I was genuinely surprised at the volume of mail that I got from Paranoia Before the Fall, especially given the focus on the team's restrictive media policy. I was a little stunned that my email box filled with messages from fans who wrote in to express their agreement.
A good part of why the piece got this reaction, I expect, had to do with the editorial's angst about losing fans from the franchise, something I've noticed a great deal during this tough season. There's something about the Browns that makes fans feel "distant" from the team. There are a lot of both on-the-field and off-the-field factors going into that, I believe, and the policy of pushing away the media is just one of them.
Meanwhile, I suspect that the organization hopes that the magic win fairy comes to visit them soon, and makes all their problems go away. My warning to the Browns organization is that sudden on-field success will let them hide problems, not solve them. Things need to change.
If the Browns organization won't listen to me, perhaps they will listen to the dozens of fans who wrote in and whose words are sampled below. As in the other feedback article, I have shortened names to slightly obscure the author, and have taken the liberty of excerpting pieces of longer emails and message board posts. I hope I did not change your context in doing so.
I have answered a couple of these emails below, but mostly just want to let fans speak without my interference.
HDawg: Who can we spam, fax, e, petition, crank, etc.etc. to get things changed??? We have the power, we just need Jammie's info.
Barry: I appreciate the sentiment, but wouldn't want to see Browns fans jam up fax machines or fill email in-boxes in the middle of a season. I don't think we need a fan outpouring on this issue and similar ones - just some common sense on the part of the team.
Chez: Barry - I hope your "other job" also involves writing or journalism, because your commentary was excellent and echoed my sentiments in a way I could not have expressed. I've never understood the paranoia about having media and others watch practice. It certainly hasn't given the Browns a bit of advantage on game day, and it does alienate the fans at a time when the week before games could be used to promote the upcoming game, rather than cloak it in secrecy. Keep up the good work - Barry. As I read your commentary, I kept thinking that part of your motivation must come from your belief that Phil Savage and others in the organization have or will read it before the day is out.
Barry: My other job is working for the Scout Network, mostly in technical support. I've been very happy to get a gig that lets me jump into working on the OBR in the middle of the day when needed without looking over my shoulder.
80s: Nice article, Barry. I only wish it would get to those who need read it most.
Dr: Outstanding, Barry. Thanks for speaking up. I hope it reaches the eyes and minds of people with the power to change things.
Barry: I wrote it with the hope that bringing fans into the loop would create a desire for some introspection on the part of the franchise we all fought to bring back to town. There's always an off-chance we would get some changes made like we did back in 1999. As I wrote in the column, though, I expect it to fall on deaf ears.
At this point, though, no one from the team has commented upon or acknowledged the commentary. It has not been noted at all in the local media.
The team's internet policy is to try to keep Browns fans from discovering the Orange and Brown Report as it represents what is perceived as competition for their own web site and magazine.
Prof: Barry, sadly, your commentary described me. A part of me died when the Browns left town. And it was reborn when we were given the expansion franchise. BTNG, Bernie's, and now the O&B Report were a home away from home for me. I bought Direct TV so I could see my beloved Browns every week.
WB: Yep, agree with Barry and the professor... I don't get ill after a loss...I really laugh at it anymore... and to tell you the truth, if it wasn't this website keeping me close to the team, I probably wouldn't be a fan anymore...
MSC: It was BTNG that got me through the years of the team's absence. And this is what we get when we endeavor to live through memories of what it was. In retrospect, wouldn't it have been better to have retired the name and colors and build a new tradition through some other innocuous moniker?
Dixie: It was BTNG that got me through the years of the team's absence. No doubt. Not having direct Cleveland ties, I tried to root for another team during "the theft", but I just couldn't do it. The NFL was dead to me and BTNG really came along at the right time. It may or may not be true, but the entire Browns organization just doesn't seem to to give a rat's ass if I, or any or you, came back with same voracity as before. Just buy Couch's jersey and a stupid dog logo shirt.
