Cleveland Browns fans waving white flags? Another brilliant sports promotion
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
By Bud Shaw, The Plain Dealer
Wondering why the Pittsburgh Steelers have won 16 of their past 17 games against the Cleveland Browns? The Steelers give their fans "Terrible Towels.'' The Browns give their fans white flags. Next question?
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Whew, good thing Jimmy Haslam is running things now.
The Browns and Ticketmaster have put their heads together -- or not -- to give fans attending Sunday's game against Pittsburgh white inflatable flags to wave.
There is an orange helmet on the flag and the name "Cleveland Browns," presumably to clear up any confusion over which side has customarily given up hope of going home with a win.
The Browns have lost 16 of 17 to the Steelers.
So this isn't the most questionable promotional idea you can imagine. Losing 17 of 17 would make it that.
I don't want to say the Browns and Ticketmaster aren't thinking things through here.
But just in case the Browns are not up on their battle symbolism, somebody warn them that if the Steelers offer the gift of a Trojan horse, chances are Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu are going to spill out of it and do some damage.
Most of the wackiest sports promotions in history are intentionally designed to amuse the fans in attendance, provide pleasure even.
Some go horribly wrong from there as we learned from "Ten Cent Beer Night" and "Disco Demolition Night."
Others in that category:
-- The Dodgers handed out souvenir baseballs to their fans in August 1995. That game ended in a rare forfeit after an argument between Dodgers players and umpires became so heated fans threw hundreds of baseballs on the field.
"Derek Lowe Poster Night"
-- Lowe, the Red Sox closer at the time, entered the game with a three-run lead in the ninth and melted down. He gave up five runs.
Fans littered the field with his posters and the game had to be stopped. Outside Fenway, Lowe contends, he saw fans feeding his posters into a bonfire.
That can happen. But it takes a special promotion to alienate fans from the beginning. Inflatable white flags take a deserving spot in that lineup:
"Pre-Planned Funeral Night"
-- The Hagerstown Suns brought their fans to the ballpark thinking about their own mortality and sent one lucky? fan home with a $6,500 funeral completely paid for. A depressing time was had by all.
"Salute to Indoor Plumbing Night
" -- The idea behind the West Virginia Power promotion was to shut down all the stadium rest room facilities and have fans use portable toilets so they'd go home with a better appreciation of modern conveniences. The board of health nixed it.
-- The Charleston Riverdogs locked paying customers out for the first five innings so they could make history with a game played in front of -- you guessed it -- no one. What a deal.
Actually, Browns fans might prefer that compared to surrender symbolism.
But let's not be too hard on the folks in Berea, who were obviously trying to come up with an answer to the Terrible Towel.
It's not as if Roberto Duran will walk to midfield as honorary captain Sunday, flip the coin and declare "No mas" if the Browns lose the toss.
When asked, I believe he was unavailable.
What's behind Door No. 3?
Be careful what you're thankful about in Cleveland sports. There's always a catch.
Ben Roethlisberger is out for Sunday's game.
So the Steelers are down to their third quarterback.
The catch? Charlie Batch suits their offense better than No. 2 quarterback Byron Leftwich, last seen throwing passes with all the touch of Zeus firing thunderbolts.
Batch is 5-2 as a starter in place of Roethlisberger, though he hasn't thrown a pass in a real game in 2012.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who doesn't exactly have a deft touch in handling quarterbacks, let Leftwich play last time out with damaged ribs. He chose not to use Batch.
The Steelers are running a shorter passing offense, ostensibly meant to keep Roethlisberger healthier this season. Batch doesn't have a strong arm but has shown a nice touch and the ability to slide around in the pocket.
"We know Batch from years previous," Pat Shurmur said this week. "I think when veteran quarterbacks come in they tend to do well."
You can be sure the Steelers aren't coming in waving white flags.
Another reason why Charlie Batch starting for Pittsburgh instead of Byron Leftwich isn't necessarily a break for the Browns. Batch is a smart player with a quick release.
Not saying Leftwich plays dumb, just that he has as longer windup than Ubaldo Jimenez.
One reason I'm thankful to be writing sports in Cleveland. Never been trampled in a championship parade.
Another reason to be thankful for Cleveland sports in 2012. Not much post-game traffic.