Newly minted Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam wants to add some spit and polish to the slightly tarnished image of the team.
Haslam, a Knoxville resident who purchased the team for $1 billion in October, is giving diehard NFL fans an inside look at mammoth task of mounting the 150-man team for away games in the new unscripted series "Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns," airing Tuesday nights on the Travel Channel. The series isn't just a treat for fans. It's Haslam's way to re-spark interest in the "under-appreciated" Browns.
During a chat to talk about "Road Tested," produced by NFL Films, the Travel Channel (part of the Knoxville-based Scripps Interactive Networks) and his wife Dee's RIVR Media, Haslam laughed off being labeled a reality show personality. It's not his goal to compete with Honey Boo Boo or Kim Kardashian. Think of him more like his brother, Gov. Bill Haslam, who's trying to sell an idea to the masses.
"I think it's a good stretch to says I'll be a reality show star. I'm not even sure how much I'll be (on the screen)," Haslam said about "Road Tested."
But it's entirely possible Haslam will have a say-so — if he wanted — on how much he'll be seen.
The University of Tennessee graduate, though, clarified he's not involved that much in the production end of this new series. He's too busy running the Browns.
All he wants is to catch the eyes of diehard pro football fans.
"We thought it would give fans a realistic, first-hand look to see up close what all goes on in the logistics and travel of such teams" like the Cleveland Browns, Haslam said during a conversation recently. "Mainly, this show is about promoting the Cleveland Browns. What you'll see us doing is what we do every day with the Cleveland Browns. You might see us watching games. You'll see us do what we do as we work with the Cleveland Browns."
Travel Channel and RIVR Media have the rights to the final cuts of what turns up in every installment.
Haslam has yet to see the final edits. "It will show us at games, before games, at practice, sort of the normal process of what we do," he said.
"It's pretty much a collaborative effort among all three companies (NFL Films, RIVR Media and Travel Channel)," a spokesperson explained.
Having closed the deal to be the Browns' majority owner in late October, Haslam is still new to the team (though he had a minority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers) and just learning the ropes of what a massive undertaking it is.
Taking over the Browns was "larger than we expected," he said. "(The team) is so prominent, so high profile. I'm surprised by the popularity of the Cleveland Browns and what a big deal it is."
He wants that to be foremost in the message of "Road Tested."
Haslam was overwhelmed in "the first few days" of assuming majority ownership.
"It's just like any other business," he said. "You have to get out there, work hard, get to know the right people and you have a lot of decisions you have to execute. It's really not that different than what we have done before."
Given the Browns struggling records in recent years, Haslam is more interested in putting a new face on the team's image. "Road Tested" is one way he thinks he can do that.
"I wanted to make sure in doing the show, whatever the show may be, would not interfere with our football operations," he said.
"We didn't want to do anything to distract (the players) during the practice or the games.
"Secondly, I did not want the spotlight to be on me. I wanted it to be on the Browns. So I think this has worked out well."
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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