General, WWW

American History WFNYX

Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

And, more importantly…Happy Birthday, WFNY!!!

As Scott mentioned yesterday, we are kicking off a week of celebration here at Waiting For Next Year as we look back at ten years of service to Cleveland sports. We have a lot planned for the week that I’m really excited about. You’re going to be hearing from our current staff as well as some old voices making a return to these pages for this event.

To pull back the curtain just a bit here, we decided a couple weeks ago that each of the While We’re Waiting segments this week would specifically talk about our ten-year anniversary. I had a pretty good idea what #TeamThurdsday was going to do, I knew what Mike was going to for Wednesday, I have a guess of what Craig’s will be on Friday, and I knew Scott would crush his piece on Monday opening the week. But I wasn’t sure at all what I wanted to say about this.

Then I got to thinking about the number eight. Wait, what? The number eight? On our 10th birthday? Yeah, the number eight. There’s something about years that end in eight that seem to represent profound transitional moments in my life. In 1988, I was in second-grade and starting my first full year at a new school in a new city. In 1998, I graduated from high school. And then, in 2008, I had just started a new job when Rick Grayshock, Scott Sargent, and myself decided to team up and form WFNY.

So now it’s 2018 and WFNY has been a thing for ten years. It seems hard to grasp that we’ve been at this for a decade, but at the same time, it’s hard to remember my life pre-WFNY. So how did WFNY get here? How did this website last for so long when so many peers rose and fall over the same period of time?

I honestly think a lot of it has to do with how the site was formed. So let’s have a little history lesson, if you don’t mind. In summer of 2007, I was in a pretty dark place in my life. I was miserable in the job I was working, I hated the drive to my job, I wasn’t happy with my living situation. I felt isolated and alone. It’s one of the few periods in my life in which I recall being truly unhappy. And while I was unhappy with my personal situation at that time, I also was thoroughly unhappy with how sports were being covered. At some point during that summer, I decided to do something about all the things making me unhappy. I got a new job, I found a new place to live, and I started my own sports blog.

There’s no doubt I was highly inspired by Bill Simmons back then. In fact, my first ever post on my blog was a live blog of the ALCS. I referred to Boston as the “Red Sux” and I made a horrible joke about John Elway’s dick. I thought I was supposed to be edgy. I realized very quickly, though, that I wasn’t good at being edgy and I wasn’t funny whatsoever. I was never going to be successful at that. I had to remember why I wanted to start writing about sports in the first place.

Growing up, I always loved writing and I always loved sports. I contemplated going into journalism at one point in high school, but I went another direction with my life. I have no regrets there, as writing has only worked better for me as a hobby, but around 2007 I was getting really tired of the way sports were being covered. It was all just stoic news reporting. Trade A just happened, Team C just signed Player B. But there was little analysis. WHY did the trade happen? Who does it benefit? How can it work for each team? What is the fallout of the trade and how does it potentially impact the future?

You had to dig into the world of sports blogs back then to find that kind of stuff. There were some exceptions. I certainly remember consuming every word of Brian Windhorst’s blog for the Akron Beacon-Journal. But generally, the deep analysis was just harder to find. And I just felt like I could contribute to that. So I changed the focus on my site and I began to dig deep into the news. I would report what was happening, and then I would go on and on (sometimes for over 2,000 words) on why it happened and whether or not it was a good thing for Cleveland sports.

Around that time, I began to notice Rick Grayshock’s work at Halftime Adjustments as well as Scott Sargent’s site at Cleveland Sports Minute.1 I would leave comments on Rick’s articles, he would comment on mine. But there was tons of overlap in content. We were pretty much always writing about the same things. At some point, Rick sent me an email saying something along the lines of “Hey, you know, we’re always writing about the same things. We should just team up. Would you be interested in combining our sites into one?”

I quickly rejected Rick’s offer. I wanted to prove I could do this on my own. My site was only a month or two old at that point and I felt like I still had work to do. I was also an idiot. Trying to manage a site by yourself and finding time to have fresh content on it daily is an epic task, but I had no clue. I just felt like I had to prove something to myself.

I no longer remember which piece it was, but a couple weeks after that I wrote something and Barry McBride from The Orange and Brown Report somehow saw it and linked to it. I got over a thousand views on it! I had made it!! One thousand people read something I wrote. It felt amazing. Did I mention I was an idiot?

