The Cleveland Browns have changed me


The latest round of dysfunction in Berea has taken a serious toll on me as a football fan and it might have permanently changed my perspective of the game. A week or so ago, I got into a conversation with a Twitter follower who has been reading WFNY for some time, and he noted how much I’ve changed in terms of how I look at the Cleveland Browns. Where I once looked for ways they could be getting things right and improving, I now look with a skeptical eye. I acknowledge this change and I think it’s interesting to look at how it all came about. I don’t think it necessarily started in the past year, but I believe the tipping point was the raid on Pilot Flying J.

I couldn’t have been happier about the ownership change for the Cleveland Browns. As time moved along and as Randy Lerner failed to build a stable, competitive football organization in any manner or style,1 it seemed like a dream come true that the team would be in the hands of someone who aggressively wanted to own a pro football team. Yes, it was a man from Tennessee who had previously owned a minority stake in the Steelers. No matter though, because he wanted to own an NFL team. He was approved by his peers with a round of roaring applause. He toured the league to see how organizations like the Patriots and Cowboys run their operations. He went and hired executives with legitimate NFL expertise in Joe Banner and Alec Scheiner. He was building an actual organization, it seemed.

And then his company got raided in April on tax day.

Over night, the NFL owner who sat in the Dawg Pound, never feared interviews, and seemed solely focused on his expensive hobby of a football team was distracted. The news about the Browns changed on a dime as well. Were there contingency plans in place for team ownership should criminal fallout occur to Jimmy Haslam? What (if anything) would the NFL do with this guy who had just recently been granted kingship of his new fiefdom in Cleveland? Would they consider forcing him to sell the team again? As if Cleveland didn’t have enough negativity to overcome in terms of football track record, here was a specially imported level of potential dysfunction that no football fan should ever have to consider.

As I said in the open, it has really thrown me for a loop. It feels like an epiphany, but one that has come to ruin some blissfully ignorant notion of sports. I usually consider the word “epiphany” with a positive connotation, but what if the enlightenment that follows serves to ruin something you’ve loved and wanted to love your whole life?

I sit here today and tell you that I’m unsure what “Cleveland Browns” means anymore. The Browns are a legal entity owned by Jimmy Haslam, but the Browns are also a living history – written and oral – that pre-dates Haslam. The Browns are a tradition that lives within the fan base, passed from generation to generation. They are all these things and you’d think they should all be inter-connected about as tightly as anything ever.

Right now, given all the events of the past year on top of the decade plus that preceded it, I feel like I have nearly no connection to the thing that is legally allowed to call itself the Cleveland Browns. It feels as if the operating concern that is the Cleveland Browns has never been less connected to my working definition of what the Cleveland Browns truly are and were. I know that’s a little bit wonky and philosophical, but I’m still trying to wrap my arms around it as well.

Granted, it might just be the (constant) losing talking, but there seems to be an extra layer of disconnect today that didn’t exist even when Randy Lerner owned the team. Where we thought the Browns were getting a stability upgrade, only potential disruptions exist. Jimmy Haslam’s legal troubles hang in the balance. The team fired an entire coaching staff after their first season. By virtue of doing that, I feel like it put the front office’s future at risk2. As fans and commentators of a football team, we have an owner with a hazy future, lording over a now-questionable front office that fell on its face with its first coaching hire, and an obvious vacancy in the head coaching realm.

After spending plenty of time worrying about Browns situations over the past decade and a half, it seems impossible to fathom that I still need to worry about it. This era was supposed to be the one that those problems were alleviated by new, credible ownership. I hate to keep harping on it, but it’s this ownership that was specifically exported to Cleveland by the NFL. Nobody in this town knew Jimmy Haslam III existed before he bought the team. We didn’t vote for him. The thing that we’re supposed to take ownership of as fans hasn’t materialized as a worthy option and yet there’s nothing3 we can do about it.

