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Cleveland Browns fans 'thrilled' about Jimmy Haslam

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Ben Liebenberg/NFL
When they're not cheering on the Browns, members of the "Pumpkin Patch" play in a Browns-themed band.


 

CANTON, Ohio -- NFL.com photo guru Ben Liebenberg and I are tearing up some forgotten Canton backstreet as the evening sun creeps low over the horizon.

We are -- and I promise you this -- chatting about new Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III (JH3) at the very moment we stumble upon something from another world.

Nothing less than an orange behemoth on four wheels, decorated from head to toe with love for the Browns (and nothing pretty to say about the Baltimore Ravens).

This bus/battleship is parked on a lawn littered with Dawg Pound faithful, men who tell us they've rolled to Canton in this thing they call "Pumpkinhead's Sled."

From the pack, Pumpkinhead himself emerges to shake hands. By day, he is Gus Angelone, a die-hard Cleveland fan who, like the rest of them, welcomes the arrival of JH3 following Friday's encouraging presser.

"I was at training camp this morning and he seemed enthusiastic," Angelone said. "I saw him with (team president Mike) Holmgren and (general manager Tom) Heckert. He seemed like he wanted to be part of the practice, which we haven't seen from the previous owner, Randy Lerner. We are, as a fan base, thrilled to have somebody that wants to own the team, that wants to see a winner, that wants to put a winner on the field."

So what kind of fan base has JH3 inherited? Let's explore: 1) Angelone has logged countless hours perfecting his game-day identity -- Pumpkinhead -- with a nation of followers to show for it. 2) When Pumpkinhead and Co. aren't riding the magical bus, they play in a Browns-themed band (with a recently released CD). 3) They're swift. They've already printed outsized Haslam posters, lauding their new leader.

Final note: Angelone couldn't care less about Haslam's previous ties with the Pittsburgh Steelers: "He said he's 1,000 percent a Steelers fan, but now he's got one billion reasons to be a Browns fan."

One billion reasons and Pumpkinhead's Sled. Welcome to Cleveland.

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