Monday, February 11, 2013

Haslam Returning to Flying J. Will the Browns Stay in Cleveland?

   Jimmy Haslam has had enough of  Cleveland winters, and is returning to Knoxville to resume his career as CEO of the Flying J  Corporation (see the article by Robert L. Smith of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, published online earlier today, ).  

Haslam, who once described himself as a "1000% Steelers fan," has promised to keep the team in Cleveland.  

     An interesting question is whether the current ownership group will be susceptible for overtures from Los Angeles, which has been promised a team.  Los Angeles will be presenting its sales pitch for just about every team in the NFL.  "You have a stadium deal?  We have a better one.  We have more fans, and more rich fans.  We have a better TV market, better radio market, better internet, better everything.  We have more fans who will buy more team jerseys, more souvenirs, more everything.  Mr. Owner, we will increase the value of your investment by a billion dollars." 

     Now, one of the defenses against that is local ownership.  Not everyone wants to be like Art Modell and have an entire city hate his guts for moving the team.  So for that reason, it was comforting to know that the Haslam family had bought a mansion in Bratentahl. His family is rightfully known for tremendous community service, and the community looked forward to embracing themBut now, a few months after the sale of the team was approved,  it is clear that Haslam will be a non-resident owner.   
      There is every assurance that Mr. Haslam intends to keep the team in Cleveland, recall that as minority owner of the Steelers, he had access to the NFL Stadium Committee through Dan Rooney, which among other things was concerned about bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles.  Oddly, this scenario played out in the 1940's when the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles, and resulted in the Browns being formed in 1946

     It may also be worth noting the Browns hired Alec Scheiner to be the team President.  Scheiner was instrumental in building the incredible new Cowboys' stadium in Arlington for Jerry Jones.  Scheiner would be great to oversee stadium construction in Los Angeles if that should ever be necessary. That's just a coincidence, right?  But the point is that the Browns would be one of the best organizations to manage a move to Los Angeles, because they have the elite stadium building expertise, and in addition their front office (Mike Lombardi) has experience with the previous Browns move to Baltimore, and on top of that worked for Al Davis of the Oakland (formerly Los Angeles) Raiders. 

Cleveland fans are numbingly secure that ia move to Los Angeles could only happen in some other city.   

Why, we have legal assurances that the Browns won't move!  Well, that may be, but if the owner has enough money for good lawyers the lease issue can certainly be overcome.  

Our fans would get mad, so the NFL would be afraid to deal with us.  Actually I would say the opposite.  Because Cleveland went through this process before, it will be easier the second time.  The NFL will promise to relocate some other team to Cleveland by 2020 if the city agrees to have a domed stadium, and that will be about it.  The fans will be unhappy, but frankly the NFL will get over it.  The net result will be a multi-billion dollar franchise in Los Angeles, the world's largest TV market.   
The other NFL owners are our friends and woudn't let that happen.  Sure they are. But the league has put in place the mechanism to move a team to Los Angeles, so it is going to happen to some team, sometime, and probably in 2014.  The only argument is which team will be the one to go.  It will not necessarily be the team with the lowest revenue as Cleveland fans seem to think.   It will be the team with the owner that is quickest to the trough.  
 Again, I emphasize that there is no evidence that this is Mr. Haslam's intent.  But I bet the Los Angeles people are licking their chops waiting to meet with him. 
Surely Mr. Haslam is great warm hearted guy who only has the best interests of Cleveland fans at heart.  Surely in the few months he has owned the team we have won him over.  He will not be tempted by the billions of dollars offered by Los Angeles.  No, not him!

Well, that's why they call me the Village Elliot, I guess.  I can't help but feel that the owner of the Browns leaving town is just bad, very bad.  Again, there is no evidence, none at all that Haslam is considering overtures from Los Angeles, but the situation is very favorable if in fact the ownership were to attempt to move the team to Los Angeles.    



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