FirstEnergy Stadium

Fireworks at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns.

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Summer always brings with it the dreams of having fun – beaches, cookouts and the thought of enjoying life. Summer festivals and carnivals can fill the streets of any neighborhood. Right now, I think we are all watching the person running the shell game in the Cleveland sports world.

You know the game where someone places a ball under one of three shells. To be a winner it is your job to figure out which shell has the ball under it. If the person running the game is fast enough, you will have no idea what shell has the ball underneath it.

I’m not sure where we should be looking. Under one shell, you have the never-ending Deshaun Watson sexual misconduct story. The new Cleveland Browns quarterback settled 20 of 24 civil lawsuits with women in confidential agreements. This week, a new shell emerged with the thought of needing a new football stadium in Cleveland. The third shell is a team that is winning as nobody expected.

FirstEnergy Stadium is going through an audit. It is a part of the agreement with the city, the team and the NFL. They are assessing the needs of the 19th-oldest active stadium in the league. It became a convenient truth to our attention this week that the possibility of major renovations or perhaps building a new stadium could be in the planning stages.

[ READBeachwood Councilman Synenberg withdraws FirstEnergy resolution ]

The Browns’ stadium lease runs out with the city in 2028. Darryl Ruiter from 92.3 The Fan and I have an entire podcast called “It’s Always Gameday in Cleveland,” if you want all the details and behind-the-scenes thoughts on the reality of what’s going on with this story.

I am not in favor of any new tax dollars to fund a football team in a stadium that has fewer than 20 events a year. It was a waste of money when the stadium was built and it still is today. But asking for new tax dollars when gas is $5 a gallon is insane. Nobody has done that. Yet.

I am in favor of figuring out a way to push FirstEnergy Stadium into Lake Erie with the rubble of Municipal Stadium. The lack of use compared to other venues like Indianapolis remind me that leaders were in too big of a hurry when former owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore.

In the podcast, Ruiter discusses the shortcuts made to make sure the team was back on the field in 1999. The bill on the shortcuts seems like it is about to come due.

The Haslem ownership group says they are committed to the land-bridge project that would change the face of the lakefront. They are focused on remodeling the current stadium.

In the end, I wonder if it would just be financially smarter to build a new retractable dome at several other locations nearby.

The Orange Avenue site on the other side of the innerbelt caddy corner to Progressive Field always seemed like a good idea. The other thought of placing a new stadium on the site of the demolished part of the old Brook Park Ford plant has merit, too. It’s near the Browns’ facility in Berea and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and it’s easy to get to from Interstates 71 and 480, and the Ohio Turnpike isn’t that far away.

This needs to be talked about, debated and planned. I’m wondering if the person running the shell game wants us to look in this direction because the other shell has the Watson story under it.

Before the stadium talk started, it felt like new civil lawsuits against the Browns’ quarterback were starting to gather more steam. Stories last week of the NFL Players Association preparing to defend Watson against what could be a huge suspension for the allegations took over the headlines. Then came the settlements.

Watson has no criminal charges against him. There are four civil suits remaining against him. We are waiting to see how the NFL will assess his personal conduct. In other words, how long will he be suspended? Rumblings last week that the NFLPA will be defending Watson and asking why owners who have damaged the league in the court of public opinion with similar misconduct issues are not held to the same standards. The NFLPA is correct in calling attention to this subject, but it doesn’t change the allegations.

I’m standing pat that Jacoby Brissett will be the starting quarterback until I hear that Watson can play.

Guardians making their move

Back to the shell game. Where are you looking now? The ball is under the Cleveland Guardians’ shell.

When I wrote this column, the team was in a tie for first place in the American League Central Division after beating the Minnesota Twins in extra innings June 21. As of June 22, the team was on a massive roll, winning 17 of 22 games to stand at 35-38. The Guardians are doing it with timely hitting and good pitching. Beating teams under .500 jump started the confidence. Taking two of three from the Dodgers in Los Angeles was the beginning of proving they are here to stay.

The Guardians are in a huge stretch of games that will include a home stand against the Boston Red Sox and five games against the Twins and New York Yankees before July 4. The talk of low attendance numbers is jaded by the fact that the team has played only 22 home games. Still, if there were ever a time to get to the ballpark, it might be now.

If we want to win, we should pick the shell with the Guardians’ logo on it. Even if you are still upset over the name change of the team and angry at the Dolans, this young team deserves our attention. On the heels of Major League Baseball announcing that David Blitzer was approved as the new minority owner with a path to become the majority owner makes the future look bright.

Now look under the shell you choose to follow.


If you have a suggestion for a column idea for Andy Baskin, send him an email at columnists@cjn.org. He can be heard on “Baskin & Phelps” weekdays on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland at audacy.com.