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Browns’ new owner must convert to being a fan

Driving by a Cleveland-area country club last week, I just happened to see St. Peter and Judas Iscariot playing a round of golf together.

When they had finished, I followed them into the clubhouse where they ate lunch together. One thing led to another and suddenly they decided to go into business together.

Now, that’s a really far-fetched story that would never happen in a million years. Right? I said, right?

Enter Jimmy Haslam III, Tennessee truck-stop magnate, who strikes up a conversation over lunch with Cleveland Browns’ owner Randy Lerner. One thing leads to another and Lerner is using Haslam’s blood money to erase his debts created by ill-fated soccer team investments with his Aston Villa Club in the English Premier League.

You see, Haslam was a minority owner in the Pittsburgh Steelers and declared he had become “1,000-percent a Steelers fan.”

The Steelers? The Browns’ arch rivals? Really?

The Browns were valued in Forbes magazine at $970 million. Haslam bought the team for a reported $1.1 billion. Haslam is worth an estimated $3 billion. Even in today’s market, that conversion rate is worth a lot more than 30 pieces of silver.

It was billionaire Al Lerner — a minority owner in the Browns under owner Art Modell — who paid $530 million to bring the Browns back to Cleveland after Modell snuck out of town with the team and headed for a big paycheck from Baltimore to help fund his financial shortcomings.

Al Lerner died in 2002 of brain cancer but he made his son Randy promise to keep the team in Cleveland and keep ticket prices affordable for at least 10 years.

Let’s see. That was 2002 and this is 2012, so…

As the story goes, Judas was sorry for turning Jesus over to Pontius Pilate’s soldiers, threw the money back in the temple and hung himself.

No one wants to see Haslam do anything drastic, but it is important to note that Haslam has also professed to be a Cowboys’ fan and then a Colts’ fan in the past.

So instead of throwing back the money, maybe there is hope he will repent and become “1,000-percent a Browns’ fan” since that is where his money will be coming from in the future.

Haslam is supposed to be close with the Philadelphia Eagles’ Joe Banner, who is reported to be part of Haslam’s ownership group. Browns’ general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur worked with Banner in Philly, so their jobs might be safe, but it doesn’t sound good for Browns’ president Mike Holmgrem.

Unlike Randy Lerner, Haslam has a football background and could be the stable owner the franchise needs. Having seen the strides Holmgrem has made in the past few years to bring the Browns’ back from obscurity, he may keep the current president.

But don’t bet on it even if someone else puts up the 30 pieces of silver.

Continuity is important in any business or operation. It’s something that has been lacking in Cleveland going back to the Modell era.

It seems that this Browns’ soap opera has more twists and turns than any WWE Monday Night Raw script. It’s something that has become the norm for Browns’ fans.

Next thing you know competing quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy will be seen playing a round of golf together.

——— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.