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Friday, October 11, 2013

Gary Barnidge: Giving Back to Browns Fans

As a sports fan and a complete Twitter addict, you may be surprised to find out that I don't follow every athlete that plays for a Cleveland Team.  That being said, I do follow quite a few.  Usually, I'll look to see if a guy has twitter and then look at his timeline to see if he interacts with fans or just keeps to himself. If he's cool with the fans, I give him a follow.  So I was delighted to see that Cleveland Browns TE Gary Barnidge not only tweets with fans, he also runs a weekly contest during the season.

Each Wednesday, Gary tweets out a question related to the movie industry.  It can be something simple like "If you could be in any movie, what would it be?" or a trivia question like "What was the first feature film that Tim Burton directed?"  The first 10 answers, or correct answers, get the opportunity to go to the movies with Gary that week and he'll buy your ticket.  Now, you are on your own for popcorn and soda or if you want to bring a date, but still... this is way cool.

Oh, I don't mean the part where he pays for the tickets. That's nice but that's not really the cool part. The cool part is that you can arrive at the theater around 7:15 pm and hang out with Gary until the movie starts at 8:00.  How do I know this?  Because I was one of the lucky winners this week.  BTW - Tim Burton's first FEATURE FILM direction was in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure."  (Yeah, I know some stupid stuff).  And did I mention that he brings a couple of teammates with him?  We got to hang out with Gary, LS Christian Yount, and QB Brandon Weeden.  I know, right?  I went total "fan-girl" for a minute before I gathered my wits together. I think I handled it well. You know I talked way too much, but that's me keeping it real.

We hung out for 30-45 minutes before going in to the theater. They were all very friendly and we had some fun conversations. We talked about where people lived, what we liked to do in Cleveland. We talked about football, Louisville, Teddy Bridgewater.  I even got some Fantasy Football advice. ("Never Bench Brady"). It wasn't just "here's you ticket, thanks for coming." It was a sincere thank you to fans. Gary did this last season when he was with Carolina and he plans to continue doing this for as long as he's in the NFL, regardless of where he is playing.  I asked him how Browns fans were different from Panther fans... he said "you people are seriously Die Hard.  Every team has their share of Fair Weather Fans, but the vast majority of Browns fans stick by the team no matter what."  Yeah, he gets us.

Something else he was involved with when he was in Carolina is a charity called Samaritan's Feet.
 "Not just a non-profit, nor just a humanitarian aid organization – but a community of more than 70,000 volunteers who have joined together to make a difference in the lives of children in need in every corner of the world. From a dream to the reality of over four million impoverished children and adults in more than 60 nations being served by having their feet washed, receiving a new pair of shoes, and hearing a message of hope."
He remains very connected to them, and in September, brought their efforts to a local YMCA, the West Park - Fairview Park Family Park in Cleveland. If you would like to get more information on becoming involved with Samaritan's Feet, check out their website.

If you are on twitter, you can follow him at @garybarnidge... it's pretty easy.  And keep an eye out on Wednesday nights for the weekly question and YOUR chance to spend some time hanging with a Browns player or two. A lot of athletes give away items to fans or do other stuff to show their appreciation, but after experiencing this evening myself, I have to say "winning" an hour of their time was freaking awesome! It isn't necessary, but it is very cool to see guys that are interested it talking to fans. And I find it a good sign of Gary's personality, his character, that not only does he stay involved with a charity he could have easily left behind when he moved from Carolina, but that his teammates support his contest with the fans and join in.

Lastly, I have to say I was very impressed with the fans in attendance - everyone was on their best behavior.  You just never know with Browns Fans, but everyone was great and I'm proud of us!

And THANK YOU Gary and Friends for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!  Then again, I can always enter the contest next week....

Respectfully Submitted,

Cleveland Kate

P.S. You know I offered some advice to Brandon... I tried to keep my mouth shut but I'm just not wired that way. All I will say is if he's out there Slinging It on Sunday, you can thank me.  And yes, he called me "Ma'am."  Sigh.

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