July 22, 2014

Jim Brennan’s Colony, and the community that fosters Cleveland sports fandom: While We’re Waiting

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It’s been almost two years since I posted at WFNY regularly, but when Jacob asked if I could fill in for him on WWW a couple days ago, I said “yes” without really thinking about it. And, well, maybe I should have thought a bit more about my ability to authoritatively write about Cleveland sports, and share items I find insightful about Cleveland sports. The years I’ve spent away from home continue to grow, while adding a wife and kid have shrunk the time once dedicated to staying on top of things from afar. The enthusiasm still exists, but I’ve never felt less informed or up-to-speed on Cleveland sports and more disconnected from where I grew up and spent most of my life. Then something happened this week and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about home.

Most WFNY readers are probably aware of the news, or at least the headline, that Jim Brennan, the owner of a bar and restaurant on the near Eastside in Cleveland Heights was murdered during a robbery attempt at his Colony on Monday afternoon. Since I received a series of text messages from friends alerting me to the developing story, I’ve constantly run Twitter searches, visited all the local Cleveland TV news sites, and refreshed Cleveland.com for updates, reaction, and reflection on this tragedy. I gobbled up all things Johnny Manziel on Draft night, bought the shirt for my kid, and monitored all manner of reactions to the draft pick. But nothing has me thinking of home, reflecting on home, and engaged on what’s happened at home more than this devastating loss. Like most familiar with Mr. Brennan and the Colony, I can’t believe it’s happened.

I have had more meals at the Colony than any other place except for the home where I grew up. I know I am not unique in this regard. I learned to play pop-a-shot there some 25 years ago as a second- or third-grader, and go in and visit every time I am back in Cleveland (3-5 times/year) now. I suspect many can chart the same history. We overserved ourselves chicken fingers as kids, and Christmas Ales as adults.

When the news came out Monday, my Twitter timeline and Facebook feed were populated with people saying they “grew up in that place” or were “raised there,” and I kept seeing the neon script “Colony” sign show up as the profile photo for folks on Facebook. Everyone knew Mr. Brennan in one way or another, whether it was personally outside of or before the Colony or just through interaction at the bar. There were an estimated 1,200 people who showed up for a vigil on Tuesday night. A t-shirt design spread around as a way to benefit all the affected Cedar-Lee merchants, and a crowdfunding effort was quickly started to help cover the staff while the restaurant is closed (it sailed well past the halfway mark and was closing in on its goal on just the first day — Update: just over 24 hours in, it’s at 650 donors and $11k past its goal).

This was obviously a shocking, sudden loss — we lost someone who meant so much to so many at a place that means so much to so many more. There were countless kids who went there for dinner after CYO games and ended up going for beers there regularly, or even food with their own kids, years later. I saw the head basketball coach at Shaker, the rival high school of Heights (down the street from Colony), tweet that he would go there after every Shaker home game. A wide-ranging and diverse crowd from across the eastside made and make it their default spot, but whether you wanted to or not, you’d always run into or know someone there when you walked through. I’m sure they exist but I’ve never been able to find something like it in various places in more than a decade away from Cleveland. The places I’d go to around me now in suburban DC are many of the same ones popping up in the several “shopping villages” back home, and usually if it’s not a chain, it’s the latest trend in a regular cycle of turnover. Places like the Colony persist in fewer numbers, and are almost impossible to start and cultivate anew now.

This is a Cleveland sports blog, and it’s silly to try and somehow shoehorn sports into this tragedy. But I will say that Jim Brennan’s Colony (and all the time spent there) is exactly the kind of place that makes us so fiercely proud of where we come from, and the most often way we wear that pride on our sleeve is through our sports teams. After spending years away, I’ve not seen a city or fanbase, for better or worse, wear their pride on their sleeves more than Cleveland — when we go away to college, or are relocated, or move away, we’re quick to let everyone know where we came from, and who we’re rooting for in an often too overwhelming way. In reality, the sports teams are secondary to and a part of the larger community. The pride in the community comes first, and the expression is so often through sports. And there’s no better community than the one that the Colony, led by Jim Brennan, has created. There are equals, I’m sure — you have your place in your part of town. But none are better, and none that has been such a part of so many peoples’ lives.

