Enough! Fed-up Browns fans planning protest

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Posted on 29th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary

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Enough! Fed-up Browns fans planning protest

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I pick on Cleveland Browns fans a lot – and for justifiable reasons – but one thing you have to give them credit for is a true passion and the willingness to get the lead out when it makes sense to.  This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen from a fan base, in recent memory.  And, while I think  they could do better, I applaud them for doing something.  Fans spend a lot of money (seriously, often a stupid amount of money) on this type of entertainment… get mobile and take action when your money is being wasted; make the organization hear you any way you can that is constructive.

The way the NFL franchises have weaseled into our hearts and structured everything, it is extremely difficult to talk to an organization in the language they understand the best – with your money.  Sure you can avoid buying a shirt or some of the food that you normally would at the game, but as long as the PSL (license to buy the ticket) and the tickets are sold the organization has nothing in front of them that demands attention.  Rich NFL owners, unfortunately, often like to play with their money in this environment and, when things don’t work out, throw their hands up in the air saying, “Look, I tried!” as if that is enough.  Financially, If they lose a little, break even or make a small amount of money, then the prestige of owning an NFL franchise and truly being the ultimate “fan” balances out the equation in their favor – in their minds.  But if an NFL owner were to only make money when their team did well, and more importantly lost a good deal of money when the team was not good, NFL owners would take immediate notice and would quickly do whatever it took to ensure the gain and prevent the loss.  (Yes, that’s a tough argument with many angles one could play, I know… but this is coming from a fan’s point of view, here).

With the way the NFL shares revenue and TV money, a franchise can post a marginal loss and still come out ahead when all the checks are passed out.  This makes it even hard to get the message across to the NFL owner who is at the wheel of a floundering NFL franchise.  What it means is that, in order to “hit ‘em between the eyes”, the fans have to stoop to a level most would frown upon in other situations – belittling and embarrassing the organization publicly.  That way the guys holding the purse strings no longer get to sit back and be looked at as prestigious as they once were, which eliminates that aspect of the balanced equation.

In reality, this works out pretty well for the NFL fan.  After all, not too many fans are going to want to give up their seats on a long term basis to get short term improvements in the quality of the team – I think most fans would agree that’s a bit much to be expected.  But if there’s one thing fans like it is to be heard and seen, and with the internet age it is so easy to be heard and seen that this just encourages even more along that line of thought.

Now the Cleveland Browns fans are getting creative.  They have a home game, next Monday (how the hell do the Browns keep getting onto Monday Night Football anyway?), against Baltimore (a.k.a. the organization that ran off with their team years ago) and some of the fans are planning this protest where they will leave the seats empty at the beginning of the game for all the TV cameras to see.  This is great and will be talked about throughout the NFL and the media, putting Browns owner Randy Lerner in a plainly uncomfortable position that he cannot himself counterfeit by waiting to evaluate the season until that time when he looks at a year-end balance sheet.

The last time anyone saw this type of action it was not caught on camera as vividly as what might happen on next Monday night.  You might recall this: Detroit Lions fans running through sections during a game holding up “Fire Millen” signs in voicing their displeasure with then GM, Matt Millen.  Thus, even though the fans getting exercise while running away from security was highly entertaining, it was not made into a national spectacle and, in fact, only made the news because the Lions and Ford Field felt the need to publicize it by releasing a notice that all signs of similar ilk would be confiscated by security.  Even people in Detroit didn’t know about it until they heard of the release or if fans at the game had mentioned it.  On Monday, assuming the fans follow through with their threat of protest AND if the producers of the CBS TV coverage at the game allow all the bright orange empty seats in the stadium to be included in what viewers see, this protest will carry a bit more visibility.

What this threat of protest lacks, though, is teeth – the teeth being the money issue again.  If all goes “well” with the protest it will serve as embarrassing to Randy Lerner and the Browns, but unless ownership and leadership can connect that with some kind of threat of loss of income it will be only that.  If the Browns fans want something immediate to happen, they need to figure out how to add some teeth to this – so that, when Randy Lerner looks at his balance sheet at the end of the year and sees that he’s doing “okay”, he’ll remember that he’s far from doing okay.  And the clearest reminder of that would be if he looks at that balance sheet and sees something ugly starring back.

Waiting To Talk To Customer Service At Cleveland Division Of Water Is Fun

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Posted on 28th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Day to Day Goodies

You know that feeling you get when you finally make it through the BS automated phone prompt system… it’s an odd combination of achievement and apprehension for what lies next. Today’s fun times were courtesy of the Cleveland Division of Water.