I think I’ve lost my way. Maybe it’s just about winning and I’m wasting words, but more and more, as I develop opinions and philosophies about my place in this world, it feels like the toothpaste is out of the tube and there’s no way to get it back in.

Trust me when I say that I take no glee in my negative outlook. I don’t think it’s my natural place in the world. I just can’t deny the way this team makes me feel. That’s the state of things for me right now.

  1. I think he tried all manners and styles at one point or another. []
  2. Rightly or wrongly, a firing of the front office would be another affront to stability. []
  3. NOTHING!!!! []

  • fedup

    I sent this to my ticket representative today. I’ve had enough…


    As my ticket representative, I figured you are my only connection to the Cleveland Browns. What is going on with your employer? I’ve spent a lot of money over the years supporting this team and it has gone from awful to God***mn embarrassing! Banner and Lombardi are fools. They should have never hired Chud in the first place and every fan knew it. Now we have to start over……AGAIN! They switched to a 3-4 defense with talent that was better suited for the 4-3 for a coach that they kept for a year!!! This makes the Kokinis/Manigini mess look sane.

    If they draft Manziel…please take my tickets and give them to someone dumber than me. I can’t take the stupidity anymore.

    The stadium experience has been as bad as the team it fields, and now the “BIG” upgrade is a better TV. I can watch the game at home on a TV, why do I need a TV at the games?

    I want wifi so that I can look at my fantasy scores. I want cell service so that when my wife is having a difficult pregnancy and calls me while she’s on her way to the hospital I can receive the call (unlike last season)! I want hot pretzels that don’t taste like they’ve been dipped in Lake Erie. I want hot dogs that aren’t cold, and service that is fast and friendly.

    I feel more ripped off than AJ’s Trucking in Sh**hole, Nebraska.

    Please pass this on to your employers. And, if I were you I’d put my resume in at the Cleveland Indians or Cavs…they, while perennial losers, at least are not an embarrassment.

    Thank you,

  • Bob

    Air Bud 8. The Ultimate Dawg.

  • Bob

    actually after playing for a semi-serious year, there are some real legit athletes playing the game. Coming to am olympics near you.

  • bossman09

    It’s an indefinite leave of absence. I may admit my addiction, get counseling, and I may be “clean” for some period of time, but I will never rid myself of the addiction.

  • nj0

    Up vote for Nola. Great city with crazy (awesome) people.

  • Garry_Owen

    Who said that?

  • Garry_Owen


  • He Hate Cans

    Haslam says he hates the term “Same Old Browns.” Well at this rate it’s looking like “New Worse Browns”

  • BenRM

    No one. I just like stirring the pot by throwing the phrase out there and seeing who gets offended 🙂

  • He Hate Cans

    Agreed. The “don’t take sports so seriously” thing is silly. No one watches sports so they can be dispassionate. Being a fan should make you react emotionally. If it doesn’t, then you’re doing it wrong. But when it’s depression again and again, Sunday after Sunday… the best Sundays this season were the ones where I wasn’t paying attention. And that says something.

  • mgbode

    which one is the QB and which the S that will lead the Browns to the Superbowl in 2035?

  • mgbode

    of course, even he got to root for a 3time national champion after escaping the North Coast.

  • maxfnmloans

    yup, that was totally my fault. Apologies

  • He Hate Cans

    Fudds’s 2nd Law of Opposition – at all costs, kill da wabbit.

  • humboldt

    Sounds like the mantra of the Browns fan during the Randy Lerner era…

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    He’s now “The_Craig_Shamrock”.

  • Garry_Owen

    Oh! Carry on, then. Carry on.

