By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
The wardrobe spoke volumes. Orange Browns tie to complement a sharp, blue-gray suit. Browns helmet pin on the right lapel. Browns watch on the left wrist.
The words and the way they were delivered spoke volumes, too. The early mention that there was “zero chance” of the Browns moving out of Cleveland. The promise of being “100-percent committed” to turning the team around.
Direct. Succinct. Energetic.
“Fired-up to the max!” was how Jimmy Haslam III described himself during a news conference Friday, a day after he agreed to take a majority interest in the Browns.
And the clearest message that the Tennessee businessman delivered to the assembled media and later during an appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” was that he is all in.
The man who once described himself as being a “1,000-percent Steelers fan,” when he held a minority ownership stake in that club, made a point of referring to the Browns’ bitter rival as “that other team” and also noted that the “Steelers watch is off, the Browns watch is on.”
One would assume that writing a huge check to acquire a professional sports franchise brings with it an obvious sense of obligation to have a rooting interest in the team.
But there has to be more to it than that. There has to be an understanding of what that team means to the community in which it has had a long and dominant presence, through the good times and those far too many bad ones.
“Well, hopefully that comes through,” Haslam told me about fans recognizing that, in addition to his massive financial investment in the Browns, he has an equally large emotional investment. “Hopefully, you can tell the kind of intensity and passion that we approach things and this is a big deal. But if somebody asked me tonight what my main impression was and my main thought for today was, my biggest thought is that we have a tremendous responsibility to make sure we win here because the Cleveland community deserves it.
“I walk away with not a heavy load on my shoulders, but thinking, ‘I already thought we had to make this work, but now I really think we’ve got to make it work because it will be awesome for the Cleveland community.”
As Haslam and his wife, Dee, and his father watched practice Friday morning, his body language indicated that he was much more than a big-time investor looking over another of the truck stops that his family owns in 43 states (including 32 in Ohio). He was thoroughly focused on everything that happened on the field.
He studied the details of Brandon Weeden’s throwing motion. He watched the way Trent Richardson worked his way through would-be tacklers with the ball tucked under his arm. He followed every step of the routes Josh Gordon and the other receivers ran.
And he asked plenty of questions of the football experts standing next to him, team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert.
Haslam is the first to admit that, when it comes to football and the NFL, he is a novice. He doesn’t have all of the answers. Beyond the passion for the game that his father, a former University of Tennessee football player, instilled in him at a young age, he recognizes that there is “going to be a learning curve” and he is “going to ask a lot of questions” of people in the know. That includes taking up Patriots owner Robert Kraft on his invitation to pay a visit to Foxborough, Mass., and pick his brain.
Haslam seems to get it, and that is all any Browns fan hoping for this ownership change to go a long way toward helping to produce the on-field success for which they have been starving can ask.
His simple answer to my question about what, besides the availability of an NFL team, made the Browns so attractive said it all: “Fan base and the excitement about football here.”
>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.
>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci
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