I don’t mean to brag, and I don’t mean to say that I’m particularly good at anything (I’m not), but I sure feel like Jimmy Haslam read my article – or my mind – and decided to get “NFL Road Tested” on TV. In the same way that the “Hard Knocks” series has turned the casual fan’s interest toward a certain team in a certain season, so too does “NFL Road Tested” with the Browns.
A casual football fan, perhaps a child, could be watching TV one night and see the Browns on that show. Maybe it’s Trent Richardson’s hair, maybe it’s Colt McCoy’s boots, maybe it’s the incessant focus on Phil “The Thrill” Dawson, but something about that show will hook someone. Browns fans already know and are already in, but having a casual fan base increases the value of the product, the draw of being on the team, and the allure of having a giant following.
(If you’re not sure where I thrust myself into this situation, I wrote a few weeks back about how cool it would be for the Browns to be an internationally known/liked team.)
I don’t know why it eluded me, but there’s an additional goal of putting on a show like “NFL Road Tested”: it humanizes everyone. Not only does it make this team easier to like, it makes it harder to get upset at them. When I see Ben Watson (who is huge, by the way) talk about going home and playing with his kids after a long day of practice, and seeing how much he loves those kids, it makes me want to forgive him if he drops a pass. I see a guy who has his priorities straight – he knows that he’s lucky to be playing a sport that pays well and he enjoys, but it’s even better that he gets to go home and play with his kids. I love that.
It humanized the whole organization to get a peek at what these guys do every week. It’s seeing Haslam show up in Berea at 6 a.m. to work out, seeing that guy who handles all the setup/hotel/etc. bounce around through Dallas, and even seeing Shurmur function like a normal human being instead of an emotionless, powerless, bad football coach. All of that makes the viewer feel connected to the team beyond, “I hope they win because they’re my favorite team.”
Obviously, that well-structured format has more to do with the production staff on the show than it does with the Browns organization itself, but can you imagine this happening even two years ago? The opened doors of the new ownership have increased interest in the team from all angles. I have to imagine that other NFL players are watching this too, seeing as they’re humans who probably watch television. There is very little risk in having this show on the air, and I love that.
So the point is that the Browns are starting to figure some things out. I realize that the TV show and the recent winning streak are wholly unrelated, but it’s fun to have two cool things going on at once instead of the usual zero.
One last thought: humanizing Shurmur, along with the win streak, should probably only go so far. Let’s not forget that he had about a 4% approval rating less than a month ago, according to a study I just made up (but sounds accurate). He has bought himself a little breathing room and comfort, but I personally don’t think it’s enough. He still makes some truly terrible decisions with timeouts, challenges, and short-yardage situations, and that has nothing to do with how well you treat the equipment managers as you walk through the locker room before practice.