It’s late July, a time when (as former NFL linebacker Chad Brown said on today’s edition of Pro Football Talk) hope springs eternal, even if the franchise has otherwise sprung a leak. Every team is 0-0, and every coach and player and executive believes his team is going to be better than ever.
They may secretly fear the team will suck, but they’ll never say it.
That same mentality could be influencing Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s reaction to a federal investigation that has yielded five guilty pleas (and possibly counting) in a customer rebate scam hatched and maintained by the truck-stop company Haslam runs, Pilot Flying J. In the latest effort to make like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, Haslam said Thursday he’s “very optimistic” about the outcome of the pending criminal probe.
“I understand in Cleveland there’s a great deal of uncertainty because of past history, but the fans should not worry,” Haslam said, via Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal. “Our family is going to own this asset for a long, long time. We’re excited and we feel [it’s] a privilege to own not just an NFL, but to own the Cleveland Browns with all the heritage and history it has.”
Haslam’s glass-half-full proclamation came during a somewhat evasive response to the question of whether he has a plan in place, if he’s indicted.
“Our style is to be very transparent and very open,” Haslam said. “When the government investigation happened on April 15, one of the very first calls we made was to the NFL. We’re in constant contact with them. They have been very supportive in working with us and I’ll say we’re very optimistic on the outcome.”
It’s impossible to know with certainty that the outcome will be positive, unless Haslam has been told he won’t be charged. (And if he’d been told that, the Browns surely would have disclosed that.) With the investigation and grand jury proceedings happening quietly and discreetly, we only know at this point that five Pilot Flying J employees have pleaded guilty, and that at least one of them said in his plea deal that “senior management” was aware of the customer rebate fraud.
Optimism isn’t the natural and logical emotion that flows from that reality.