The tweets came back in a steady flow.
Neal Hodgeman's response:
@mikefreemanNFL $4200 worth of season tickets and a 2 month old T-Rich jersey for $150...I get the trade, but owe it to fans to try to win— Neal Hodgeman (@GoBrowns139) September 19, 2013
To be clear, I'm not saying that we need to feel sorry for these fans. This is clearly a first-world problem. These fans aren't starving. They can feed their families. They're not fighting the Taliban.
Yet in the sports universe, these are the tangible and important effects of throwing away a season, as the Browns have done, and this is why the NFL needs to change its rules so that the commissioner has the power to veto deals that don't serve the best interests of a fanbase.
It could be argued that Browns fans are the most loyal in sports. They've been dedicated to a team that hasn't had a winning record in nine of the past 10 years. They've endured the The Drive, The Fumble and The Modell.
The team's fans still buy tickets, still pack the stadium, still shovel out cash to purchase merchandise. They still love their team.
Browns management took advantage of that dedication knowing that fans would hold their noses and still go to games. And still pack the stadium. And still shovel out cash to buy shirts and tickets.
And still love their team.
No one forces fans to buy season tickets, but this is what sports are all about. Fans express their love by going to games. Owners generate huge profits from that passion. In return, all fans want is for owners and management to field the best teams possible. The Browns have failed to do this.
Look at the prices the Browns charge. According to Ticketmaster, which works with the Browns to sell season tickets, the cheapest, nosebleed types of seats are $315 for the season. Three-hundy for the worst tickets to see one of the worst-run franchises in all of sports. Take a spouse and a few kids, and that's a grand or more for the right to sit up so high your head is in the landing pattern of the nearby airport.
Slightly better views cost $385. Club-level sideline seats cost $1,442. Say you bought three tickets—that would cost $4,326. Again, people don't have to pay that, but they do, and did, because they love their team.
A club-level prime seat is $2,030. Don't do the math on that one.
People paid those prices before this season. They did so knowing the history of the Browns, but also with the thinking that there's always an element of hope.
What Cleveland did with this trade has to bother Roger Goodell, who, despite his reputation in some quarters, is a good, fair man. The way the rules stand now, he's basically powerless to do anything about these types of trades.
The rules state that he can reject a trade if it fails to be in compliance with league rules. That isn't the case here.
If the NFL sees its fans as anything other than bipedal ATMs, then power should be given to Goodell and future commissioners to allow them to veto trades that serve as a punch in the face to fans.
The Indianapolis Colts are the opposite of the Browns. Owner Jim Irsay may be kooky, but he's dedicated and cares about the people who buy his tickets and merchandise. He tweeted the following after the trade:
Building a MONSTER for the BEST fans in the WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) September 19, 2013
That's 18 exclamation points.
Irsay knows how to take care of his customers. Take notes, Browns.