First off the reason for my call was confusion on our end due to the fact that we have been receiving 3 different water bills for over a year, now. We get Rural Lorain water bills, we get Northeast Regional Sewer bills and have been getting Cleveland City water bills, too. Now, unless someone has built a diverter into our line and is switching it back and forth at their discretion, there’s only one water connection and one sewer connection. It’s common for people to pay one source for all of the above, but in our case we apparently were paying three – and all different amounts. Clearly this isn’t what I pictured and needed to get someone on the horn to help me figure it out.

Now, I don’t pretend to know how many people work at the Cleveland Division of Water and, further, I don’t have any idea how many people they need to run smoothly. All I know is there is no need for a phone receptionist as the phone greeting is automated. And clearly there is a need for an additional person to work through the calls once customers make it through the prompt tree because the hold time during normal business hours is pretty obscene.

26 minutes was the stated hold time the techno computerized voice said I would have to wait to speak with someone after I confirmed that I (a) wanted to speak english, and (b) wanted to speak with someone about my account. In the end, 36 minutes was the actual hold time, and that was one frustrating 36 minute period of life – let me tell you.  The recorded music wasn’t too bad but the recorded message that broke up the music was pretty frustrating to listen to.  (“Water is important…”, “Did you know that even a small leak could mean over 800 gallons of lost water…?”, “To reduce your risk of receiving a large bill, look at your bill and call us with any questions you might have…”, etc.).  Also, some grammatical issues were present and, when you hear those repeated a hundred times or so, that gets old real fast.

Eventually I did get to speak with someone who informed me that Northeast Regional Sewer and the Cleveland Division of Water are really one in the same.  NEORSD is “rinky dink and so they don’t have the resources to do billing… we do their billing for them” and thus if you miss a payment or your payment doesn’t post in time for your NEORSD payment, the Cleveland Division of Water then sends you a statement of past due.  Wow, I can’t imagine that being confusing to anyone, can you CDV?  And why are they different billable amounts?  And why does the CDV bill come months later when the issue is supposedly a late payment from months before?

There are some lessons to be learned here.  On my end, the lesson is simple: Pay the bill a scoche early to make sure that it’s on time to stay out of all this mess.  On CDV’s end, the lesson is this: if you want to spend less on your customer service centers, rather than cutting staff and automating the workflow (which really automates only the basic entry level job anyway), try making your billing pattern understandable and keep your name use and your statements consistent to eliminate the confusion customers are calling you about in the first place.

I know I’ll keep up my end of the bargain from now on, if for no other reason that to keep that 36 minutes in my pocket.  I can’t say that I anticipate CDV keeping up their end.

Boubacar Cissoko Booted From Michigan Football Team

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Posted on 27th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary

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Boubacar Cissoko, a promising young cornerback from Detroit Cass Tech High, was removed from the Michigan Football Team for ‘unspecified violation of team rules’, Coach Rich Rodriguez announced on Tuesday. Cissoko had been suspended from playing with the team on Saturday for similar reasons in weeks previous, but had worked himself back onto the playing field through meeting daily objectives and saw time during Michigan’s loss against Penn State on Saturday. Apparently, the positive momentum of his efforts was short lived.

Speculation by those surrounding and reporting on the team seems to indicate a variety of possible issues, most assuming a direct violation of the same things that he had been working on in recent weeks being the main undoing. But others, including Cissoko’s high school coach, shed a bit different light on the subject.

A number of sources claim that Cissoko had a poor work ethic and was incompatible as a teammate. Others focus instead on the fact that he was consistently struggling to get to class and doing well enough once there. What’s clear, given his previous publicized issues (shouting at a police officer who pulled him over, for example) is that Cissoko simply needs to get his head on straight before he completely throws away the opportunity that so many wish they had.

There’s no shortage of stories that sound like this: Talented high school sports star goes to play at college but fails to manage all that surrounds him and take advantage of his gifts and ends up disappearing from sight. It’s unbelievably sad, I think, to hear this story over and over again.

Boubacar, if you’re out there or reading this, please understand I am not angry about anything you did, nor do I feel the need to bash you at your time of difficulty like some others do. I’m just disappointed that things didn’t turn out differently and especially at a school/progam with as many available resources as Michigan has to offer to counter the incredible demands of FBS college football. I hope you find your way and are able to still eventually put your strong athletic talents to use for another program.

I hope to see Boubacar find a smaller program away from all the BCS madness so he can focus on gettting stronger mentally and educationally while still letting his physical tools just open the doors he needs to keep progressing. It’s pretty clear, if ge can his head straight, MAC schools can serve as ample proving grounds for the NFL. Who knows, maybe hindsight will prove that to be the kind of route he should have originally taken.

