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Art Modell a true NFL visionary

 

Ravens owner emeritus celebrates 85th birthday, looks back on brilliant career

June 20, 2010|By Kevin CowherdArt Modell turns 85 on Wednesday, which is hard to believe of the man who brought football back to Baltimore 14 years ago and healed this city's broken heart.

 

A few days ago at the Castle in Owings Mills, the Ravens staff surprised him with a big, beautiful cake and a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday."

 

Modell, the team's owner emeritus, sat at a front table in his wheelchair and beamed. Dressed in a loose-fitting blue shirt and dark slacks, he looked better than he had in a long time and bantered easily with everyone who stopped by to offer birthday wishes.

 

"My health is reasonably good," Modell said. "I'm grateful for that because I went through an awful lot. Two heart attacks. Two strokes. But I came through."I'm grateful to the high commissioner for that," he added with a laugh. "And I don't mean Roger Goodell."

 

It seemed like a great time to sit down with Modell and reflect on his long and storied association with the NFL, first as the owner of the Cleveland Browns for 35 years until he moved the team to Baltimore in 1996, then as the Ravens' majority owner until he sold them to Steve Bisciotti in 2004.

 

Sometimes, you forget what a giant Modell was in the league's early years.

 

Look at all he did. He headed the owners' labor committee that negotiated the league's first collective bargaining agreement with the players.

 

He played an instrumental role in the merger of the NFL and AFL by agreeing to move the Browns to the AFC. He helped broker the contract for ABC's "Monday Night Football." And he spearheaded the first TV deals between the league and the networks that made the NFL's popularity skyrocket.

 

"There wasn't anything innovative or new to the game that he wasn't a part of," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' general manager and executive vice president.

 

Said Modell: "Television was my game. And that was the game that made the league famous. … One thing 'Monday Night Football' did: More women were attracted to the game. I'm very proud of that."

 

With all that on his resume, it's hard to believe that Art Modell still isn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

It's still a touchy subject with a lot of people. As beloved as he is in Baltimore, that's how reviled he is in Cleveland for packing up the revered Brownies and moving them to Baltimore when Cleveland city fathers wouldn't replace dilapidated Municipal Stadium with a newer facility.

 

 

"I'll never be able to erase the anger in Cleveland," he said quietly. "And I owe that to the … politicians who betrayed me."

 

So even though he was a league visionary, even though his Browns won the NFL championship in 1964, even though his Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, even though he hired Newsome to be the first African-American general manager in the NFL, Modell is still being penalized by a few Hall of Fame voters for relocating the Browns to Baltimore.

 

It doesn't seem fair, even though Modell tries remain above the fray.

 

"It's not my call," Modell said of the possibility of making the Hall soon. "If it [happens], I'll be happy. If it doesn't, I'll be up early for breakfast."In the meantime, he's getting ready to attend his 49th straight training camp when the Ravens open camp in Westminster in late July.

 

And although he says he doesn't pay attention to NFL matters the way he used to, he doesn't think there will be a lockout by the owners after next season, as many fear.

 

"Too much is at stake for everybody … the owners, the networks, the players," he said. "Too much money. Cooler heads will prevail."

 

You get the feeling, though, that both the owners and the NFL players union could use a wise, old head such as Modell during the coming negotiations -- especially if things get heated.

 

"The worse the situation, the better Art's humor was," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens media guru, who has worked for Modell since 1981.

 

Which is when both men tell you a story that illustrates Bryne's point. They call it "The Ben Dreith Story."

 

One Sunday back in the early 1980s, Modell's Browns were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. As usually happened, the Steelers were whipping the Browns. Up in the visiting owner's box, Modell was steaming. When Browns cornerback Ron Bolton was ejected after a skirmish with Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann, Modell blew a gasket.

 

He got on the phone to Byrne and demanded that Byrne escort him to the referees' locker room.

 

"Art, that's against the rules," Byrne told him.

 

"Dammit, I wrote the rules!" Modell roared. "Now get over here and take me down there!"

