New Browns are subtly challenging current tailgating culture

Promo shot of FirstEnergy Stadium from
Promo shot of FirstEnergy Stadium from

Promo shot of FirstEnergy Stadium

Is this a football team or an excuse for tailgating? More often than not since 1999 I think we can safely say it’s been the latter.

I think the newest front office1 is trying to figure out how to gracefully end – or at least curb – tailgating culture that is notable for producing an empty-looking stadium on TV at kickoff. The newest employees of the Cleveland Browns are being very nice about how they’re telling Browns fans, but I think that’s the underlying goal and the ultimate direction that the team is pushing.

After yesterday’s announcements about changes at FirstEnergy stadium this upcoming year it should be even more obvious what they’re really trying to say. Yes, Alec Scheiner wrapped all the improvements in a package that made it seem like these were direct responses to fan complaints. Things like cell service and improved efficiency getting into games certainly do address fan complaints, but there’s something more. Inside those improvements there was also what I felt was a subtle jab at the way Browns fans’ tailgating culture has gotten in the way of the game itself.

Even before Dawgpound Mike attempted that embarrassing kickoff boycott, Browns fans were missing kickoffs regularly. The team has been awful at – you know – playing football and that’s always number one, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now.2 The stadium entry procedures were certainly broken and partially responsible. The roughshod lines for security looked more like a farmland jailbreak through a single tiny hole in a fence. Beyond that though, it seemed like fans were more interested in finishing that last plastic cup-full-o-party than getting into the game to support the football team at the start of the game.

Probably not accidentally, the Browns are currently focusing on the pre-game rituals. Player entrances and introductions, pre-game music and intros, even down to painting the bathrooms so that they’re superior competition to port-Os in the Muni Lot, this club seems intent on leaving no more excuses for fans to miss kickoff. I don’t want to micro-analyze every word that Alec Scheiner said yesterday, but I couldn’t help but notice when he was talking to The Bull and the Fox that he jokingly mocked the alcohol questions. Yes, he was joking, and the Browns have gone out of their way to say that they respect fan culture, but they’re not being so subtle about trying to change it at the same time.

I’ll admit that a lot of the talk about alcohol is probably more my own spin as I’ve found some of my experiences interacting with volatile, drunken fans to be obnoxious at best. So, I won’t project all that on this group of Browns executives.

“We want to make sure everyone’s there before kickoff. That’s important. I think it’s important for the team,” Scheiner said. “You know the energy there at kickoff, that’s critical to the team. And we want our players to feel that.”

It’s hard to argue with that, but it will take more than just a commitment from the team to improve procedures and entertainment offerings. It will take a commitment by Browns fans to place a priority on partaking in the pre-game festivities inside the stadium as well as in the parking lot.

  1. Alec Scheiner joked about fining people for using the word “regime” yesterday and I have no problem expunging the word from my football vernacular. []
  2. Winning football is always the number one goal, so let’s not make that an excuse not to also work on stadium and fan experience. They’re not mutually exclusive. OK? OK! []

  • Brian Wellert

    That economic position does not afford a family to attend in most situations.

  • McGannonator

    Unfortunately we don’t have any historical events to look at that could give us any idea of the extent of positive effects that this could have.

  • woofersus

    Perhaps I misunderstood when you wrote,

    “Basically, all those die hard fans who have carried this franchise aren’t important anymore. It is not about the product on the field, but the overall experience that will bring in the correct customers.”

    I get that it wasn’t your overall assertion that the Browns are trying to do the opposite of improve the team for the die-hards, but it seems like you were saying that focusing on the product on the field would be what IS good for the die hard fans. If one doesn’t detract from the other, then what’s your objection? I understand that price creep will change the demographics at the stadium, but if the root cause of that is a good team and a fun stadium experience, then the alternative seems less than satisfactory.

  • Brian Wellert

    This is the best part. I agree and prefer this route but will carry some guilt knowing that I am a fairweather enough browns fan that will only attend games once they do offer an overall acceptable product. Right now, I would not bring my children into that stadium (I’d prefer my children not to hear the language used or to be vomited on), nor would I spend the money for tickets (individual yes) to see the “on field” product they’ve produced over the years.

    The guilt is a result of the many dollars this franchise has collected from fans who attend purely out of love for the Browns and/or alcohol. These fans have afforded me the ability to watch the games on Sunday at home, even throughout these dreadful teams. Now, they will be pushed out as part of this “overall” experience.

    Not that I have anything against it, but felt the need to point it out, regardless.