Laughing At Grumpy Cleveland Browns Fans Is Easy.


Posted on 12th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Day to Day Goodies | Sports Commentary


Before I go any farther, I just have to open and honest … I really can’t stand anything about the Browns. When we moved into Cleveland many moons ago I was without a pro football team. I had followed and cheered for the Lions as a kid but the lack of performance and the lack of any bonafide star players to connect with since Barry retired has made that an impossible option. I’ve also always been a college football fan much moreso than a fan of the NFL game. So, thinking it wouldn’t be bad to adopt an NFL team and having just moved to this supposed football Mecca of Cleveland, why not adopt the browns?

I’ve covered this before on many a blog post and forum thread so I don’t want to go into the lengthy topic that this can be, but let me just say that the Browns as a team, fanbase and organization have easily been as disappointing as any that I’ve heard of in a world that loves to bitch about any company at any time. Performance on the field can’t significantly outshine even the Lions, the organization can’t figure out how lead themselves let alone pick a leader for the team, and watching or following the browns is just flat out a miserable experience. The game environment is so boring and the stadium is just filled with anticipation … of failure. The uniforms are as dull and uninspiring as you can get and the color scheme is just awful – Jesus Christ is that really BROWN and white that dominates your uniform? But by far the worst part of the gig is the fans. By themselves they crush any possible hope of enjoying watching or following the team.

If you go to a game, Be prepared to sit by ‘fans’ dressed in gear from head to toe who show their love for their team by booing them at the top of their lungs when the opening possession for the Browns’ offense doesn’t prove successful. “Successful, by the way, can only mean scoring points according to those dressed like muddy pumpkins. These ‘fans’ will then proceed to try to predict when the coaches will call running plays, and they do this all game long. Because, you see, running the ball is dumb. No, it doesn’t matter that the situation at hand dictated that a running play be called upon… no no. “That’s dumb!”. Perhaps my two favorite Cleveland Brown fan features, though, are (1) the eternal inbred belief that, no matter what, the Browns are still better than you and (2) the incorrect assignment of blame upon any “unsuccessful” play attempt, game or team situation.

A very loudly spoken conversation I got the privilege of sitting next to during lunch today illustrates both of these faults perfectly. The opening statement, made before the two guys even sat down was, “Hey did you see that game yesterday… the 49ers game?” (the Atlanta Falcons played at the 49ers yesterday). “Oh my god … I thought the Browns were bad, the 49ers … oh they are worse!” You see, it’s not how bad the Browns are that matters to the fan it’s the ability to manufacture the opportunity to call out someone else as being worse.  It’s an endearing quality, really, especially when you consider that entering play on Sunday the Browns were 0-4 and still looking to understand what exactly it means to score touchdowns or to get more than 4 first downs in a quarter.  Nevermind that the 49ers were playing well and held a 3-1 record and heading into a really difficult stretch of their schedule.  The only point that matters is, to the Cleveland Brown’s fan, San Francisco played poorly on Sunday and that gave him just enough room to argue that the 49ers are worse than the Browns.  On a personal note, I think I’ll take the team averaging 22.4 points a game over the team averaging 11 points a game just about any day of the week.  Alas, this point is moot as the two teams don’t play this year.  I wonder if the Cleveland fan knew either of those points?

Now, if that were the only fault, I could live with “fan speak”.  Any fan has license to at least try to play the “My team’s better than yours!” card, but you simply have to know what you’re talking about when you emphatically put “facts” out there or give accounts of a game.  I’m not saying you have to be perfect or have some matching singular notion of what you believe happened during a period of time, but I am saying that facts are facts, left is left, and scores are scores.  For example, when you say things like, “They wore orange helmets again and they always seem to lose when they wear those orange helmets…” I can live with that.  The helmets, after all, are orange and when you qualify your statement with “they always seem to…” now we can agree there’s some wiggle room to the statement.  The problem is most Browns fans don’t qualify their statements like that, and this lunch time conversation was yet another classic example of this endless spew.  Today’s topics were oldies but goodies… how the Browns “always run up the middle” and “never pass”.

