Passan: Keep Camp in Cleveland

Rich Passan saw what he didn't want to see last weekend: continued news reports of the Browns' dalliance with the City of Columbus. New relaxed rules on NFL marketing are creating the interest, Passan writes, and leading the Browns to consider wrecking part of Cleveland's special relationshup with team...

Here we go again.

A newspaper report out of the state capital last week revealed that Columbus officials met with the Browns 12 days ago to discuss the possibility of moving the team's summer training camp to that city as early as 2007.

According to the report, the NFL changed its rules last year and allowed teams to widen their marketing reach outside the previous 75 miles from their home city. And since Columbus is about 120 miles from Cleveland and 100 miles from Cincinnati, it is considered ripe territory for both NFL cities.

There's money to be made, boys.

Hey, haven't we seen this before? Three months ago, an item in the Akron Beacon Journal stated that Browns President and CEO John Collins cast a covetous eye toward Columbus as the future home for training camp.

It touched off a lengthy debate on this Web site as to the merits of such a move. Sides, mostly geographical, were taken and split Browns fans just about down the middle.

Southern Ohioans, of course, just about drooled at the prospect of the club spending several weeks down their way. Those of us up north saw no reason for the Browns to leave Berea.

Eventually, the fuss died down and dozed.

Sleep time over.

The rumor has raised its repulsive head again and touched off another debate on the pluses and minuses of such a move.

It's time to do something about it. Let's see how much the Browns' new regime really cares about the fans who live in the town in which it plays. Let's see how much clout you have.

It is time to let the club's front office know how you feel about even thinking of moving training camp to Columbus. If you are like most Clevelanders, you've got to be pretty upset that the club is leaning in that direction.

The best way to show your opposition to a possible move is to drop the club a line, an e-mail or a fax – in a respectful manner, of course – and express that dissatisfaction. Let them know exactly how you feel.

The current argument, much like the first, has traveled along geographic lines.

Those who live in or near Columbus and post here insist their town is a Browns town. More Browns fans than Cincinnati Bengals fans, they say. So it makes perfect sense for the Browns to move in, dig in and take full advantage of that popularity.

In what way? In the only way the National Football League knows how to operate. The fiscal bottom line, baby. It's all about the money. Ancillary revenues that can be gleaned from the public are a constant target of NFL owners

So let the Cleveland-Cincinnati war over Columbus begin. Or does it have to?

Repeating what was written here three months ago: Why in the world would Collins, or anyone else in Berea connected with the CLEVELAND Browns, even think of making such a move? It makes no sense.

One of the great rituals of summer in Cleveland is going to Browns training camp with the family. Whether it's in Berea or at Lakeland Community College or Kent State University or Hiram College, it's the place to be for the hordes of Browns fans to get their only up-close-and-personal look at their team.

Many fans take a day or two off from work and shepherd the family out to Berea for one, sometimes both, of the early two-a-day sessions. Can't think of a better way to indoctrinate the kids to Browns football.

There's nothing like the sights and sounds at 76 Lou Groza Boulevard from late July to late August; the dew on the early morning emerald grass; the ever-present sound of the air horn to signal a different routine; the fans crowding the sidelines to catch a glimpse of their favorite players.

The oooohing and aaaahing of a great catch, a solid hit, a pass well defended, a defensive end beating an offensive tackle in a 1-on-1 drill (or vice versa), a fight occasionally breaking out during one of those drills, the long lines of autograph seekers after practice.

That's just a part of what you'll miss if the Browns move training camp to Columbus. Is that what you want?

Bottom line is that you can't beat the atmosphere of training camp. They're discussing taking that away from northeast Ohioans. It should not proceed beyond the discussion stage.

It's OK for the Browns to go down to Columbus for a day or two to scrimmage a team. But that's it.

Fans from the Columbus area don't mind coming up here to see the Browns practice. They've been doing it for decades. But I don't think Cleveland-area fans would enjoy making the trip down I-71 on a daily basis.

One argument to take the club out of town for the summer centers around the fact that most NFL teams do not train at home. I don't care if all NFL teams hold their training camps outside their home city. The relationship between the Browns and their fans is special.

A post on this site last Friday by stonecolddawg, a Columbus-area resident, said it best.

"Although I miss the Browns being so close, it would be much harder for them to move down here," it read.  "Columbus is a two-hour drive. Most camps are half an hour to an hour away. None of you NE Ohioans want to drive all the way down here. Plus, there is no good place to have the Browns. The proposed Northland site is run down. There are plenty of Division III schools down here, but they are run down, except maybe Otterbein.

"I would love to have the Browns down here, but that would be selfish. In this era of star-loving and placation, I think it is best for the players to be comfortable. The less stress on them, the better they may perform."

Well put.

Time to put this rumor to sleep for good.


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