Sometime around then, I got another email from Rick. This time, he said something like “Hey, I talked to Scott Sargent and he’s interested in teaming up. We’re going to start something new. We wanted to give you one last chance to join us.” This time, I was more interested. I had made it, after all. I got a thousand views on something I wrote. What more did I have to accomplish on my own? Plus, I really liked both Rick and Scott’s work, and the chance to work with both of them seemed really exciting. And finally, I was starting to realize that as my responsibilities at my new job quickly grew, I was having less time to write for my site and doing it all by myself was getting to be a lot of work. So I told Rick I was in, and WFNY was born.

We didn’t have a lot of goals when we started. We had no idea if our site would grow into anything meaningful or if it would just be a labor of love for ourselves. We did set some ground rules for ourselves. We wanted the site to be family-friendly. We wouldn’t swear in our articles and we wouldn’t use clickbaity images of mostly-naked women. We would highly moderate our comments to ensure we were a place for high-level sports discussion. There would be no flame wars and/or name calling on our site. Finally, we wouldn’t dwell on the negatives of Cleveland sports. We weren’t going to feed into the darkness and self-loathing. We came up with a tagline to represent our goals.

…a tradition of hope, passion, and misery

Yes, being Cleveland sports fans we were well versed in heartbreak and disappointment, hence the misery part. But we put the misery last on the list for a reason. The hope and passion came first. And that was represented in our name. We loved the dual-meaning of the name. Waiting For Next Year. Most people assume that’s a negative, in that we never win this year so we’re always waiting for the next year. But the waiting is an important part of that. If Cleveland fans were bad fans, we would have just given up a long time ago. But we’re always eagerly waiting for that next season. That’s the hope and the passion that we wanted to capture with this website.

We never set out for this to be our job. It was never about making money. We’ve always more or less done just enough to cover our costs of operating. It was about the hope and passion. And over time, we grew our community. Our comments section was a somewhat famous refuge from the vileness of anonymous message boards. We developed a niche and a brand, and year after year, when decisions about the direction of the site have had to be made, we’ve had to lean on that brand and identity to help inform our decisions.

I don’t recall the three of us discussing adding on other writers initially. But it wasn’t too long before we realized, as the site was growing, that it was getting to be a lot for just the three of us. So we added Craig Lyndall and DP. Those two expanded our horizons and made the site better. Eventually, we decided we wanted to have someone covering the news on the weekends. So we invited Denny Mayo, Jacob Rosen, and Brendan Porath to form our first weekend crew. Those guys absolutely killed it for the site and we saw exponential growth. From that point on, the site has brought in countless writers, far too many for me to name them all, but every single one has left their mark on WFNY and I thank every single one of them.

There’s so much more I could say about ten years of this website, and I wish I had the time to say it all. But this post is already dragging on far too long. I just wanted to end this by mentioning a few things. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank a handful of people who were a huge help to the site in its early days. Special shoutouts to the likes of Jason McIntyre, Dan Labbe, Barry McBride, Kelly Dwyer, Matt Moore, Henry Abbott, Dan Devine, Terry Pluto, John Krolik, Conrad Kaczmarek, David Zavac, Amar Panchmatia, Mike Brenkus, Dawn Griffin, John Young, and oh so many more that I’m sure I’m forgetting. Whether it be sharing links to our site, offering help and advice, providing service, or just being friends to the site, all have played a part in us still being here in some way.

Also, I want to make sure to give a special shoutout to Rick Grayshock. WFNY wouldn’t exist without him and even though he may not be part of the site anymore, he’s forever a part of our legacy. I want to say thank you to Craig Lyndall. When Rick made the decision to step away, Craig was the natural person to take his seat at the ownership table. Craig works tirelessly for the site and constantly pushes us to look at things in new ways.

And finally, a thank you, of course, to Scott Sargent. I’m under no illusion that my role in WFNY has much to do with it still being here today. While I still try to do as much as I can for the site on the backend, my contributions to the front pages of the site have dwindled over the years. Without Scott, WFNY would be long gone. We may be a partnership, but it’s Scott’s direction and leadership that has guided WFNY to sustain for ten years. Our roles with the site have changed over the years, but Scott has always pushed everyone to be better and nobody has cared more about the quality and professionalism of the content we deliver than Scott.

I’ll end this by thanking you, the readers as well. None of this would really matter if nobody was around to read what we wrote. I’ve had a blast doing my part for the site over the last ten years. I have no clue what the future holds for us. Like always, we’ll continue to focus on who we are and what we do. Being true to that has gotten us this far, and it will guide us into the future. Thanks for being a part of this site, our lives, and our family.

Happy 10th Birthday, WFNY!

Just to celebrate #WFNYX we made some new gear!

(Patreon supporters can access the special code to buy this gear at cost.)

  1. Scott will have to correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall he also had a general NFL site back then, too. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called anymore. []