Barry: I bundled these emails together because of their comments about this website binding them to to the team through the years. Not for vanity - I don't want to sprain my shoulder patting myself on the back - but because you would be hard-pressed to get the Browns to acknowledge that a community like this one plays a role in promoting the club. They're more concerned about making sure no one mentions or finds them. It's a strategy that neither works or creates a favorable relationship between the team and their fans. Based on the restrictive media policies, it's hard to believe that the organization believes that the mainstream media plays a role in promoting their product. It seems to be considered more of a nuisance, to be escorted off the field before it can see anything.
Now, if I ran the Browns, I'd be able to pay my mortgage on time. Wait, no... I meant to say that I ran the Browns, I'd be binding sites like this one close. I'd be working with the media rather than playing favorites or trying to compete. I wouldn't care as much about what folks were saying, as long as they were talking about the Browns.
The Browns don't think they need the OBR. They would rather compete with us, or try to, with their own website and magazine. It's been that way since the all-knowing Carmen Policy rolled into town in the back seat of a limo.
The Browns don't look a gift horse in the mouth. They shoot it on sight.
TJ: Barry you put into words a lot of what has bothered me since the rebirth. When he that shall remain nameless ran the Browns I had a feeling that they were part of the community, truly my team. Now I feel like I am a fan of a major corporate conglomerate. Feels like I am a fan of Pepsi or Nike. Love the product but it just doesn't feel the same.
Barry: It's been this way since 1999. Everything is too controlled, too distant. Pushing away the media just makes it more so.
Real life is messy, includes both good news and bad. Real emotions, real struggles. Fans want to be a part of that. If you empathize with someone, you can tolerate their struggle. No one empathizes with General Motors or IBM.
The team just wants you to know that everything is under control and everything is fine. They'll pat you on the head and send you on your way. Now, go eat some of the the Official Meat Products of the Cleveland Browns in the Barking Lot.
PJB: Enjoyed the article. One other thing that I thought of is that Crennel's cutting off media access is really only hurting him. It's pretty obvious that Crennel is not a good media guy. Although he'll crack jokes occasionally in his press conferences, it's pretty clear that he isn't great in that element... Now we're all turning against him, and I can't help believe that in addition to the record it is because he's not that great when he speaks in his press conferences, and we don't have a feel for what he does behind closed doors.
Barry: Bullseye! Bill Belichick can get away with closing practices, but even he has made a point of bringing the media more into his world after he went to New England by explaining plays and game plans. While the Patriots media situation is too restrictive as well, at least they can fall back on having won three Super Bowls in four years. The Browns, on the other hand, haven't gotten into a Super Bowl without a ticket over the last forty years.
Right now, all you know about Romeo Crennel and how the team works to win is what he tells you in a brief talking head session and by talking to players scared to death that they'll say something interesting to the press. Then you look at the standings, and it makes all that sound like so much hot air.
As Crurode said in the forums: "Romeo Crennel, tear down this wall!" It will help the team, the media, and the fans.
Bill: Sadly, I must agree with all of your comments. I have been a Browns fan since 1959 and for the most part, the last couple of decades have been very painful. Lerner is clueless and so is the rest of the upper management structure. Randy is not old enough to make the tough decisions that have to be made. Why is Crennel so enamored with Carthon? I really hate to say this, but if Crennel won't make the needed changes to his coaching staff before next season, then he needs to go as well. Have you sent those fan base statistics to the Browns? Does Randy listen to anyone besides his own staff? Is there another owner who would be willing to give him some sage advice? Would it make any difference?
Barry: I think the Browns are probably more interested in reading a recent study what held that Browns fans were the most loyal in the NFL. The study included such elements at temperature in the calculation and utilizes an average attendance of 99.83% for the team, which is a joke. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look out over CBS and dispute that number. There are a lot of empty seats. I'm proud of being a Browns fan, but, frankly, that study was almost laughable in its methodology.
No one from Berea asks for advice or calls me up to talk about their thinking, but I'm sure that sort of thing just convinces the organization that it's on the right path. Unfortunately, as I'm finding this season, there are limits to what even Browns fans will endure.
BTW, Randy Lerner turns to the Patriots Bob Kraft for a lot of advice, but I'm not sure the advice of someone who has three recent Super Bowl wins translates into how to deal with a fan base that hasn't been to a championship since 1964.