  • dimoko

    I’m not a season ticket holder, so i dont have a huge financial stake in the Browns, other than in my wardobe…but what is the point of walking away? I enjoy watching the browns more than enjoy watching random teams. Even when they suck, i still love to hang out with friends watching. why should i deprive myself to prove some point? Craig, you’ve been hanging out with Scott Raab too much, and since you’ve been doing podcasts with him, you’ve gotten more cynical. If this were something important, i’d say keep being skeptical about everything, but this is a football team. just do what you want.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I have been out of the area for the past few years, but I’m moving back this summer. I forked out the dough for Sunday Ticket the past 2 years. If I wasn’t coming back to NE Ohio, I would have to seriously think about whether to re-up the Sunday Ticket. Honestly, if I had to make the decision today, I’m not sure I would. That’s what this season did to me.

  • bupalos

    disliked for fantasy scores.

  • bupalos

    Like for proper perspective on friends, babies, and bathwater.

  • steve-o

    Since the mid 90’s I wanted the Browns back, and I thought the new Browns would be a continuation of the old one. The past fifteen years have driven home that it’s not, and probably can’t be. It’s like the movie pet cemetery. When the old Browns left, what returned was something different, and right now it looks like a soulless, unholy entity that returned from the grave. This team may eventually play winning football, and I will root for them because they are my local team, but the one I loved as a kid is long gone, soul and all.

  • humboldt

    Agree. I got NFL Rewind this year and will not do it again. I feel disenchantment not only with the Browns but also with the NFL as a result of how the concussion issue is playing out (avoiding liability, reaching a laughably low initial settlement with players, being inconsistent in enforcing rules, etc).

  • bupalos

    To the extent that this is true, it’s true of the Stillers and Colts and Broncos and ad infinitum or at least ad 30.

  • @TheDeePagel

    This is my vote for current comment of the year.

    Funny, funny, funny, in so many ways…and I hope Craig and Shammy can see the humor in this.

    Well done.

  • scripty

    Longtime reader – this is a hot mess. If a lifetime of CLE spors fandom and NOW you are cynical? REALLY? Toughen up I am sure in a while you’ll be embarrassed by this post. Nothing is given to us as CLE fans. Love the good times and endure the hard times. It’s all a sideshow and if anybody thinks otherwise they are naive or misplaced priorities. Just another bump in the road, don’t fret our day might one day come.

  • maxfnmloans

    mea culpa, good sir

  • “here was a specially imported level of potential
    dysfunction that no football fan should ever have to consider.”

    Very well put. For many reasons, including some stated and alluded to here, some of which go much deeper than the latest hopeless head coaching flip, there is as little reason as ever for Northeast Ohioans to cultivate connections with the Browns.

  • All the likes.

  • Steve_Not_Chad


  • Natedawg86

    2 yr old is fearless…and I have seen how the Browns treat QBs

  • mgbode

    Natey Junior Football

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    I had zero problem with my cell phone last year. I was shocked at how well it was working during the Buffalo game.

  • BenRM

    I don’t think it’s as much of a “walking away” mindset as it is a “no longer running headlong towards” mindset.

  • NOLA Clevelander

    Born in cleveland, now live in NOLA. I just have to say that I have always found many similarities between the 2 franchises. Saints got lucky in hiring their GM Loomis. He hired the peeps to turn it around, and the past 8 years have been a 180 from their past. The questions is is Banner finally the guy? Biggest loss by the Browns was GM Ozzie. P.S. – Once a loser finally wins it all, it is quite the spectacle! (or maybe that’s just NOLA).

  • The Other Tim

    I cancelled Sunday Ticket this year for two reason. My first son went off to college and I couldn’t believe how often I found myself saying, “I can’t believe I’m paying for this?!”
    I barely missed it despite the fact that my dad tried to convince me to renew because he was so excited about Mingo and Hoyer. Then I got to see Hoyer on NFL Network… for a few plays anyway.
    During week 17 this year I was with my family at Universal Studios when my phone buzzed and the score came up.
    I had forgotten that it was even Sunday.

  • Alessandro Ocampo

    Great piece of work. Peter King would be envious.

  • jamespowell

    Corporations are people, except when they commit crimes. Then there are no people who are responsible, only an entity.