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Browns Fans Rally Against Municipal Lot Time Change

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Larry Oliver has pulled his van into the Muni Lot at 4am for several years now.

Cleveland Browns fans have often been called some of the best fans in the world. Reason being no matter how bad the team may be (one of the worst in the NFL since their return in 1999), its fans still flock to the stadium every Sunday to watch the games. However, this season, unless the Browns show marked improvement, that may change.

While Al Lerner answered the fans’ cries for a new team management structure, the city of Cleveland now must answer to them as well. This past Saturday, while tailgating before the Browns’ preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, many fans caught wind of plans to not only raise of the price to park in the Municipal Lot from $15 to $20, but to also push back the lot’s opening time from 4a.m. to 7a.m.

The result was a massive outcry. Outraged season ticket holders, led by Larry Oliver and Chuck Dean, are protesting this change to the best of their ability, while still following the first amendment to the Bill of Rights.

In addition to creating a Facebook page called “The Muni lot should open at 4am on game days,” the two men also created an online petition addressed to Cleveland Commissioner Liegh Stevens, asking him to reconsider the decision.

Furthermore, the controversy was also covered by Cleveland channel five news affiliate WEWS. Larry was interviewed by the station and the report was aired on a recent newscast.

The efforts are not going unnoticed. Browns fans all over the city are rallying around Larry and Chuck, as the petition as of this writing garnered almost 1,000 signatures in only two days.

Because I have only been to one regular season Browns game in my entire life and did not participate in any tailgate activities, I cannot fully come to grips with the impact of these changes to the “Muni Lot.” However, I do have some understanding of what it means to season ticket holders.

Larry Oliver is my cousin’s long-time boyfriend and a good friend of mine. During Browns discussions with him at family parties, I heard many stories of tailgating rituals and how it enhances relationships between the fans. Last year I experienced that for the first time when I joined my cousin, Larry, Chuck Dean, and many of their friends for my first tailgating experience. I stood in amazement as I witnessed the interaction between those in the Muni Lot that day. Though it was only a preseason game, fans embraced the culture they have shared together as if it were a real regular season game. Many of these fans have attended these sessions for so long that it seemed like they banded together as an extended family. This past Saturday I joined them all again. Despite the nonstop pouring rain which plagued the entire time, nothing changed. They answered all my questions as to why they would wake up at 3a.m. on a Sunday and spend over twelve hours downtown near Lake Erie, especially once cold weather set in for the year.

Because I am not much of a drinker, I did not see much point in tailgating until I finally witnessed it for the first time. Tailgating is not about fans having the opportunity to drink in public without fear of incarceration. I encountered many fans who choose not to indulge. Instead, it is about fans banding together and connecting at a deeper level to better support their team. Fans who do not participate in tailgate activities still do come together at the stadium during games, but the season ticket holders who do this every Sunday know each other better than a few random fans sitting near each other in their seats during select games.

The theory is the time change for when the Municipal Lot opens is another part of Browns President Mike Holmgren’s efforts to crack down on unruly fans. The thought is by opening the lot later, that is three hours less the fans get to drink, resulting in less intoxication during games.

While there is some weight behind this theory, I truly believe that this time change is really cutting down on time between Browns fans and their extended family. Right now, in support of a struggling franchise, there is nothing more important than family.

Credit for image: Larry Oliver

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Written by apokorny

August 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Browns at a Glance

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Mike Holmgren must have enjoyed what he saw from the Browns Saturday night.

Since the night the Cavaliers were eliminated from the NBA playoffs, most fans in Cleveland, aside from a few diehard Indians fans, were anxiously awaiting the start of football season. The anticipation is higher than ever this season because Mike Holmgren, the guru of quarterbacks and the man who took two teams from the bottom of the NFL to Super Bowls, is the Browns’ new president.

Once the “Big Show” hit town, he promised Browns fans a turnaround. Of course, fans have heard these lines whenever a new regime was hired. But this one is different. The team has a front office in place with an impressive background. Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert immediately went out and formed a new quarterback contingent and signed some veterans to beef up the defense. Add in a solid draft class and this upcoming season does look very promising.

I attended the Browns’ scrimmage at the stadium and, truth be told, it was not very pretty. It looked like a typical Cleveland Browns game. Incomplete passes, penalties, interceptions, and punting plagued the scrimmage game. Aside from a few solid plays, neither offense could get in sync. The Brown team won 14-6 when new quarterback Jake Delhomme finally threw a touchdown pass to new tight end Ben Watson in the late fourth quarter. One could look at the game from a different viewpoint, thinking it was a good defensive game rather than sloppy offensively. However, what happened a week later suggests otherwise.

This past Saturday the Browns opened the preseason against the Green Bay Packers, expected to be a Super Bowl contender this year. The Browns received the opening kickoff and immediately shocked the viewing audience. Jake Delhomme threw sharp, accurate passes and the receiving corps ran crisp routes as the offense marched down the field to score a touchdown on the opening drive.