So when a Cleveland sports team does win a championship, thousands will go out to celebrate, thousands of Cleveland expats will return home, and the places they’ll gravitate to are the ones they know best and have most been a part of their history in that community. That may be on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, Detroit Road in Lakewood, East 185th, somewhere in Columbus or wherever it is where you’re from that made you a Cleveland sports fan. For me, it’s the Colony, and I’m just sad the man mostly responsible for it won’t be there.

(Photo: Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer)

So, about all of these changes at WFNY…

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We’ve received your emails, read your comments and scanned your tweets. Things around these parts look a bit different lately and change can be a scary thing. As we have over the past five years, we here at WFNY strive to not only bring you as much quality content we can on a day-to-day basis, but do so in a manner which not only keeps in line with the ever-changing web-based landscape, but ensures that you, dear reader, are provided with the best in-game experience possible. While we can’t do much in the way of dollar drafts and new scoreboards, we can ensure you that our pages will never be covered in snow when you log in every morning.

So why the changes? What’s different? Who are you guys and what’d you do with my WFNY? Let’s start at the top, shall we?

[Read more...]

Leitch: “Cleveland sports exist to make you unhappy.”

Yesterday, Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch was WFNY’s guest at the Browns game. He is in town as part of his “Leitch Across America” series. Today, the first part of his series on Cleveland is up.

“The last Cleveland championship was in 1964, by the Browns two years before the Super Bowl began, which means no one has any recollection or proof it ever happened,” writes Leitch. “Cleveland sports exist to make you unhappy. Not furious — the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments. They can’t work you up like that anymore. It’s just a general, vague, unceasing unhappiness. They’re a dull ache that never goes away; they’re a rash that won’t fade.”

We look forward to reading more about Will’s first stay in Cleveland, and the sports teams we care so much about.

[Related: Cleveland Browns missed a big opportunity with first impression]

While We’re Waiting… Browns face former Steelers standout

While We’re Waiting is the daily morning link roundup that WFNY has been serving up for breakfast for the last several years. We hope you enjoy the following recent collection of yummy and nutritious Cleveland sports-related articles. Anything else to add? Email us at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Looking at keys for the Dolphins, including this former division rival: “I thought a lot of Wallace’s success in Pittsburgh came from Ben Roethlisberger extending plays and being able to find him deep. If Haden can eliminate him from the game like he has the past three times he’s gone up against him, it will be a major plus for a Browns secondary that might be without Buster Skrine on Sunday.” [Chris Pokorny/Dawgs By Nature] [Read more...]

The Diff: Cleveland futility, NBA Draft and Indians streak

The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, The Diff provided an update on the various top Cleveland Indians prospects. This week, I’m covering three varying Cleveland sports topics.

The Diff

WFNY Mentality

Back in September, I wrote a lengthy article about the worst three-season stretches in Cleveland sports history. The formula was simple: I looked at the longest continuous stretches of last-place finishes for the Cavaliers, Indians and Browns, when all three were active. Barely, by just 2 games over Minnesota, the 2012 Indians stopped a city-record three consecutive last-place streak from occurring. But how do things stack up in using a different approach to Cleveland sports futility? [Read more...]

New WFNY shirt designs available now!

When we introduced the first run of WFNY shirts from GV Art and Design, we really didn’t know what to expect.

It was a little scary ordering all of those shirts without having a clue if anyone would actually want them. Well, we knew we could give some away, but we were pretty unsure if anyone would actually purchase one.

Let’s just say we were blown away by the response.

We thought it might take months to empty the inventory. Instead, they sold out in just a couple weeks. We can’t say thank you enough. We’re honored that you would help us “promote the brand”.

