small way. The pair of Tribe articles were debates with Jon, who is probably the most consistently funny writer that we have. I hated the Ubaldo trade from the start, and that one reminded me that sometimes, your initial reaction to something isn’t baseless or unwarranted. With the Perez piece, it was fun to throw some numbers at one of our bigger numbers’ guys and give my own credo on using closers. I then chose one of my more recent Cavalier Film Rooms on Kyrie. These have been really enjoyable to craft, and I have gotten some of the most positive and heartfelt appreciation from these articles. They’ve given me an opportunity to dig deeper into the Cavaliers’ in-game strategy and execution.

CavalierFilm Room: Smash Mouth Kyrie Irving

Closer Talk: Tie games, position evolution and when to throw your best

Ubaldo Fallout: Antonetti dealing prospects signals ’11-’13 window

Can’t resist the Trist: Thompson making an immediate impact in Wine and Gold

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I feel like I’ve grown up with WFNY. I started when I was 18 and a freshman in college back in April 2009. Now it’s already 2013 and I’m employed in the work force. So for me, even despite a one-year hiatus from the site, it’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 4 years since I joined and 5 years since the site began. It’s truly been a second home for me. It’s undoubtedly been one of the favorite things I’ve ever done in my life. Thank you so much to Scott, Rick, Andrew and the gang, and I’ve had such a joy in working and getting to know all of you over the years.

So here are my three favorite stories behind the stories I wrote at WFNY, not necessarily my three favorite articles I ever wrote.

First, while employed by the Akron Aeros as a media relations intern in 2009, I nearly seriously got in trouble for my criticism of the organization for its handling of Hector Rondon (The Hector Rondon Experiment). Stupid move by me.

Second, Denny Mayo is real and funny. Both are true. And might I add that he volunteered both the poem and photoshop for this post (Attention Cleveland: Step Away From The Ledge (Semifinals Edition)), shortly after I experienced the game 2 LeBron-elbow nightmare in person.

Third, this might actually be my favorite article ever, but my hours of time with Ken Carr (A Tale of Destiny and Fate: Ken Carr, Indians Photographer) truly were extraordinary. He’s a legend and any Tribe fan would have a ball just chatting with him whenever.

Can’t wait for the next 5 years.

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My Favorite Recap: Indians 2, Royals 5: The non-recap recap 

Ends of seasons are hard when your team isn’t going anywhere.  Writing recaps is hard too–you just don’t want to sound like every other game recap that’s going to be out there.  Combine the two and I start to get really frustrated.  This was the recap where I finally just allowed the game to be secondary to everything I was feeling about the Indians at the time.  There was hopelessness and wandering and ennui and all those other things we associate with second half slides in Cleveland.  And it was only the beginning of August.

My Favoritie Non-Recap Pieces:

It’s funny: I came to this site ostensibly as a numbers guy, and while I’ve written plenty about numbers while I’ve been here, I’ve never felt those pieces mattered nearly as much to me as some of the more existential “fan pieces” I’ve written. I love that I’m allowed to do both. I love that there is a place out there that will let me do both and continue to publish my nonsense. I feel really lucky to be here. Happy Birthday, WFNY.

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Wow. Five Years. I came on board in January of 2009. Trying to be a one-man show was just too much work, despite the fact that I loved writing about Cleveland Sports. I had submitted a few pieces here and then to the guys at Waiting For Next Year for the “While We’re Waiting” segment, which were picked up. Then I was lucky enough to be contacted by Rick Grayshock, asking me to come on board. I couldn’t have been more excited to join the team. The rest, as they say, is history.

What you all don’t know is that the WFNY team, the guys at this site, couldn’t be a better group. Zero egos here. Everyone works together to make this site what it is today, which is what I believe is the place to go for all things Cleveland sports. I truly am proud of what we have put together here.

Narrowing down the top two pieces I have written over these four years was not easy. I came up with these four. Ironically, three of the four have to deal with loss.

On Art Modell and national media revisionist history – September 2012

Seattle – We Feel Your Pain – June 2012

The Browns, A Father, A Son, And a Win – November 2011

Losses – I can Take It, i’m from Cleveland – March 2010

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For me, WFNY has always been about community, respect and friendship. To try and count the numbers of ways that WFNY has impacted my life over the last few years would be nearly impossible. With dreams of a sustainable (very) small business dressed as an intense hobby, WFNY has become an integral part of my life. It now officially goes beyond the site though. Even if we all stopped caring about sports, I don’t think it would undo all the relationships that have been cemented. That’s what this place has become for me.

I find nostalgia to be a bit painful and couldn’t go back to read anything I wrote without hating it, so I’ll give you some of the more fun stuff I’ve done.

One of my favorite posts ever is when I did Cleveland Indians motivational posters. I did the majority of these, but I know some were contributed or helped along by the rest of the WFNY staff.

Also with all due respect to all the other podcast guests, I think my favorite thus far was my first conversation with Brian Spaeth about media.

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Ok, If you read this before and thought “Wow, Rick was pretty short.” I turned mine in first, not knowing we were writing essays…

Making Mascots: I think that’s the one most people remember of mine. I have confessed time after time to being a true uniform nerd on the site. And I’m ok being labeled as such. Mascots and helmets and logos are such an interesting part of sports to me. I think it goes back to me completely not paying attention in elementary school while doodling logos. I would spend all of math class drawing the NFL standings by helmet. Or trying to come up with the best players ever to wear certain numbers. Yep. Should make sense why this post if one of my favorites : Best Uniforms in Sports. Or the series I did about Cleveland athletesBy the Numbers‘. Loved that series. Even though I may have gotten one wrong.

