The FBI investigation into Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s business, Pilot Flying J, probably couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks to the NFL draft, the talk about these serious allegations subsided in Cleveland and many people forgot that things could come crashing down oh-so-soon.
But we didn’t forget. Here at Dawg Pound Daily, we held a little roundtable to discuss Pilot Flying J’s problems, what it means to the organization and how great it would be to have bandwagon Browns fans.
Steve: Is it just me or were we all waiting for the moment when the perfect union of Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns would go down in flames? I know nothing has changed yet – and it’s possible nothing could change – but isn’t this still just another black eye on the most beaten-down organization in sports?
Kevin: Even after giving me a place to start, I don’t even know where to start. I didn’t really think it’d blow up in the form of an FBI raid, I just figured he’d sell the team after 12 wins in three seasons, get his money back, and buy the Milwaukee Bucks or something. But black eye? Please. Losing that Steelers playoff game was a black eye. The Ravens winning the Super Bowl ten years ago was a black eye. The new savior-owner being raided by the FBI less than seven months after his ownership actually went through is a spinal fracture that will likely get a staph infection like every other thing in Berea.
How did the NFL let the sale go through to this guy?
Jim: For one, yes, I was waiting for the curtain to come down on Haslam because I love to worry about things that seem too perfect. Be careful what you wish for, and oh, how I wished for Randy Lernerto be overthrown.
Now, I thought the Mike Holmgren experience was a black eye for the organization, so I’m hesitant to call out Haslam when he cleaned all of that mess up. But a good litmus test for the question is, if the same thing happened to the Steelers, would you make fun of them? You bet I’d be making fun if the Rooney family trust was about to be charged with felony crimes. So in addition, yes, this has to be a black eye for us. This would be a bad look for any team and the Browns already looked bad enough as it was.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s hard to distinguish a black eye from a face that’s been battered for 18 years.
Jimmy (our Jimmy, not Uncle Jimmy Haslam) makes a good point though – I’d love for this to happen to another team, as I’d make fun of them. Although I think it’d be concerning enough that I’d just start to feel bad for their fans…so, surprise! It’s another reason for people to feel bad for Browns fans! We were running out of those after three months of borderline competence. I mean, if it happened to the Jets, Bengals, or the entire NFC East, I’d laugh hysterically. If it happened to another struggling team, I’d just feel bad about it. But man…if it happened to the Eagles? DYNASTY.
Steve: Could you imagine if this happened to the Jets? The coverage of this on ESPN would be mind-blowing. Now that I think of it, it’s kind of surprising how little attention has been paid to this story outside of Cleveland, given its potential magnitude. In other words, are there perks to irrelevance?
Kevin: The only perk to irrelevance is that people are starting to feel bad for the Browns and Browns fans, so they don’t even bother making fun anymore. I get things like, “Oh man…Browns fan? That’s tough.” Or, “I mean, I can’t root against them, I’d feel bad.” Or, “You guys really suck.”
Seriously – it’s such a disaster that people don’t even want to make fun of us anymore. It’s like the anti-Yankees of the last 20 years where we all hated them because they kept winning so we made fun of the money they spent even though we all secretly would have killed to have that be our favorite team.
I wish we could be hated like the Yanks, Patriots, Steelers, or 90s Cowboys (because today’s Cowboys are extra-strength hilarious – I mean, you just have to pay $100 million to a guy who will lead your fantasy team to the postseason every year). Instead we’re like a little sibling with a disability. We’ll win people over with our pluck and gusto, but the initial instinct is,”Oh, sorry to hear.”
No offense to people with disabilities, of course. You’re much better off than the Browns.
Jim: There are definitely perks to irrelevance. Browns fans are the like pseudo hipster culture of the NFL. We love something that nobody else does. We are in at the ground level, and nobody makes fun of us for it. If anything, they marvel at our courage. You don’t see someone walking down the street in Chicago wearing a Browns coat unless they are truly, truly, a Browns fan. I guess what I’m saying is irrelevance in our case paves the way for purity. Browns fans are as pure as snow.
Kevin: I would love to have bandwagon fans, though. That’s worth the price of being good.