[Read more...]

12 Days of a Cleveland Christmas: Day 1

For those who may be new to the site in the last 12 months, things get a little interesting around here at Christmas time. As a way to say thank you for reading and supporting WFNY, we like to give things away. You know, things that Cleveland sports fans want. We’ve got a nice looking prize vault this year. Hopefully you will agree and participate.

Here’s how the giveaway works. Every weekday from now until Christmas Eve, we will give away a Cleveland themed prize. To enter, you need only to respond in the comment section in the appropriate manner. The winner each day will be randomly selected and notified by email. (Which means you better make sure that the email address you use to comment here is a legit one.) I cannot guarantee delivery by Christmas. Some of the prizes (like tickets) haven’t even been printed and mailed to us yet. We’ll do our best with the things we have in hand though. Only one member of a household can enter each day, and only one winner per household during the length of this contest. Just spreading the love around.

Let’s get to today’s giveaway- [Read more...]

“Cursed” Cleveland Sports Might Get a Documentary

I was checking out Scene Magazine’s website this morning and I saw a post about a new documentary seeking funding via Kickstarter.  Of course the movie is set to be called Cursed.  What else could you possibly call a movie about Cleveland sports?  Ugh.

In all fairness to the movie makers, it doesn’t sound like this will be a movie draped in misery and self-loathing.  Anyone who really looks into the sorrow over Cleveland sports failures will undoubtedly find some level of faith, tradition and loyalty.  Those are certainly qualities that we are all proud of as Cleveland sports fans.  At the same time, I have this growing feeling to not enable the cursed mentality to define me personally as a sports fan anymore.

Before I totally come off like a hypocrite, let me explain. [Read more...]

Farewell to Rocktober Version 1.0

We decided to go outside of the comfort zone this year in terms of site content and our worst fears were completely unrealized.  We had no idea what to expect when we thought about doing Rocktober, but we were so happy to find that most people rolled with it and enjoyed it.  We promise that we won’t get too far off the reservation and we will try not to over-indulge, but it is nice to know that we can occasionally get a hall pass to go outside the normal confines of Cleveland sports.  For that, let me just say thanks on behalf of everyone at WFNY.

While we are talking about hall passes, how would you feel about giving us one more?  what would you think of us doing some “Best of 2011″ types of articles?  Maybe a couple each for music, movies and TV?

While We’re Waiting… Tribe Trade Partners, Browns Behaving and Striking Out Harper

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com

Big thanks to Cre8ive Juice for the new WWW images. Great job Michael!

“So while the North Coast has visions of Carlos Beltran coming to Cleveland, it’s not even all that clear that Beltran would want to come here, which is likely the reason that the Indians are targeting guys like the Cubs’ Jeff Baker, who is apparently not being made available by Chicago, despite their organizational standing and their ability to flip an ancillary part in a non-contending season for pieces that could help them in the future.

Can you hear it now? Pouring out of your radio in the car…“The Indians need a Beltran and they go out and ask about or acquire a guy I’ve never heard of. Yeah, GREAT move Indians!”

Well, if they’re asking on Baker, they’re actually doing exactly what I had hoped that they would do as Baker is a versatile RH bat who can play 5 positions and is under club control through the end of NEXT season. Yes, Baker has a .746 OPS this season as a Utility Man for the Cubs, but he’s played 1B, 2B, 3B, RF, and LF this season while posting a .902 OPS vs. LHP. Remember when I wrote that the Indians should be looking for Casey Blake of about 6 years ago to be the versatile RH bat that they could move around the infield not just this year, but beyond? That’s a guy like Jeff Baker…” [Cousineau/The DiaTribe] [Read more...]

5 Favoite Sports Stories: Browns Commit Highway Robbery

With all the negative sports stories coming from Cleveland this year, I thought I’d run down my five favorite Cleveland sports stories of 2010. They may not be the ‘top stories’ from the year, but they are the ones that resonate with me the most. Each day this week you can read my take and chime in with your own memory of the events. Today we start with #5:

The Browns commit highway robbery.

