CLEVELAND — As the Cleveland Browns get ready for the 2012 season, the talk on the first day of training camp was not about hot shot rookies Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. Instead, fans were buzzing about Jimmy Haslam, the president of Pilot-Flying J travel centers and truck stops.
Haslam, a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is now negotiating with Browns owner Randy Lerner to buy the team for more than $900 million.
Longtime fan Gus Angelone, known as Pumpkinhead, told Fox 8, “I understand that he’s involved with the Steelers but he’s a minority owner. When he buys the Browns, he’ll have 900,000,000 reasons to be a Browns fan.”
With memories of Art Modell’s betrayal still fresh in their minds after 17 years, some fans fear a new owner would move the team. But Cleveland city officials have tried to allay those fears by pointing out the Browns have a lease to play at the stadium until 2029. Randy Lerner has also said he would not sell the team to anyone who would want to move the Browns.
Fans wonder if the new owner will tear up the team’s latest rebuilding plan.
“Hopefully they’ll be owners that leave the business of football to the football people”, said Jeff Normand, “But we’ve seen other owners in our past meddle with the team, so we don’t know if it’s going to stay that way or not.”
If Jimmy Haslam can give Cleveland what Randy Lerner could not, fans are willing to forget that he calls himself “a 1000 percent Steeler fan.”
“This city, to have a championship would mean the world to us, you know we’ve been waiting, we’re all diehard fans”, said Pumpkinhead Angelone, “We all bleed the same brown and orange blood, we’re dying for some kind of winning atmosphere.”