|Haslam's 'fired up to the max' to buy the Browns. (AP)|
Good luck finding a city that's been more cursed when it comes to professional sports recently than Cleveland. It's been 48 years since Cleveland's last professional sports championship and even that trophy (from the 1964 NFL Championship Game) relocated to Baltimore with the original Browns. Fortunately for fans in the area, new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is here to save the day, and if he walks the walk the same way he talks the talk, he might actually be able to turn around one of the world's most moribund franchises.
Haslam, born and raised in Knoxville, is a slick-talking Southerner with a clear-cut acumen for business and a good sense of humor who wowed the assembled media in Cleveland and made for (at least in the preseason) must-watch TV. Right off the bat, Haslam promised not to move the Browns and said he was "fired up to the max" to be a part of Cleveland's NFL franchise.
"I know there's some people who think maybe we might want to move the team out of Cleveland and I can assure you there is zero chance of that happening. Just a little history: we've had a relationship with that other team down the road that wears black-and-gold that we used to be 1000 percent for but aren't anymore," Haslam joked about his involvement as an owner of the Steelers. "And when we got involved with that other team, we let the owners of that other team know, and we let the league know, that if we ever had a chance to become the majority owners of another team we would have interest. They called us in May and they said it looks like a team may become available. And in late June when they told us it was the Cleveland Browns, we were fired up to the max because we've had the opportunity to see how important football is to this community and how great and how passionate these fans are."
|2012 Browns Preview|
That's a big old pile of words off the bat, and it wasn't even an answer to a question, that's just how he came out firing. And though he's a high-energy guy who's clearly going to make some big changes -- many of them which CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora discussed recently -- in order to try and turn the franchise around, he's also savvy enough kicking a hornet's nest as he transitions into his ownership role.
It's believed that the other NFL owners will vote to approve Haslam's purchase in October and there will be plenty of questions about whether or not Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert will keep their jobs past 2012. But Haslam made it clear he wouldn't answer those questions now and did it in a polite, firm and genuine manner. He also made it clear that he'd be "involved" with football decisions, but that he was going to take a slow approach to getting really hands-on, but that his primary goal would be promoting his new investment.
"Someone at lunch asked me about being hands-on because we run our main business pretty hands-on and I looked over at Mike [Holmgren] and said, 'Mike probably doesn't really want us to be hands-on.' But I think our style is going to be involved," Haslam said. "I think you'll find that we're open and transparent. Having a brother and a very close friend that high rolls in politics, rightly or wrongly we're use to the scrutiny of the public eye and I think you'll find us to be pretty available and transparent people.
"I'll be honest, we're going to be out there selling the Cleveland Browns all the time."
This is precisely what Cleveland needs. Dan Gilbert's done good things with the Cavaliers, but in terms of the way he's handled some things (like, oh, the departure of LeBron James to Miami) has been disastrous. It's clear that Haslam won't be tripping over his own feet en route to trying to bring the Browns back, even if he's trying to make some bigger changes to the franchise.
New uniforms and other cosmetic changes weren't ruled out by Haslam at his press conference, and maybe that's something that could scare Browns fans who are entrenched in the Browns current overall design. It shouldn't. Change is scary, but change can be good, especially when the status quo is so depressing. Besides, Haslam correctly pointed out that "culture" isn't defined by a logo, mascot, uniform or any other material item that's associated with a football team.
"I would maybe define 'culture' a little different than that," Haslam said when asked about a facelift for the team. "Culture is a little different than uniforms and naming rights. Culture is about how you come to work every day and conduct yourselves.
"We changed our logo and our designs of our stores multiple times over the years. But the basic culture and core beliefs stay the same."
Changes to uniform that represent a Super Bowl-less franchises or additional revenue coming into the team, for future reinvestment, vis-a-vis a corporate name for the Browns stadium? These are all good things, Cleveland. There will be people who don't like what Haslam does. Those people are stubborn, obstinate and will probably miss a decent bandwagon rolling by them because their heads are stuck in the ground.
Haslam being a friendly guy with football ties and a clear ability to grow and manage a major business don't make him a sure thing. Nothing's a sure thing in the NFL, though.
"We're going to ask a lot of questions and learn it first and I'm a believer of collective wisdom and if you have five smart people sitting around the table it's better than four," "But we're going to take some time to get up to speed before we get real involved in football decisions. It probably comes quicker on the business side."
That's the takeaway from Haslam's presser: there's going to be change in Cleveland, but the guy making those changes isn't doing it for anything other than the express purpose of bringing quality football back to Cleveland. And if Haslam's to be believed, he'll take a prudent and patient approach, combine it with an energetic and "involved" business-like attitude and do everything in his power to end Cleveland's status as the laughingstock of the professional sports world.
Which should have Browns fans fired up to the max.
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