As one who was very much old enough to remember the knife slowly inserted and twisting in my back during The Drive, it felt good to finally get a little revenge on the Broncos.

At the time of the deal, it seemed a bit of an after-thought. Randy Lerner had brought in his ‘football man’ in Mike Holmgren, who wasted little time in securing the services of Tom Heckert and giving Eric Mangini another year at the helm. They reviewed the QB situation and determined that neither Derek Anderson nor Brady Quinn were the answer. Anderson found his way out West, taking up a roster spot in Arizona. Meanwhile Heckert and Holmgren started their QB platoon with Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. [Read more...]

Cleveland Athlete Twitter Tourney: The Finals

We must say goodbye to rookies Carlton Mitchell (who was at least good enough to chat with us) and Joe Haden who were up against stiff competition in the semi-finals.

And so it has come down to two. The overwhelming favorite- Josh Cribbs and the Cavaliers top guard Mo Williams will now compete head-to-head for the title of Cleveland Twitter Champ. I remind you that the contest is not about who your favorite player is on the field or court as the case may be, but who puts out the best tweets. Whose twitter account reigns supreme? [Read more...]

Cleveland Athlete Twitter Tourney: Final 4

Two days of voting down. We’ve whittled our field of 16 down to 4. Two very close races yesterday. Mo Williams edged Eric Wright by a narrow margin (perhaps vindication for my original top ten?) and Shaun Rogers gave rookie WR Carlton Mitchell a run for his money. Over 1,300 votes were cast propelling our top 4.

So let’s get right to it. In our first semi-final match-up we have the #1 seed Josh Cribbs (@JoshCribbs16) taking on the 4 seed rookie CB Joe Haden (@joehaden23).

Our second semi-final features the only non-Brown to make it out of round 1, Mo Williams (@mogotti2) who was the #3 seed taking on WR Carlton Mitchell (@clmitch18).

Ready…set…vote! [Read more...]

The Cleveland Athlete Twitter Tourney: Round 2

Thanks to Scott for helping with our technical issues yesterday. To see the voting results from round one click here. To see the Top Ten list that started it all click here.

Today we move on to the second round. One thing we learned from round one – it’s good to be a Cleveland Brown. The only non-Brown Twitter user to move on was Cavs guard Mo Williams, and he’ll face stiff competition this round from Eric Wright.

Remember, the contest isn’t about production on the field. This contest is purely based on who has the better Twitter account.

Here are your second round match-ups: [Read more...]

Cleveland Athlete Twitter Account Tourney (Polls Fixed)

Alright. Yesterday I gave you my top ten list of Cleveland Sports twitter accounts. For the most part I think I nailed it. In fact there really was only one omission that I heard about- Eric Wright. To be honest with you, 90% on one of these lists sounds pretty good to me.

However, far be it for me to deny you the Cleveland Sports fans your chance to have your voices heard. So we’re going to do a little Twitter tournament. Sixteen Cleveland athletes will compete head to head for a chance to be called the Cleveland Twitter Champ. Each day you will be given a shot to determine a round of the tournament.

Sound easy? It should be. And if the Cleveland stars want to lobby their followers for a victory, far be it for me to say no. (There you go, Eric Wright!) [Read more...]

Top Ten Cleveland Sports Twitter Accounts

A few things before we get to the list. This started out to be a top ten Cleveland Athletes list, but as I dug into it, I realized that there is a severe lack of really interesting twitter accounts in our pro sports teams. The top few are very good, but outside of that, not very exciting. So I expanded the list beyond athletes. Full disclosure- I would put a few WFNY accounts up against nearly any of these, but in the interest of fairness we will consider WFNY writers off limits for the list.