The one thing I never expected when we started WFNY was the number of unbelievable experiences that it would provide. Things I would have never gotten to do without WFNY. Meeting athletes. Being in the locker room after LeBron hit the game winner against Orlando. Getting to know some of the really great people behind the scenes with our favorite teams. And this bucket list item.

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Most of my favorite works obviously revolve around the Cavalier and the NBA, but there were a couple Browns posts I’ve done that looking back on them now, I still really enjoy. My least favorite Browns player of all time was Derek Anderson, and in the wake of his release from the Browns, DA made his now infamous remarks blasting Browns fans and I wrote this in response: Unceremonious Sanctimony: Fallout in the Wake of the End of the DA Era

One of my all time favorite TV shows is Seinfeld. I own all the seasons on DVD and I watch them quite frequently. One of my favorite episodes is the Festivus episode, and in the spirit of that episode, combined with extreme frustration with the Browns, I wrote this: The Airing of Grievances

One of my favorite things about WFNY is that from time to time we allow ourselves to stray from sports a little bit to talk about some of our other passions in life. For me, this meant an opportunity to write about music on a sports site. When Craig organized our Rocktober series a couple years ago, I seized the moment to write about how music and sports are intertwined and how they’ve both impacted my life: Rocktober #7: Sports & Music, and the Bonds That Tie

Moving on to the NBA, when Michael Jordan was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame, I took the opportunity to write this reflection on the difficult relationship between Cavs fans and MJ: Michael Jordan and the Cleveland Cavaliers – A Labor of Hatred and Love

Back when all the speculation about LeBron James’ future was swirling, I wrote a post about his free agency and the reasons why he would stay in Cleveland. Obviously, I was wrong about the outcome, but I liked this post because it forced me to really study up on the NBA CBA and has been invaluable in writing about the NBA over the years: New Jersey Has Cap Space, The Sky Is Falling: Part I

This next one was difficult to look back and read. It was what I wrote before the last game LeBron James would ever play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was meant as a rallying cry, but in reality it just reflects the unflinching confidence I had in LeBron. I meant every word of it and even though I know how it turned out, I still look back on that afternoon with a certain fondness for that Cavalier team: Cavaliers Can “Rise Above” Tonight

I don’t need much introduction for this one. This was what I wrote the morning after “The Decision”: LeBron, Loyalty, and the Suffering of Cleveland Sports Fans

And finally, my favorite piece I’ve written, is easily the thoughts that poured out of me upon watching LeBron James win his Championship in Miami. This article represents me more than anything I’ve ever written for this site. It’s all about closure, learning from past mistakes, and always being able to be excited and optimistic about my favorite sports franchise in the world, the Cleveland Cavaliers: So, Dan Gilbert Was Wrong

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Five years. Five freaking years. I know this is treading on broken record territory given our annual Thanksgiving post, but I still cannot believe we have done this whole blogging thing every single day for five years. The players, the coaches, the writers, the other Cleveland-addled sites — so many individuals and entities have come and gone since February of 2008, yet WFNY is not just alive and well, but it continues to grow. We’ve had very little to praise, even less to celebrate. A rose growing from a crack in the concreter, WFNY has been, and will continue to be, a web location fueled entirely by passion.

This little hobby of ours has provided me with experiences which I’ll never forget and has allowed me to meet individuals, both close and acquaintance, whom would’ve merely been words on a page, motions on a screen or sound bytes on a radio. It has allowed me to grow as a fan, as a writer and — most importantly — as a person. I continue to be grateful for every aspect of our URL-turned-lifestyle: the idea, the execution and the people who allow for it to happen — all of you.

Nearly 3,500 posts later, I’m tasked with picking a mere handful that are considered to be my favorite. Over the years, my voice as a writer, and method of delivery, has changed (for better or worse) considerably. What started as Deadspin-like quips regarding the repackaging of other’s work turned into investigative beat-type work which morphed into more narrative reportage — curiosity married with narrative, formed into stories which I felt (and still feel) have lasting value.

On the long form side, it all starts with my first human interest piece in a profile of STO’s Katie Witham. This spawned into my 4,000-word pieces on Antawn Jamison and, later, Brian Brennan. The Brennan piece was particularly meaningful as a writer given that I had zero individual access with the subject of the actual profile.

Last year, when the Indians were no longer playing baseball and the NFL and NBA focused on their respective lockouts, Craig organized the Rocktober concept that allowed each of us to branch out from the everyday grind of sports. The result, one of my favorite pieces to date, the root of my hip-hop fandom and the Cleveland ties.

This all funnels down to what may very well be my favorite type of piece to write in the form of narrative journalism; research and reporting meshed with storytelling and inherent curiosity. The product of this appreciation, thus far, has netted me pieces on Kyrie Irving, Daniel Gibson and Justin Masterson.

My second-favorite piece is undoubtedly my sidebar column which depicted the final game of Jamison as a member of the Cavaliers — the inherent symbolism in the close was potentially the best I’ve been able to produce as a writer. And finally, my favorite piece is one that I feel not only came out the best from a writing standpoint, but is one that poses a question that has yet to be answered: Is Trevor Bauer really eccentric or just smarter than the rest of us?

I hope it doesn’t take five more years to derive an answer, but if it does, I hope you’re all still here with us as we find out. Cheers.

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Finally, I just wanted to close this post by once again thanking the readers of WFNY, with special acknowledgment for those who regularly comment and leave us feedback. I don’t want this to feel like lip service (or, I guess keyboard service in this case). Truly, this site wouldn’t be what it is without you guys and it’s incredibly humbling that you all continue to take time out of your day to read the words we write about Cleveland Sports, Inc. Thank you.

And for those of you who have been here from the beginning, I leave you with this inside joke: TK NK