Posted using ShareThis
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.