 

By the time the two men made it to the referees' locker room, the game was over. Nevertheless, Modell banged on the door, demanding to speak to Dreith, the head official.

 

"You can't come in, Mr. Modell," Dreith replied from behind the door. "It's a $10,000 fine."

 

For a moment, Modell was silent.

 

Then he smiled at Byrne and said, "Ben, would you come out for $5,000?"

 

Dreith did, and Modell proceeded to ream him out. And sure enough, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle fined Modell just $5,000 for the infraction.

 

Even then, people listened to Art Modell.

 

At 85, they should probably still be listening to him today.

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Who is Art Modell?

 

The name sounds familiar but its not coming to me right off. Is he the guy that owns the sporting goods chain?

Must be. Here is a link to their site. Maybe they have vuvuzelas for sale.

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I enjoyed the article and appreciate the good things that Art has done for the game. Plus I figured that everyone here would have their two cents to add in about Modell. My thoughts....It hurt losing our team, but I understand the business aspects that made it happen. But all of us diehard fans made it possible to get our team back in Cleveland. Thank you all for that.

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All kidding aside, Cowherd sometimes doesn't know his dick from his brains. Art Modell will never go to the Hall of Fame. Art Modell doesn't deserve to go into the HOF. Cowherd conveniently forgets that Modell was run out of the NFL by the Commissioner and the other owners...after he received all that cash to "move". Cowherd conveniently forgets that the city father's indeed gave Modell exactly what he was asking for with the stadium deal. There was absolutely no betrayal, because there was nothing to betray. Modell asked for a renovated stadium, that was what the city was precisely in the process of giving him. But when he saw $$$ in his eyes, that was no longer good enough for him. The betrayal was ALL on his part.

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So he'll be dead soon. Sweet.

 

 

And he can die a bitter old man, because all the bitterness that he is experiencing is a product of his own making. He is just too big of a .....coward? fool? egomaniac? asshole? whatever, to admit it.

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I knew you would all have something to say about him. I guess that I look at things differently. Hate really has no place in my life because it takes away from what I can accomplish in the present, but do I dislike the fact that he moved the team? Absolutely! Do I understand that he made a huge pile of money to do it? Absolutely! Football is a game that we all love but it is a business and a big one. And all business owners protect and grow their financial interests. In the end cash is king right? I also do not overlook the contributions that he made to the game. MNF, the continuation of the Browns Steelers rivalry that we love so much...Bringing us so much joy with our near misses in the late 80's.

 

I am glad he is no longer our owner though and that (because of our dedication to our team) we will be thriving for years to come. The setback was great but the future for our team is very bright indeed! I for one want to keep focusing on that.

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This is the stupidest, most asinine thread ever started on this forum.

 

Unless it was before, and also about this same old, corrupt, dirty, filthy rotten lying scumbag. @@

 

 

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This is the stupidest, most asinine thread ever started on this forum.

 

Unless it was before, and also about this same old, corrupt, dirty, filthy rotten lying scumbag. @@

 

And that was one of the STUPIDEST comments that you have ever made on this board. And you usually have something intelligent to say. I guess you are letting your hatred get in the way of your thought process.

 

And if you don't like it why wouldn't you just move on to the next topic?

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I knew you would all have something to say about him. I guess that I look at things differently. Hate really has no place in my life because it takes away from what I can accomplish in the present, but do I dislike the fact that he moved the team? Absolutely! Do I understand that he made a huge pile of money to do it? Absolutely! Football is a game that we all love but it is a business and a big one. And all business owners protect and grow their financial interests. In the end cash is king right? I also do not overlook the contributions that he made to the game. MNF, the continuation of the Browns Steelers rivalry that we love so much...Bringing us so much joy with our near misses in the late 80's.

 

I am glad he is no longer our owner though and that (because of our dedication to our team) we will be thriving for years to come. The setback was great but the future for our team is very bright indeed! I for one want to keep focusing on that.

 

 

You want to focus on the future? Then why the F**k did you bring his name up? You began this thread.