Mangini decided that was all he needed to see of Jake Delhomme for the game. Nobody expected Delhomme to play much in the first game, but being yanked after one series was interesting. In this case, though, due to his injury history and how impressive he looked on that first drive, letting Delhomme sit the rest of the game was the right thing to do. In addition, this move gave backup Seneca Wallace time to work with the first team. And Wallace did not disappoint either. After the defense recovered a fumble on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage, Wallace took the Browns down a short field for another touchdown, a nice pass in the back corner of the end zone to second-year receiver Brian Robiskie.

Then Aaron Rodgers went to work. Coming off a Pro Bowl season, Rodgers picked apart the Browns defense and immediately got Green Bay back in the game. Pulled after three series, Rodgers completed 12 of 13 passes for 159 yards, a touchdown, and an amazing 143.3 rating.

Wallace led the Browns to another touchdown to give them a 21-14 lead. Then both teams’ starters were pulled and the game turned ugly. Neither team’s backup quarterback could muster any sustained offense until midway through the third quarter when the Packers found the end zone to tie the game again on a short run. The rest of the game looked like of the Browns’ first 14 games last season.

Then Phil Dawson showed why he should be the next Browns player to be paid. Down by three with 90 seconds to go, Dawson launched a 58-yard field goal to tie the game. He had hit long field goals in the past, but this was his career long and it is always impressive when any kicker nails a field goal of such length.

After a quick three-and-out, the Browns got the ball back with plenty of time to win the game. After fourth-stringer Brett Ratliff showed his inner Pro Bowler and got them back into field goal position, Dawson booted another three-pointer, this time from an easier 46-yard distance to seal a Browns victory.

Obviously with the game being just a preseason opener, this victory does not mean a thing. Keep in mind the Browns won two games in solid fashion during the preseason last year only to lose the first seven games of the regular season. However, Browns fans cannot help but feel a small glimmer of hope from watching the beginning, then the outcome of this game.

Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both looked very good in their first outings with their new team. Second-year players Mohammed Massaquoi (before leaving with an injury) and Brian Robiskie appeared to be much improved from less than spectacular rookie seasons. Ben Watson and Evan Moore totaled three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown, causing Jim Donovan to exclaim “the tight end is back in Cleveland!” Colt McCoy left the game with a thumb injury reminiscent of Tim Couch and Brady Quinn, but that was just a small downside since he will likely not see the field at all this season.

What could use some help after first glance is the defense, which was torched by Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps this was just a case of Rodgers coming into his own as an NFL star or a defense with new parts, players, and roles needing plenty of game time to adjust and jell. Whatever the case, outside of some flashes of excellence by rookie safety T.J. Ward, the defense was not very sharp until the Packers’ first-team offense left the field.

Despite solid play leading to much excitement early on, I am in no way chanting “Super Bowl” as I am fully aware this was only the first game of preseason. However, as one Browns player said after the game “this is what happens when we execute.” So long as each player keeps this quote in mind, knows his role, and does his best to avoid injury, this game could be viewed as a good start.

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Written by apokorny

August 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Indians Wheel and Deal Again

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After the latest trades, the Cleveland Indians are now the youngest team in baseball.

The Cleveland Indians organization has been hit by a whirlwind of events again this season. Just like last year, the events reached their peak at the trade deadline. Over the course of the last week, emotions have been running high.

The beginning of the week was not even like any other. Reason being that the New York Yankees came into town for their only trip to Cleveland this season. In addition, Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez was on the brink of a career milestone, sitting on 599 career home runs going into the four-game set. The Tribe marketing department went all-out to capitalize on any possible fan interest. For weeks prior to the series the organization promoted a special offer by Chuck Galeti, host of the Indians’ post-game call-in show, in which bleacher seats at Progressive Field were only $10 for the first game. The promotion appeared to be a success as the entire section of the stadium was sold out. A few hours before game time, the Tribe Twitter contingent announced another special deal. Lower reserved seats were advertised to those who follow @tribetalk on Twitter, also for only $10 and were only available at a certain ticket window at the stadium. As a result, over 27,000 fans were in attendance to witness a pitcher’s duel. The Indians led 2-1 for much of the game until Jake Westbrook gave up an eighth inning two-run homer to give a Yankees a 3-2 win in the opener. A-Rod, under the immense pressure of hitting his 600th career homer, was 0-for-4 on the game.

The next night, hoping to capitalize on the interest from the first game, the Indians Twitter deal was in effect again. The big team had also just called up Josh Tomlin to make his Major League debut. Another crowd of over 27,000 turned out to watch another duel as Tomlin went toe-to-toe with C.C. Sabathia, holding Alex Rodriguez to another 0-for-4 game as the Tribe evened the series with a 4-1 victory.

