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Browns’ Joe Haden making an impact with fans
Many Cleveland sports heroes have disappointed their fans. They often come to the city full of promises and hope, and then leave to search find their fortunes elsewhere. So when a player makes an effort to reach out and connect with the fans, especially the forlorn Northeast Ohio sports fans, it means the world to them.
Browns cornerback Joe Haden(notes) has been connecting with Cleveland, and it's beginning to win him some love. On Tuesday, June 21, Haden wrote on his twitter account, "Say you follow me on Twitter and I'll take your bill," in reference to his invitation to meet fans at Sushi Rock for a 4:15 pm meal. Haden ended up paying the bill for 55 customers at the restaurant.
Haden has also been active in sponsoring a Canton-area youth baseball team, hosted charity bowling events, and was part of the Cavs' traveling party for the draft lottery last May. He appears in full uniform at Cavs games and also hangs out with fans at Indians games. In short, he's doing everything he can to connect with the community, and he's doing it in a way that many players in the past have failed to do.
Joe Haden gets it. He understands what it means to be a role model in Cleveland, and I have to say how wonderful it feels to know that someone has actually come to the city wanting to make an impact. Haden is one of the few players out there who makes that kind of effort to connect with his adopted city, and to be honest, it's such a breath of fresh air after watching Lebron James, Manny Ramirez(notes), and other stars leave over the years.
While Haden has worked hard off the field to connect with Cleveland fans, his play has steadily improved on the field. He started seven games in 2010 and his six interceptions ranked him fifth in the NFL for the season. He'll likely begin this season as one of the team's starting cornerbacks.
Maybe I'm being too flowery with my praise for Haden. Maybe I'm forming a "man-crush," but any fan in Cleveland can appreciate what players like Haden mean to the city. If he continues to give back to the area, play well on the field, and stick with the team, then one day we'll be talking about Haden the same way we talk about Bernie Kosar and other beloved players from the past. He's a class act, and for that I'm thankful. Haden is proof that not everything is broken in Cleveland sports.
A native of Northeast Ohio, Derek Ciapala grew up in a family of Cleveland Browns' fans. He has been following the Browns since 1987 and still hopes to see the team play in the Super Bowl one day.
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