From the outside looking in it may not appear that Cleveland Browns fans and billionaire truck stop magnate Jimmy Haslam III have much in common. In fact Haslam a billionaire from a white collar family, and Cleveland a blue collar steel city, appear to be a bit of an odd couple. Taking a closer look, however, it looks like a marriage made in heaven.
Cleveland Browns fans have waited a long time to support a winner. It’s been 11 years since the Browns have been to the NFL playoffs. Each year Browns fans come out with a passion unlike any other NFL fan base, hoping that next season will be the season of change. This year is no different, and the fans are again share that same hope. Hope of putting 19 losing seasons in the last 22 years behind them. A fan base that always gets up no matter how many times it has been knocked down to the mat. Despite it’s resilience the losing has taken a toll on it’s fans. A lack of confidence has infiltrated it’s base, and it’s seeped into it’s younger generations.
Coming off of a 5-11 season, Haslam spent the first part of his off-season firing and then hiring new front office and coaching staffs. Haslam then went out and spent 16 million against the 2013 salary cap on free agent acquisitions Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. The new free agent acquisitions, a strong coaching staff, and a young talented roster, have created a buzz around the NFL and within the Cleveland Browns fan base. Organizational moves aside, Jimmy Haslam has brought a swagger and a perceived competence that was infectious. It’s that swagger that Cleveland sorely lacks and needs.
Despite the progress, 500 miles from Cleveland in Knoxville Tennessee things were about to change for Jimmy Haslam and his family’s company Pilot Flying J. That change would come on April 15th, 2013 when federal agents from both the FBI and IRS executed search warrants, and raided Pilot Flying J. Accusations of fraud sent shock waves that have reverberated all the way back to Cleveland. Even though Haslam has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and has yet to be formally charged with any wrongdoing, the investigation has taken it’s toll on a proud Haslam family.
What can lessen the attention federal investigation on your family’s company? What’s the only thing that can help a fan base begin to put 19 losing seasons in 22 years behind it? Winning. While the old cliche “winning cures all ills” isn’t totally true, it can go a long way to diverting attention and putting the past behind us.
Oh what kind of wonders bringing a winner to the City of Cleveland would do for Jimmy Haslam. Cleveland is a City starving for a championship, and to bring a winner to it would make Jimmy Haslam an instant hero on the shores of Lake Erie. In turn Haslam would bring back a swagger to the city of Cleveland, a swagger that has been missing for the last 30 years.
Whether it’s years of losing or a stressful federal investigation, it’s clear Jimmy Haslam and Cleveland need each other. Whether or not you believe in fate is irrelevant. Jimmy Haslam found Cleveland and Cleveland found Jimmy, and they need each other. All that’s left to do now is build a winner.