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And that was one of the STUPIDEST comments that you have ever made on this board. And you usually have something intelligent to say. I guess you are letting your hatred get in the way of your thought process.

 

And if you don't like it why wouldn't you just move on to the next topic?

 

************************

No offense meant to you, but my hatred? That stupid, sleazy, megalomaniac somebeech isn't worth hating.

 

But, I simply figure he's filth, and dirty, mean, terrible, wicked, bad and nasty, and justly is railed against as such.

 

I did go to the next topic. @@

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I enjoyed the article and appreciate the good things that Art has done for the game. Plus I figured that everyone here would have their two cents to add in about Modell. My thoughts....It hurt losing our team, but I understand the business aspects that made it happen. But all of us diehard fans made it possible to get our team back in Cleveland. Thank you all for that.

 

 

 

I agree. I hold nothing against Art at this point. What's done is done so no sense holding a grudge.

 

I wish the guy good health and hope he gets his HOF appointment soon.....he deserves the HOF as one of the strong contributors to the modern game.

 

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Nope, you are not going to get many decent discussions full of insight and respect when it comes to the topic of this thread. This person ripped the heart and soul out of so many Brown's backers it should be

 

criminal. The mere mention of his name is repulsive. I am surprised he has lived this long. Then again, when one posseses no sense of morality, no fundamental understanding of what is right and

 

wrong. their existance isn't phased by their selfish miscalculations. I'll piss on his grave

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Mayor White is the villain in this story. Art was a business man, White was a politician. White said 'i can push you around all i want.' Art said 'Well, we'll just see about that.'

 

Anyone that thinks Art wanted to leave Cleveland is a total and complete idiot.

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Mayor White is the villain in this story. Art was a business man, White was a politician. White said 'i can push you around all i want.' Art said 'Well, we'll just see about that.'

 

Anyone that thinks Art wanted to leave Cleveland is a total and complete idiot.

 

great thread 57 and great comment Ed and Ballpeen. I hated Art so much at first for what happened.............it took me 12 years to get over the pain. The whole thing is a sad Story. Art did amazing things for the NFL he brokered the leagues merging, he lead the charge to join the AFC only if the Steelers came with him. He lead the charge for a national TV program instead of individual teams doing their thing. And he gave his whole heart in running the Browns when he did. He was immersed in his Browns

 

Then the money thing took over

 

So as much as I hated him so much for doing what he did, I have forgiven him and indeed he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame

 

Thanks 57 for posting and thanks those who have erased the scars for what happened and see Art for what he did positive

 

including winning us our last championship

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And that was one of the STUPIDEST comments that you have ever made on this board. And you usually have something intelligent to say. I guess you are letting your hatred get in the way of your thought process.

 

And if you don't like it why wouldn't you just move on to the next topic?

Whatever man. Fuk Art. I hope is dies a slow painful death and all the money can't prevent that. I hate him

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Mayor White is the villain in this story. Art was a business man, White was a politician. White said 'i can push you around all i want.' Art said 'Well, we'll just see about that.'

 

Anyone that thinks Art wanted to leave Cleveland is a total and complete idiot.

So what. He still left. It is what it is. I HATE HIM

 

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I agree. I hold nothing against Art at this point. What's done is done so no sense holding a grudge.

 

I wish the guy good health and hope he gets his HOF appointment soon.....he deserves the HOF as one of the strong contributors to the modern game.

 

Difference between holding a grudge, and justice. I'm with Gips on this one. Modell was in the process of getting what he wanted a renovated stadium. For those with a short attention span he was offered to get in on the Gateway deal- he declined. He held the Indians hostage for years, got all the revenue and parking had the first "luxury" boxes in the NFL, yet the guy got himself so totally overleveraged, it wasn't enough.

