Game after game after game, they venture to their familiar seat, saying hello to the familiar usher and familiar neighbors along the familiar aisle. Perhaps they notice a some folks weren’t able to make it to this particular affair as strangers inhabit a few seats in their section. Through the years, behaviors and even conversations have gone long past repetition to form into habit before solidifying as traditions. Stories of times long past might have been said so many times to cause half the section roll their eyes, but the warmth from knowing these backstories has also woven these friends of spatial proximity into a tightly knit community. These groups make up the diehards every single sport franchise requires to survive troublesome years either on the field or in the local economy, while also providing a special bond of kinship for those who inhabit it.
WFNY might not have physical seats, but a significant reason the site has been able to withstand a decade of existence despite an ever-changing media landscape is due to the diehard fans who have shown their support through reading, commenting, subscribing, and even patronizing (or Patreon-izing as it were).1 An electronic community, dubbed the Commentariat, has formed beneath the articles creating a WFNY subculture subsisting on countdowns, memes, GIFs, and detailed historical fiction about the contents of the porta-potties during the battle of Stalingrad.2
During the early years, Rick Grayshock ran a series of interviews with many of the established commenters to help foster the relationships already building. Helmets of orange were worn in Targets across Northeast Ohio as the WFNY community learned Mark’s daughter refused to wear a Philly Phanatic shirt, REEPJP was in a bowling league under the name Sofa King Suite, DGriff wrote a comic strip series called Zorphbert and Fred, Stin4U stole warning track dirt at the last Cleveland Indians game at Municipal Stadium, and MattyFos batting music would be Stronger by Kanye West.3
Reader engagement has been a key element over the years. One popular feature was the WFNY 12 Days of Christmas campaigns. Giving cool gifts to supporters, while also giving them an opportunity to share their favorite Cleveland sporting memories. Without those calls for input, no one would have ever known Pat Leonard and JNeids both view the 2008 Monday Night Football win over the New York Giants as their favorite.
As with any long-running media venture, crossover events were inevitable. Some of my favorite articles over the years have been from the WFNY community as special guest posts. Here a few snippets.
Garry_Owen with a Chiastic Tome about duty, honor, and country as told through his experiences watching Army end a 14-game losing streak to rival Navy.
And though that individual West Point experience was not mine, I believe that our shared Army service and experience unites us. In that way, at least for one December afternoon every year, West Point is me; I am West Point. And while I consider my Navy and Marine Corps counterparts to be my brethren for 364 days each year, for that one December afternoon each year, “those people,” as Robert E. Lee (USMA class of 1829) would say, are my sworn adversaries. To that end, what you are reading is an unapologetic Army viewpoint. Get your soggy Navy perspective elsewhere.
Pat Leonard went full Wentz-wagon as he did not share the viewpoint of the Browns front office who believed 2017 MVP-candidate Carson Wentz could never be a Top 20 quarterback. The article even became a jumping point to a season full of Hue faces. Had more of them been happy, perhaps he would have continued in 2017.
I don’t see Carson Wentz as a “project” at all. Of the QBs expected to go highest in the NFL draft, I would give that mantle to Paxton Lynch. From my perspective, Wentz has the most experience taking snaps under center, calling audibles at the line, making pre-snap reads, and doing what you would generally expect to see from a pro style offense.
Frank Ryan emerged to describe the life after the Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship for a desperate city.
Spending a lifetime in pursuit of something and reaching that goal is the sweetest sense of satisfaction you will ever know. Nothing will ever replicate that feeling. How can you be invested in something when you realize that even if your guys are the one standing in victory it will not give you remotely what you have already tasted once?
Patreon and YouTube pushes have been ways y’all have helped keep the WFNY boat from taking on water. Yes, through it all, you’ve been here with us as the site has navigated uneven seas. Wait, Garry is going to chastise me for a soggy Navy perspective with these maritime references…
Let us instead end with the perspective given from our favorite game show and Commentariat engagement article about WFNY at 10 years: Rational! Snark! Or Conspiracy!
Rational: 10 years of an independent sports website despite many of the bigger platforms such as Grantland and Sports on Earth crumbling is an incredible achievement. Life happens, yet somehow WFNY has continued to move forward.
Conspiracy: WFNY has bandied about as the supposed alternate to MSM sports news. After 10 years of watching Fox Sports pivot to video, CBS switch to accumulation algorithms, and ESPN lay off sports writers in droves, everything is finally becoming clear. Pull back the purple curtain to where the levers are being pulled. WFNY is MSM. MSM is WFNY.
Snark: Eh, reading WFNY is better than working.
Just to celebrate #WFNYX we made some new gear!
- Here is the five-year anniversary article from five years ago. [↩]
- I’d link to it but if you don’t know, then you won’t understand. It’s better this way. [↩]
- Note: later altered to be a Taylor Swift song intro followed by Kanye’s “I’ll let you finish, but… ” line and then breaking into Stronger. [↩]