So here we go, the top ten Cleveland Sports Twitter Accounts:

1. Josh Cribbs (@JoshCribbs16) Cleveland’s most beloved athlete is also a top tweeter. Whether he’s talking about movies, music, food, his family, or the Browns Josh brings it. He posts great pictures to his account as well. Seriously, what other professional athlete posts a picture of himself in an Easter Bunny costume? Keep it up Josh. You are Cleveland’s best.

[Read more...]

One on One with Mark

“Leave the indoor games to the finesse conferences down south.” Finesse, that’s pretty funny. Oh wait, you were serious?- Mark

Not everyone is a comedian. You have to have balance in the comments section. Otherwise there is no real discussion, just a series one-liners. Frequent commenter Mark Skog brings solid opinions to the table. Now it’s his turn at the plate in our commenter interview line up. I am impressed that he decided to rock the Browns helmet at Target, ala MattyFos. Perhaps this can become a trademark of WFNY commenters? I want to see more pics of you guys in department stores rocking the Orange dome!

1. Favorite sport to watch in person.

I am going to throw you all for a loop a bit – University of Tennessee football. Go Vols! When I went to college all those many years ago, one of the first guys I met was Ed White, a huge Volunteer fan. He grew up going to all of their games. Given that our small school didn’t have a team, UT quickly became the team of choice amongst friends. Ed and his family have been kind enough to pass tickets my way and we’ve been going to games each year for almost 20 years now. The seats are on the 50, about 15 rows up. Big time college football is an amazing experience and they do it up right down south. [Read more...]

One on One with REEPJP

….or they could sign him since he’s probably the only other person that could walk through the special “Nate Robinson Only” door they installed in their locker room without ducking. They can’t just let it go to waste… -REEPJP

You remember Delonte West’s correspondent piece on Jim Rome? You remember Rome saying that the bar for those pieces was just raised? Yep. Joe may be the new standard bearer for commenter interviews. Not really because of his answers, or pictures or even his offer of free beverages. Mostly it’s because he had the stones to link the wedding video rap. How player is that?

1. Favorite sport to watch in person.

Hmm….I guess I’m going to have to go with the crowd on this one and say baseball, although hockey is a close 2nd. Sometimes I feel like I must be every local team’s marketing dream…I am a sucker for “free” giveaways (is it really free if you paid for your ticket?) and promotional nights…..”you mean it’s buck-a-bone night AND they’re giving out free rally towels! Honey, cancel all of our plans tonight, we HAVE to go to this game!” Quite honestly, when I’m going to the game anymore it takes a night like this to convince me lady to come with me. Anyways, baseball is meant to be watched in person….grab a hotdog, a few brewskis, a bag of peanuts and I’m good to go. [Read more...]

One on One with Dgriff13

Dawn is an artist. No really. She makes web comics and is a graphic artist. You can check out her work here. And here. And, she’s a girl. Who reads WFNY. I know, crazy huh?

1. Favorite sport to watch in person

I have only seen 1 Browns game, but football is by far the most exciting! I saw them play the Eagles the season the Eagles went to the Super Bowl.. the Browns were awful as usual.. but fans were still there, cheering, barking, yelling, stomping.. I felt the stadium move. I prayed for a less than 20 point loss just have some dignity, and the game actually went into OT… only to lose in the end by a field goal. Typical. [Read more...]

One on One with Stin4u

“Don’t forget Miss Cleo predicted Lebron would go to the Wizards….IT’S A LOCK”- stin4u

The commenter interviews continue today. Up next is Justin, but you might know him better as stin4u…

1. Favorite sport to watch in person.

Always has and always will be baseball. To me there is nothing better than a day spent in the bleachers at a tribe game sipping a cool adult beverage and trying desperately to get the left fielder on either team to acknowledge your presence. My dad is most to blame for this, it’s completely cliche but the first time he took me to a game at Municipal Stadium and we walked out of the tunnel and I saw the grass and all the seats I was hooked for life. Not to mention I’d never gotten to pee in a trough before and that was ultra cool! [Read more...]