 

The Divine Justice part of it all is Artie moved (instead of selling out to Al Lerner and having the team remain in Cleveland as he should have) because he wanted to pass the franchise on to Little Davy. Well, turns out even a $50 million dollar bribe and a sickeningly sweet revenue stream from Baltimore and the State of Maryland wasn't enough to keep the booger afloat. So in the long run, Schmodell not only lost what he was trying to preserve, but he lost an immense amount of respect on the national level.

 

Now regarding the HOF. May he never get in. I'm of the opinion short of a few legendary owners (George Halas) owners don't belong. PERIOD. I'll puke the day Jerry Jones gets nominated. Modell is far from "legendary" unless you want to consider moving one of the most storied teams in the NFL out of town worthy of legend. One could argue since Al Davis is inducted the bar is set pretty low. But there is a morality angle. Unfortunately, you can't disinduct someone, but you think OJ would have gotten in if the Nicole thing had come up before he was eligible? And let's consider the PR angle. I can guarantee you this- with Canton being a mere hour drive from Cleveland, a potential Modell HOF induction would be ugly- REAL ugly. Check your rotten tomatoes at the gate, but if you thought those annoying vuvueletas at the World Cup were annoying, you haven't yet begun to imagine how loud the "Go to Hell, Modell" chants would be. They'd have to keep his bust behind 12" bulletproof glass like the Hope Diamond, and that still wouldn't stop a few folks from smearing boogers on the glass, or more foul stuff. (Use Your imagination DAWG Pounders)

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Difference between holding a grudge, and justice. I'm with Gips on this one. Modell was in the process of getting what he wanted a renovated stadium. For those with a short attention span he was offered to get in on the Gateway deal- he declined. He held the Indians hostage for years, got all the revenue and parking had the first "luxury" boxes in the NFL, yet the guy got himself so totally overleveraged, it wasn't enough.

 

The Divine Justice part of it all is Artie moved (instead of selling out to Al Lerner and having the team remain in Cleveland as he should have) because he wanted to pass the franchise on to Little Davy. Well, turns out even a $50 million dollar bribe and a sickeningly sweet revenue stream from Baltimore and the State of Maryland wasn't enough to keep the booger afloat. So in the long run, Schmodell not only lost what he was trying to preserve, but he lost an immense amount of respect on the national level.

 

Now regarding the HOF. May he never get in. I'm of the opinion short of a few legendary owners (George Halas) owners don't belong. PERIOD. I'll puke the day Jerry Jones gets nominated. Modell is far from "legendary" unless you want to consider moving one of the most storied teams in the NFL out of town worthy of legend. One could argue since Al Davis is inducted the bar is set pretty low. But there is a morality angle. Unfortunately, you can't disinduct someone, but you think OJ would have gotten in if the Nicole thing had come up before he was eligible? And let's consider the PR angle. I can guarantee you this- with Canton being a mere hour drive from Cleveland, a potential Modell HOF induction would be ugly- REAL ugly. Check your rotten tomatoes at the gate, but if you thought those annoying vuvueletas at the World Cup were annoying, you haven't yet begun to imagine how loud the "Go to Hell, Modell" chants would be. They'd have to keep his bust behind 12" bulletproof glass like the Hope Diamond, and that still wouldn't stop a few folks from smearing boogers on the glass, or more foul stuff. (Use Your imagination DAWG Pounders)

 

damn good post, hoorta.

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i don't hate modell, but i do hate what he did. hoorta and the gipper both did a great job of explaining what modell did, so i don't need to get into that again. but i think most browns fans don't want him to get into the hof because of his scumbag ways. that has nothing to do with having a grudge and it has everything to do with the facts of the matter.

 

for those fans who say they've forgiven modell for what he did, how can you forgive him when: 1. he never asked to be forgiven. 2. he hasn't admitted he did anything wrong because he doesn't think he did anything wrong?????? that doesn't make any sense to me.

