“My motivation is the compliments that I will receive from family, friend and colleges. For Cleveland Sports Talk, it's the network that I built that motivates me to continue doing a job well done.”
- Zach Shafron, Founder of CleSportsTalk
While most high school students were busy playing video-games or accomplishing nothing, Zach Shafron, taking his love of Cleveland sports, something we all have, and got the idea to create a website that not only had Cleveland sports related content, but the one-stop source for all things Cleveland sports.
Thus, on May 2011, the CleSportsTalk Facebook page was launched. Cleveland Sports Talk is a website that carries content on the three major Cleveland Sports Teams, along with the Ohio State Buckeyes as well. “It all started because a few of my friends voiced their displeasure about my constant posts on my personal Facebook that had to do with Cleveland Sports,” Shafron explained. “I then created a Facebook page which expanded into Twitter as well." After having an established Twitter and Facebook, Zach decided to expand into a website. “I asked my followers on Facebook and Twitter if there was any interest in writing. Plenty of people responded and became my content generators,” said Shafron.
The success of CleSportsTalk is undeniable today, but when it was started its future was not as certain. “I truly cannot believe how fast Cleveland Sports Talk has grown. When I created the Facebook page, I had no clue it would turn into anything, let alone a professional sports website,” explains Zach. “The support I've received from my friends, my writers and everyone that has commented is amazing.”
Perhaps what sets CleSportsTalk apart from the other sports sited is the fact that all of the writers are not paid professionals, but amateurs who simply love Cleveland sports. “I pride myself on the fact the site is all amateurs. We have no professional writers, and I hope that this fact helps us draw the common reader,” says Zach.
His writers would agree with Zach. Bradley Ward, one of the writers for ClevelandSportsTalk, joined the CleSportsTalk organization after he saw a tweet from Zach asking if someone wanted to write an article on Michael Brantley. “I have always wanted to write about sports and I listen to sports talk radio all the time. I read about the site's purpose and I was on board. I am a huge fan of Brantleys so I did the article, I was just worried that it wouldn't be good enough,” reminisces Bradley. Sure enough, Michael Reghi from ESPN Cleveland personally complemented Bradley’s article on Twitter, writing “@brad_ward12 Did read your Brantley piece. Liked your content. Hope you have opportunity to do more, and get access to teams in future.”
CleSportsTalk is also a great place to learn about a possible career in sports and writing. Edward Melsher, one of Zach’s writers, stated that “One of my career options is being a sports writer when I grow up. I love writing, and this is good practice.” Melsher isn’t alone in his viewpoint. Jay Cannon, another enthusiastic CleSportsTalk writer, states that he would “really would like to hear ‘you should do this for a profession someday’.” Even Zach himself stated that “as for a career, I definitely plan to get into something with Cleveland sports, but I'm just not sure what yet.”
It may already seem hard to run one of the most successful Cleveland Sports websites already, but to run the organization means that one has to love Cleveland sports. Zach not only loves Cleveland sports, but worships it. “My parents were never the biggest Cleveland sports fans, but when my dad turned on the Browns game when I was just a little boy, I fell in love,” remembers Zach. “The passion from a fan base rooted in losing amazes me on the daily. I feel like I'm apart of a movement that will never die. If I can help it, I never try to miss any games.” To Zach, CleSportsTalk means everything to him. “I don't know what I would do with my life if I lost this. I consider this my biggest accomplishment even over my bar-mitzvah which is a pretty big deal for a Jewish teen,” he quipped. “When I wake up every morning, I think about how I can improve the site for the day. Before I go to bed, I think about how a can improve the site for the night. It's a 24/7 job because the sporting world is always changing, and I love that the most.”
The success of CleSportsTalk comes from the drive of Zach and his writers to be the best sports authority in Cleveland. “I care about this website more than anything, and I basically work my life around it. Everyone seeing this passion in me motivates them to do their best when they write for me. I work harder on this than anything else because this is what I pride myself most on,” reflects Zach. "I look up to my grandparents, and seeing how they succeeded at what they did motivates me even more." Countless of his writers share his commitment, stating that they joined simply because they loved Cleveland sports and writing, in that order.
When I asked Zach if anyone could join the organization, he replied with a enthusiastic “yes!” CleSportsTalk always wants more writers, and Zach personally states that “it’s not a commitment. The writers choose what they want to write about, and if they are busy with other stuff then they don't have to write.”
In the future, CleSportsTalk, with Zach at the helm, wants to expand into radio, maybe even a exclusive CleSportsTalk station. As for Zach, he states that “I'm not sure how far Cleveland Sports Talk will take me, but I believe it will take me through high school and definitely into college.”
At the end of our interview when I asked Zach any advice he could give to others, he quipped “Follow your dreams.”
“If you love something and want to accomplish is then go out there and do it. My parents tell me every day that I should focus on my school work more, but truthfully I'm out to prove them wrong. Passion will take you far in life, and I'm pushing mine to the fullest. You should too," he stated.
"In the long run you'll be happy you did.”