We have to hand it to the hapless Cleveland Browns: Not only have they recently fumbled a great opportunity to bond with their long suffering fans, but they've managed to elevate Lake Erie's brand to a point where that Great Lake now eclipses the Cuyahoga River as shorthand for national media to kick Cleveland in the shins.
In case you missed last week's announcement via Twitter, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson announced he'd be jumping in Lake Erie on June 1. Last year coach Jackson had vowed to jump in Lake Erie if his team failed to improve on its 1-15 record in 2016. As long-suffering Browns fans know, the team managed to go winless in 2017, putting coach on the clock for delivering on his promise.
Last week's announcement gave some cause to wonder how coach Jackson's June dip in a Great Lake was a sufficient enough nod to loyal fans who have endured the Browns' 1-31 record over two seasons. Many thought a dip in winter (before the NFL draft) would have been a more deserving and appropriate "cleansing of the Cleveland Browns".
And we have to admit a certain wonderment at how Browns brass are turning a wonderful opportunity to bond with their devoted fans (@Reflog_18's Cleveland Browns Perfect Season Parade anyone?) into an overly managed, private photo-op that loses any sense of connection with the Browns' fan base. Shutting loyal fans out of the opportunity to personally witness coach Hue making good on his word is a half-hearted way to erase the sins of the past. Does anyone doubt a public event would be both more appropriate AND effective? C'mon Browns, there's still time to call an audible and make coach Hue's dip a public celebration!
But the Browns HAVE done something that bears noting. After the Browns' announcement of coach Jacksons dive into the lake, we couldn't help but notice how national media described Lake Erie as "pretty gross" and "stinky".
Years of repeated algae blooms in Lake Erie's western basin have managed to taint the national brand of that Great Lake. And out-of-towners don't discern the problem as a localized one. They think ALL of Lake Erie is covered in pea-green soup. Heck, even Ohio's Governor John Kasich has trouble communicating Lake Erie's impaired status effectively. And yeah, we're even guilty of having a little fun at Lake Erie's expense with a "Creature" riff we made back in 2014 during the Toledo water crisis.
But the Lake Erie PR pulse from last week's Browns announcement made us realize Lake Erie's ongoing challenges with algae blooms has tainted the public mindset to a point where a spoiled Lake Erie has finally eclipsed the Cuyahoga River as shorthand for out-of-towners to kick Cleveland in the shins. After 49 years, the memories of the 1969 fire (under the image of the 66-year-old photo from the 1952 fire) have finally receded. Good for the river, bad for the lake. To recognize that changed status, you're invited to the 2nd annual Share the River Ramble, our June 22 walk, run, beer and music celebration how far the Cuyahoga River has come since the 1969 fire.
Of course some national media still have trouble keeping Lake Erie and Cuyahoga River history straight. Check out yesterday morning's First & Last on ESPN Radio. And yeah we know Golic Jr. didn't grow up in Cleveland but his dad did!