BillR: Barry, this is the most insightful article about the Browns I have read in a long time . I have been a fan since the late 60's. I now am about to change to the Colts they are closer to my home & much better of course then the Browns . I in the past I have flown my Browns flag in the front yard with pride, I now keep in the garage. Thanks again for your article.
Barry: You've been waiting a long time for that Super Bowl and have at least one more year of waiting ahead, I'm afraid. Your situation is a problem that is facing the Browns right now - they're losing the areas of the state where they compete with the Steelers, Bengals, and even the Colts. Fans see little reason to stick with the Browns. I hope you stick with the orange and brown and hang in there. Hopefully, the organization will get their act together on and off the field in the near future. Folks who have waited nearly forty years like yourself deserve it.
Barry: I have nothing to add to any of these. They express points of view that I hear nearly every day. I'm inserting the following excerpts of forum posts and emails without further comment.
Dave: Your article focused on the media blackout which to be honest I didn't even put my finger on until I read it. I just knew that I was becoming more and more disconnected with the team. I just sit hear and listen to them lose every week. I have two sons who "were" Browns fans but they are losing interest too. It's embarrassing after awhile to follow at team that screws everything up all the time. Like you said, they don't remember the old days when no team wanted to have to come into Municipal stadium.
Joe: Great article! The lack of actual info makes fans react more dramatically to the lack of production by the coaching staff and ownership. Absent real credible info, fans will create their own. This is how rumors and conspiracy theories start, in a vacuum. There might be more reasonable solutions to the offenses woes than firing Carthon ( I doubt it ) but it's the only solution fans can come up with when they have nothing to work with.
Jim: I believe there are no secrets in the NFL. I don't know why a team has to do this cloak and dagger stuff. Football is not rocket science though some would like to make you think it is. It is about execution. I don't expect or would want someone to report on the playbook, although I would think that if an opponent were to see formations, plays, whatever, that is all the more they need to prepare for. Preseason for example, why all the vanilla? Run the plays and make the other team work. News is all we want, coach talk, player updates (not just injuries) who looks good in practice, etc. Savage and Lerner grew up in an era I'd like to revisit. access. We pay the freight, the fans. No fans, no team!
Henry: You make some great points. Firstly that the organization is losing
fans. And also, maybe worse, the fans are losing interest. The product on
the field has been not just awful but boring. Its one thing for the team
to lose (a lot) its another for them to play boring un-inspired football. But
there are some causes of fan erosion not mentioned. As a ticket holder at
the old stadium and the new, I must say that while the new stadium is much more
modern, it has all the personality of a giant cinderblock. A ticket to a Browns
game includes more than just a seat to watch the game. There are the food
and beverage choices, the atmosphere in the concourses, etc. My experiences with
these are horrible. The food choices are dismal and the quality is
inconsistent at best. The beer choices are great if you like Miller Lite or Bud Lite. The few places to find anything else like the locally
produced Great Lakes beers are impossible to find or like the "Beers Of The
World" charge exorbitant prices and then run out of beer during half time. Maybe if ownership focused on providing a quality game experience to the
ticket holders instead of just maximizing marketing opportunities fans wouldn't
be increasingly disillusioned with pro football in Cleveland.
Maybe if ownership focused on providing a quality game experience to the ticket holders instead of just maximizing marketing opportunities fans wouldn't be increasingly disillusioned with pro football in Cleveland.
NTR: I will say that somehow I actually care about this team more, and because I care about them, I am willing to spend more time here posting more than I have in many moons. But I will spend less time at the stadium where the fools that run this franchise have the opportunity to break my interest in them with their stupidity. Items that piss me off enough to significantly reduce caring:
Having my ticket checked every time I return to my section in the bleachers. I mean c'mon, it is the cheapest ticket in the stadium, why the hell would someone try to sneak in there? Dumb asses.
The entire beer in a cup stupidity, which was the Browns idea. At least the cops don't take it seriously now that Lady Jane is gone.
Ridiculous concession prices, fans who have no clue and shouldn't be there, blowing game after game, coaches who condescend to the fans, a non-responsive front office.
This team isn't the team I grew up loving, it is now run by a bunch of incompetents who are driving fans away with their play and their act. I can actually understand it. They don't get it, and I don't know that anything other than 20,000 empty seats for opening day will send the message and get things changed.