There was only one NFL game on TV in the Cleveland market, on Sunday, and so I had the misfortune of sitting and watching one of the worst played football games I can ever remember taking in.  In the game against the Buffalo Bills – easily an equal in the dredges of NFL quality teams this season, mostly because of a putrid offense – the Browns clearly felt the way to make hay against the Bills was to run the football.  This could possibly have been because they had just reorganized their passing attack by trading away Braylon Edwards and were now having to rely on a rookie, a new-this-week guy, and an undersized possession receiver, but it could also have something to do with the fact that the Buffalo Bills have one of the better pass defenses in the league.  Neither of those points were brought up by the fan as he bitched to his fellow fan, nor were those points brought up in response.  Instead, it was teamwork reinforcement of the belief that all the Browns did on Sunday was run up the middle and that they never threw the ball.  One look at the game stats would tell a different story AND, if they had actually watched the game and have been interested in absorbing what was happening, rather than just harvesting vitriol in their minds, they would have seen that there was a passing game present that was absolutely ineffective (Cleveland and Derrick Anderson were 2-17… that’s TWO of 17, for 23 yards.  23 yards passing.  In a game;  a full game.  Two completions.  On the flip side, that running game that “always goes up the middle” produced 171 yards.  And the amazing thing is it did so because it attacked the weak spots on the Buffalo defensive line – the ends. Yet, all of this somehow goes completely unnoticed because the fans don’t see what they want to see.

You see, what constitutes success is largely determined by the fans of any sports program;  I get that. But you are really asking for it when the uninformed, ignorant and depressed are the ones setting the standard.  When every run that doesn’t get 4 or more yards is seen as “running it up the middle” or when passing attempts that are not completed are not counted as passing plays, you’re talking about fans who just don’t understand the game.  If those that don’t understand are setting the standard, it makes for a nightmare.  And that’s exactly what Cleveland has on it’s hands in the Browns.  Where are the good fans?  If you’re out there, let your voices be heard!  Drown out these buffoons who make a trip to Cleveland Browns Stadium such a predictable and unsatisfying venture.

My last item, here:  Supposedly, only Braylon Edwards dropped passes while he was on the Browns’ roster.  And, to be clear, he supposedly dropped everything thrown to him and all of the footballs thrown at him were perfect passes.  Yet, on Sunday, different Browns receivers dropped at least 5 balls that I remember – interesting.  I also seem to remember all but 1 of those passes from Derrick Anderson being in a terrible position for the receiver to make a play on the ball – provacative.  Learn the game, Cleveland Browns fans.  Start with the rules of the game and the penalties/infractions that are often called during it (focus on the illegal contact and pass interference penalties, since they get you so upset all the time).  There’s enough research to get done there that it should keep you guys quiet for a few games.

CNN iPhone App $2.99 AND Loaded With Ads?

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Posted on 12th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Day to Day Goodies


What the heck is with CNN’s iPhone app not being free and actually costing upwards of $2.99? What’s worse is that, even though you’re paying for it, it’s still loaded with ads that get in the way of browsing the news headlines and watching videos, etc. There’s lots of apps that are free and then force the advertising upon you while you’re using it, but usually when you pay for an app you get the benefit of reduced advertising or even the complete absence of ads.

I was just about to download that when I read reviews and saw that lots of users are complaining about the same thing. No thanks, I’ll just stick with ABC, NY Times, MSNBC, and other free apps for my news updates. Really cookin’ my noodle though… Why is the CNNmoney app free but the regular CNN app not?

I call BS.

EzPass Needed – Not Waiting In Line To Pay Ohio Turnpike Tolls

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Posted on 9th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Day to Day Goodies


So, I decide to take the turnpike route on my way to work this morning. After cruising along for the normal amount of time I exit and look forward to quickly paying my $0.50 toll. Instead i come upon cars an trucks backed up all the way down the exit ramp a bit and ‘organized’ in two columns. Upon quick guesstimate I figure I am probably in for about 10 minutes of clutch-riding-never getting-out-of-first-gear fun, when the entire turnpike ride took only about the same amount if time.

For those that don’t already know, deciding to take the turnpike route to work, for me, is about the same as deciding to order food through a drive through window or via the phone rather than walking into the place to order from the counter. On the one hand things are supposed to work smoothly and more quickly as people are generally of the same ilk in drive through – all looking for speedy service and potentially placing quicker (smaller) orders. Yet, on the other hand, you know there could be a soccer mom in front of you ordering a car-load of happy meals – some no pickle, some no onion and some with a specific toy – or an employee of the establishment who just doesn’t have their act together who could brig your plans for “faster and easier” to a screaching halt. So, too, is my decision to take the turnpike to make things faster and easier a decision that can just as easily get me into a situation that actually takes longer or which makes the ride that much less enjoyable. And today was just one of those days.

There were three toll lanes open for those exiting the turnpike at the Lorain – Elyria exit where I jump off onto route 57 that takes me to I-90. Two lanes were marked for ticket payers (those without EzPass) and one for only EzPass users. Each of the ticket lanes had 30 or so cars backed up, but there sat the EzPass only lane – practically unused. Only an occaisional vehicle drove through the lane to pay while rolling through at about 15 mph. It was just begging all of us ticket payers to take notice of the obviousness of the situation. An if it wasn’t obvious enough, it sure became so when two tractor trailers hauling covered cargo rolled right through and disappeared into the distance while we all kept waiting to move the next 10 feet.