The Indians were riding high after the superb debut they got from Tomlin and stellar work from the bullpen. But Wednesday night the storm clouds rolled in, literally. As they had the previous two games, the Tribe marketing department put up the $10 Twitter deal, but this time the weather was working against it. Shortly before game time, a rainstorm hit, delaying the game for an hour. Once it began, Fausto Carmona took the mound and was bombed right out of the gate. He obviously was not in the form he has shown all season long. He looked more like the Fausto Carmona of the last two seasons. He struggled to find the plate early and when he did, the Yankees pounded him. If Manny Acta had not pulled him early, he could very well have given up A-Rod’s 600th bomb. Again the Tribe bullpen pitched well enough to shut the Yankees, including Rodriguez, down. But the Indians lineup could not figure out A.J. Burnett and were the victims of an 8-0 shutout. Unlike the previous two games, A-Rod appeared to take some of the pressure off himself and just try to hit the ball, instead of hitting it out of the park. As a result, he went 2-for-5 with a double and a run batted in. The only entertainment for Indians fans was a near riot in the bleachers when a fan was spotted wearing a Lebron James Miami Heat jersey. Luckily the fan was ejected from the ballpark before anything disastrous could occur.

The series finale was the game I was eyeing. In addition to Alex Rodriguez still searching for that 600th home run, it was also dollar dog night at Progressive Field. Once @tribetalk announced the lower reserve seats were again on sale to Twitter users for one more game, I was sold. I headed off to the ballpark in hopes of seeing the Indians finally win a game with me in attendance. The game started off well and good as the Tribe took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. However, the possibility for disaster struck when Mitch Talbot had to leave the game in the third inning with an injury. While the Tribe bullpen had been very solid in recent weeks, it was also overworked. The Indians held the Yankees down for five innings, but by the sixth inning, the pitching staff was worn down. The Yanks posted seven runs in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth to take a commanding lead. Meanwhile the Tribe again could not figure out the Yankees’ pitching. This time they were facing youngster Dustin Moseley, who was filling in for the injured Andy Pettitte. The game was so out of hand that Manny Acta was forced to put third baseman Andy Marte on the hill to pitch the ninth. Marte rewarded Acta with a 1-2-3 inning, the Indians’ only one of the game, including a strikeout of slugger Nick Swisher, and received a massive applause from the Tribe fans left in attendance. The pop was probably the biggest the Indians received the entire game and most definitely the loudest of Marte’s career. The Indians showed a bit of life in the ninth, scoring three runs, but the game was too far out of hand to make the comeback and lost the game 11-4. Once again Alex Rodriguez failed to hit his 600th career home run. While it would have been interesting to be in attendance for something so historic, I was glad he did not do it in Cleveland. The loss left me now 0-5 in attending Tribe games. Although the team cannot seem to play well when I am at the games, I always seem to enjoy the action. However, because of such a poor record, perhaps I should consider banning myself from Tribe games for the rest of the season.

In the midst of the Yankee hoopla was the buzz over the latest Tribe trade talks. Wednesday the Indians pulled another trigger, trading struggling third baseman Jhonny Peralta to the Detroit Tigers for a single-A pitcher. This comes as no surprise as Peralta was not in the Indians’ future plans and the Tigers were desperately in need of a corner man when Brandon Inge went down with an injury. While the moves continued after the Yankees left town, the Bronx Bombers were still heavily involved with Indian affairs. Although Austin Kearns did not play well during the series, he obviously has been good enough to convince the Yankees he can contribute to their playoff run. Kearns was shipped to New York for cash or a player to be named later. The trading with the Yankees did not stop there either, as they were willing to take on the contract of Kerry Wood in another deal for cash or a player to be named. Each of these deals made sense as the Tribe is in the middle of a massive youth movement. Wood was definitely not working out for the team to warrant his ten-million dollar contract. Trading Kearns, while he was showing some good production as a middle of the order hitter, allows the organization to see if Michael Brantley has finally figured himself out after one last tour through Triple-A Columbus. Finally, the Indians were involved in another three team deadline deal which sent Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return the Tribe got a minor league pitcher from the San Diego Padres, who was described as having a “projectable arm.”

While the reasons for these deals make sense, the execution and return show one of two things: the true value of the players being traded as seen by the receiving teams, or a lack of effort to get quality in return by Tribe management. Receiving players to be named later are rarely ever a good thing. Mitch Talbot was the player to be named in the Kelly Shoppach trade. While he has been pitching well, whether he is a quality starter or a fluke remains to be seen. Fans can only hope Mark Shapiro or Chris Antonetti can pull rabbits out of their hats with the players to be named that they get from the Yankees for Kearns and Wood. As for the Indians now, they are the youngest team in the league and many fans see them as a glorified Triple-A team playing in the Majors. As I have stated before, I enjoy watching the youngsters play. Many times they will be overmatched against seasoned veterans but it will give them a valuable learning experience. Many top organizations build the core of their Major League teams from within the organization. The Minnesota Twins did it with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Francisco Liriano. The Boston Red Sox did it with Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kevin Youkilis. The Colorado Rockies did it with practically their entire roster. The Indians did it themselves once upon a time. They are capable of doing it again, even with cash strapped ownership such as the Dolans.

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