JC: I loved your editorial, and I agree wholeheartedly. The arrogance of the NFL as well as how Browns fans are taken for granted is troubling. I have often wondered out loud if the joke is on US for our continued support of this franchise... hell... it is more than support. We eat, sleep drink and breathe Cleveland Browns, and the team KNOWS it. How could such a loyal fan base be treated so indifferently is beyond me.
Jon: I've often wondered the same thing regarding the CIA
like secrecy surrounding the happenings of our beloved team on anything and
everything. I'm pretty darn tired of the status quo. Unfortunately I, like you
and countless other fans, will continue supporting the Browns because one day we
all hope they'll show us what a football team looks like and why we've spent
hundreds and thousands of dollar on them...
DC: I am with you Barry. My wife and I are huge football fans (she's a Bills season ticket holder), but we feel that with every passing year (or two) the NFL becomes more blatantly (and annoyingly) commercial and less enjoyable... If anyone wants to see the future, go to a Redskins game at FedEx field. Awful, awful experience, where everything is blatantly geared to pumping fans for money rather than enhancing the game experience. You can urinate in the PNC Bank urinal or sit in a seat brought to you by Dunkin Donuts. An exaggeration, but not by much. The NFL has to remember that the product of quality football made the NFL what it is. The NFL (and ESPN, NBC, et al) are playing with fire when they interfere with that product.
DaveR: You are right on the money Barry. I am older than you and was in college in 1964 when the Browns beat the Colts 27-0 on Gary Collins' post patterns. The team that calls themselves the Browns now might as well exist in a parallel universe, because they are so out of touch with the media and fans. I like Romeo because I think he is a good human being, but as much as I want him to succeed in Cleveland, I'm afraid he may not be head coach material. He doesn't understand that you can't treat the media or the fans like children. Some of his answers to questions are so lame that it makes me gag. A play that doesn't work is a bad play and one that does is a good play ... give me a break!
GregZ: Don't get flustered because the Browns hold everything so close to the vest. They discourage objectivity by hiding everything from the media and fans. Ever since the team returned in 99 the Browns have proven to be untrusting of the media, secretive with everyone (Including the player that are cut or traded), untruthful with the fans, and scared to be honest and open because then we will see how bad they screw things up behind the scenes.
Norm: Great read, that has me reflecting on my love of this team and not the NFL in general. Its times like this I curse my wife for making me sit down back 1999 and ever watching this team again. Come on she said you know you want to. And after that, I was hooked again. It makes me realize how little this origination cares for its fan base. This shows how little appreciation they have for what we as fans have been though. Not getting insight with the players and coaching staff makes them just faces, wearing the colors of the team and city I cheer for. This is pro football to me, one team in one city. It's the reason when the team looks bad I go to the Draft Brew in Sept. Thanks again for the emotions and great read.
RR: Finding most of the commentary dead on with my thoughts, I wonder how long it continues. This week I fly to Cleveland to see the Browns. I do it every year. I know people who attend every home game. Get on the train in Mass or RI and go to the game. Returning for work on Monday night or Tuesday morning. This week's trip is the most disconcerting. No one seems to be excited about the trip and if they hadn't spent the money, I doubt many would attend. One friend, Lenny the postman succinctly summed up the situation when he repeated his son's question, " Dad, why did you bring me up to be a Browns' fan?
TX: I think this article and thinking is spot on. The NFL is a large, pompous and arrogant organization. So are our new Browns, as so eloquently put by Barry. And if you want comparisons, publically traded companies do have to answer to their share holders - what's selling, not selling, strategic direction, etc. These knuckleheads that run the Browns owe their 'shareholders' a lot after holding them for ransom for PSL's, expensive season tickets (relative to the product they trot out their), parking, conce$$ions, luxury suites and of course the all encompassing 'Sin Tax' to pay for the new stadium.
Like Barry I was also pretty young to remember 1964 and Jim Brown playing is a vague memory. Leroy Kelly and Paul Warfield were my first Browns heroes. The Cardic Kids and Bernies team of the 80's was an incredible era. And sadly these are the guys that the NFL is conveniently forgetting about financially along with their loyal fan base - the people that put them on the map. They -- and we -- deserve much better.
