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!
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In this viral video era of skateboarding dogs, cats freaking out over cucumbers, and kids doing an endless variety of cute things, there's no telling who or what will be the next transient social media star. That's why we took notice a couple of weeks ago when a time-lapse video of Interlake Steamship Company's Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder heading up Cleveland's Cuyahoga River went from a personal share on a Facebook page to being distributed nationally by design & technology blog Gizmodo.
Like many viral videos it started innocently enough - Jeremy Mock, Master (Captain) of the 711 foot long, 70 foot wide Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder, received a GoPro for Christmas and he lashed it to the Dorothy Ann's 75 foot high bridge before a 3 hour run from the Port of Cleveland's bulk loading terminal on Lake Erie to ArcelorMittal's steelmaking facility 5 1/2 miles up the Cuyahoga River.
On January 3rd Mock posted the 24 second time-lapse video to his personal Facebook thinking his friends would enjoy seeing what he sees. Mock recounted the night after the video first went public as he was sitting in the Dorothy Ann's galley when his 3rd assistant said "Your vid is up to 3,000 views and I bet it will hit 5,000 by midnight". Mock adds "It was the joke on the ship - I couldn't understand it. Then it zoomed right past 20,000 views. That original Facebook post now has over 85,000 views".
Interlake Steamship Company subsequently shared the video on their Facebook and a day later MLive.com (Michigan's largest news and information site, 11M digital readers/month) called Mock and ran a story on the video. A few days later, Gizmodo posted it on their Facebook (1.25M followers) and Sploid blog.
"It goes to show the power of social media and I'm pleased the video has touched a lot of people" said Mock. When asked why so many people have an affinity for Great Lakes ships like his, Mock replies "a lot of our audience are people who had family members work on the ships, and when they see this enormous vessel passing a beach or a port, it reminds them of their history."
Interlake Steamship Company's President, Mark Barker, has embraced social media as a way to inform the public on the merits of the maritime shipping industry. "It's great that people get to see what our talented employees do while learning about the positive impact our industry has on the local, regional and national economy"
"We're a silent operation so folks don't know that much about us. People see trucks and rail cars all the time but ships aren't as visible - we come into a port, unload, and leave. In the Great Lakes our industry transports 100 million tons of raw materials per year in a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly manner. That's a great story that needs to get out there".
Chrissy Kadleck, Interlake's public relations coordinator, loves connecting with freighter fans by providing insight and engaging content about behind-the-scenes ship operations and industry news.
"It's a wonderful opportunity as a company to be able to highlight what our highly skilled and well-trained employees do every day working on the Great Lakes," says Kadleck. "You have to remember our ships aren’t typical workplaces as our employees live and work on our ships 24-7. Many people don't realize people are still working on the lakes.”
Kadleck loves how Interlake's fans share pictures and videos of the company’s fleet and she likes fostering conversations with the community by answering questions posted on Interlake's Facebook page. "It's my goal to create a compelling conversation with our fans. It’s important to have that the back and forth so I aim to answer every question and message we receive in a timely fashion.” Popular posts run the gamut from, weather related items such as waterspouts, lightning, and large waves to ship repowering projects and the expansion of emission-reduction efforts to 1/3 of its fleet.
"We never know what's going to take off with our audience," says Kadleck. "But our genuine connection also allows us to inform them on strategic issues impacting the Great Lakes shipping industry such as expansion of the Soo Locks, a new heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes, dredging and uniform federal regulation of ballast water."
As the Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder sits at an Erie, PA shipyard for its winter lay-up before heading back out on the Great Lakes late February, Master Jeremy Mock reflects on the Cuyahoga River's uniqueness in the Great Lakes system. "The Buffalo River is somewhat comparable in terms of twists and turns but the Cuyahoga River is like nowhere else - it's a completely unique beast".
By now most of you have seen that great time-lapse vid of Interlake Steamship Company's Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder making its way from the Port of Cleveland bulk terminal on Lake Erie up the curvy Cuyahoga River to ArcelorMittal in 24 seconds.
It was interesting to see how the video went viral and we'll be posting something next week on the confluence of Great Lakes shipping and social media. In the meantime, here's our #FreighterFriday nod with a different time-lapse of the Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder blazing up the Cuyahoga River!
And if you somehow missed the video shot by the Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder's captain, here it is!