Braylon Edwards Traded By Cleveland To New York Jets

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Posted on 8th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary

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The Cleveland Browns trade Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets

Finally… a Michigan Man gets out of Cleveland.  Hard to believe this didn’t happen before the season as it was pretty apparent the fans of Cleveland had given up on him and he had likely also given up on Cleveland (and not necessarily in that order).  This is a good move for both teams.  Cleveland needed to get something out of Braylon and this was the best way to do that in both the short and long term, I feel.  Clearly his head wasn’t focused 100% and clearly he was fighting everything around him rather than just focusing and trying to keep things in balance.  This seems to have been the case ever since his knee injury, but that’s just my opinion.  Braylon, who was last heard from tussling with some tiny, 130lb light-weight from Lebron James’ posse at 2:30am outside a night club in Cleveland, definitely needed a fresh start and a bigger stage… but really he just needed to go to an organization that knows what the hell its doing and has goals a lot loftier than just getting into the endzone at least once a game this season.

Cleveland gets two players who can help the team a little over the next two years, plus two draft picks from the Jets for some depth or specialists down the road.  And the Jets get a receiver who has the ability to be a top big receiver target both in the middle of the field and out wide.  Adding that to the speedsters already on the roster and you’re all of a sudden looking at a potentially loaded lineup for the next 2-3 seasons, assuming Braylon re-signs with New York following his contract expiration after the season. Funny enough, now the only thing missing from the Jets roster is a dangerous tight end… I say funny enough because it is the Jets’ fans’ reaction to the team drafting tight ends in the 90’s that is one of my more rock solid images of New York Jets football history and now they really could use an upgrade there.  Imagine if Cleveland had traded both of the players they had given up on to the Jets; Braylon Edwards AND, don’t forget, Kellen Winslow (26 catches ad 4 TDs so far down in Tampa Bay) was also given up on following his motor cycle incident which, again, led to the city turning against him… wow.

If you see a repetitive pattern, here, you’re not alone.  This city has burned through more talent than it knows about, and a good deal of it has left Cleveland to find solid success elsewhere – it’s just bizarre.  The fans are just waiting for every draft pick to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, drop the wrong pass, swing at the wrong pitch, take the wrong shot, get on a motor cycle during the off-season… something… anything … so that they have “cause” for their cyclical depression and Cleveland [enter team moniker here] fan requisite ire.  This city flat out got off on Braylon Edwards dropping passes, and somehow believed that the two QBs playing quarterback carousel behind the line of scrimmage were both Pro-bowlers in waiting.  Never mind that Derrick Anderson only got to the Pro Bowl because of the bind that the duo of Braylon and Kellen put defenses in on every play and the fact that the Browns finally put together a good offensive line.  Other than that year, DA has looked well south of average and an ever-changing coaching situation hasn’t helped him improve.  And Brady Quinn, being the other Pro Bowl arm on the roster, has obviously shown that he has the goods, right?  I mean, he wasn’t ever able to unseat a below-average DA, and when he got his shot his passes were late, inaccurate and often a result of bad blitz reads (a trait he was known for at Notre Dame, by the way).  Somehow, though, Braylon and Kellen are the bad guys.  Somehow, dropping a ball that he has to pull back from out of bounds territory, or dropping a pass that was threaded blindly through traffic, or dropping a pass that was only reached by long-arm and high-jump miracle makes the receiver the source of all evil?  Cleveland fans and the organization are likely going to hear about this trade for a while and it will be deserved.

There’s no excuse for bad behavior – please don’t think that’s what I’m saying.  Getting into a fight at a night club at 2:30am (People, does anything GOOD happen at 2:30am?  Why… WHY?), or running your mouth about the state of Ohio, or just being overly-sensitive to buckeye fans who are riding you a bit because of your history at Michigan… no excuses.  When you’re in the spotlight, how you treat your mailman counts.  So he better get his head on straight in New York or that town will eat him up like a two-for-one appetizer special.  I think this fresh start will allow him the opportunity to do just that.

A win-win-win trade, everyone makes out – at least on paper.  It’s hard to think anyone makes out as well as Braylon did, however.  Maybe it wasn’t the best way to go about getting it done, but Braylon gets out of Cleveland, goes to New York, and gets to play for a contender in a contract year and probably carries a tad lower expectations into the new assignment after tough times as a Brown.  That should all add up nicely for him.