Ted: I'm the same age as you and I live and die with this pathetic franchise. I own ten PSL's just so that my boys and my buddies can all sit together and for ten days out of the year we can heal our wounds of life in the 21st century. But you know what....they're even starting to lose me. I never thought that was possible but it's happening. The arrogant attitude of this organization is mystifying! What have they ever done worth noting in their current positions?
Brian: I just wanted to respond to your article. You are absolutely correct. I love the Browns, I have always loved the Browns, and I will continue to love the Browns, however, I don't know how much more time and money I can contribute to an organization who doesn't care about me.
MS: Great article...scary article...kind of left a pit in my gut after reading it, but you are right on the mark. If the NFL and more importantly the Cleveland Browns just played there cards right (admitted mistakes, promised they would fix them, opened up a little more info to the fans, communicate with us, etc...), the team could still be 1-4 but the attitude toward the team would be different. No one would be content with that 1-4 record but we would all feel a little better about the team we love. We would feel like we matter in their eyes. It doesn't always feel that way. You and your staff do a great job at being the lone source of light in an otherwise black cave.
Dixie: Maybe Romeo isn't comfortable with the media - I could care less. I know Savage is. Both of them, along with Pele Lerner need to step up and address every damn thing. Right down to why it costs $6 for a hot dog at the stadium (guess), but that same dog is overpriced at the 7-11 for only a buck. I want to know. We deserve to know. I've spent enough time giving them my money, now give me some freaking answers.
Scott: Just got home from the first day on a new job and where do I go to on my computer first? The OBR. I do it for articles like this one. Barry, that (imho) was the best front page read I have had since finding this site. I have sensed the disconnect the team has with reality for a while. You deal directly with it on a daily basis, it must be extremely frustrating, given the passion you feel for this team. All I can say is THANK YOU Barry! Keep fighting the good fight man. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
LLS: Well done. I think should be sent to Goodall as well since he is the one to shape this league for years to come. After reading it I'm not sure whether I should get ready to take up arms or run for the hills. I'll stand and fight for now.
dual: Hokay... the old guy cannot stand it anymore... How do you rally-back a hole blown society that cannot be once again proud, and bound by its sports teams, work ethic, and kick ass business integrity. This football team of ours (forget baseball) has raped the fans, squandered their future, and simply lost the mission statement this city deserves. Barry speaks well.... listen. Those of us who are Cleveland born, raised, educated out here in the diaspora, are still writing home...no one is answering the letters. I have been beat to death on here for saying that "it lies there in the back of some closed door area of our minds that, this pro football thing is over.... the salaries, the management, the lost "local" competition, the costs; we keep that door closed -for now- and have to wonder what...event, what season, what insult to our persona will blow it off its hinges, making us acknowledge that they finally killed it, and, we walk away. Not sports like we have known it folks, its CYA, $, and outta' towners running the show... "for you"
Jeff: I've completely turned my back on baseball. I haven't watched an Indians at-bat in 3 or 4 years now. I don't miss it in the least. I'm afraid I see the same thing happening to my love of football. As every year goes by I get less and less out of professional sports. Every year I pay less and less attention. If I don't get anything out of it, why do I watch it? In another year or so, I'm afraid this won't be an issue anymore.
mdr: Barry, great article. I think a lot of Browns fans have similar feelings about the current franchise. In regard to the Browns franchise, I agree that if things don't turn around soon, Randy (and us fools who watch every game) are going to start to see a half empty stadium. The crowd will be made up of fans of the opposing team and people who can afford to pay 6 bucks for a beer, and don't care about the team or the game.
Here is another problem for Lerner: 90% of the group that I watch the games with is over 35 (I'm 39). All but one regular was born and raised in Ohio. My experience is this: unless you were born in Northern Ohio between about 1930 and 1975, you have never experienced a "good" Browns team, never experienced old Muni, never experienced playoff games, players that you respected, etc. I was in Vegas in Oct. 2005 and met a group of people from Cleveland. There were 3 couples about 25 years old. I mentioned the Browns - and they all basically said the same thing: "who cares". Everybody who knows how good it can be is gonna be gone soon. People will not spend time and money on a terrible product. And that is what Randy should really be caring about. End of rant.