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I can guarantee you this- with Canton being a mere hour drive from Cleveland, a potential Modell HOF induction would be ugly- REAL ugly. Check your rotten tomatoes at the gate, but if you thought those annoying vuvueletas at the World Cup were annoying, you haven't yet begun to imagine how loud the "Go to Hell, Modell" chants would be. They'd have to keep his bust behind 12" bulletproof glass like the Hope Diamond, and that still wouldn't stop a few folks from smearing boogers on the glass, or more foul stuff. (Use Your imagination DAWG Pounders)

 

It would be my hope that my hometown folks would be able to show more class than that.

 

 

Really, does anyone teach their kids to do stuff like that??

 

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All said and done. Cleveland has a new Browns team and while we may not be what we once were, we are being guided by some one who can take us there. So how about we focus on what we have.

 

 

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The pitiful excuse for a human being, I think he's the alien in "ALIEN"......

 

was a loser businessman who ruined the Browns in many ways, because of his

 

sick egotistical ways.

 

He always wanted to be THE BIG SHOT. That is why he fired Paul Brown.

 

That is why he kept hiring and firing head coaches, he wanted ALL the attention.

 

In short, I won't be unhappy if he gets on a dinghy and floats toward Somalia and gets

 

taken by pirates and put into a dungeon for the rest of his years in lieu of a $100 ransom that nobody will pay.

 

He is lower than the slime on the belly of a snail on the bottom of the ocean.

 

the sleazeball circus barker may very well go to Hell, and not the HOF, which he most certainly does not deserve.

 

If I thought there was any chance he'd get in the HOF, I'd supply some rotten tomatoes ... @@ GGG

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@Browns57:

 

Having been born in Cleveland and having spent a few years living there for College, I can tell you one thing: Cleveland is Football.

 

So when you talk about Art Modell, even the average Browns fan gets a bad taste in their mouth. There's nothing good there for most folks and you certainly can't post a thread painting one of the city's most infamous villians in a positive light on this Browns forum, of all places, and expect people not to respond angrily or in a heated manner.

 

Cleveland takes sports personally, so when something like this happens, it wasn't just that the Browns were gone and that Cleveland didn't have a team. It was the fact that the fans were personally insulted, like someone had seduced their wives or sisters, and then laughed in their faces like it was no big deal. It might have even been worse than that, I don't know. I was just a kid when that all happened, but to the direhard fans, seeing the Ravens in the same division, and seeing them win the Superbowl in 2000, just adds even more insult to injury.

 

That was supposed to be OUR team. Ray Lewis was drafted in 1996. Jonathan Ogden was drafted in 1996. Two HoFers Cleveland was screwed out of. So instead Cleveland lost 5 years of football, and we've had to endure another 10 years of a pile of crap, which hopefully Holmgren and Mangini can turn around finally.

 

He's obviously done a lot of great things for the NFL, but what's he's done to Cleveland carries more weight than those things. I just can't see them being willing to endure the protests and vandalism that will occur if they try to induct him into Canton over the next 20 or 30 years.

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Mayor White is the villain in this story. Art was a business man, White was a politician. White said 'i can push you around all i want.' Art said 'Well, we'll just see about that.'

 

Anyone that thinks Art wanted to leave Cleveland is a total and complete idiot.

 

Bull, bull, bull.

White did what a prudent politician should have done: look out for the best interest of the city. He looked out for the city's priorities. And he made absolutely no promises that he broke.

Being totally objective, it was more important for Cleveland to have the 81 dates the Indians had on their schedule, and the 300 dates the Arena had on its schedule for the vitality and economic benefit of the city over the 10 dates the Browns have on their schedule. That is just a pure economic fact. White knew it. Art knew it. Art even accepted it. He wanted taken care of eventually, yes. And all that was in the works. After all, that was what the extension of the sin tax, voted on 1 day after Modell's announcement was all about.

Not only that, the entire Gateway project, and the football renovation project and the funding for both was far more a Cuyahoga County matter than a City of Cleveland matter. If you believe that politicians were to blame ( and I don't) then the primary culprits that you should have been angry at were the Commissioners who ran Gateway etc., not White.

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Difference between holding a grudge, and justice. I'm with Gips on this one. Modell was in the process of getting what he wanted a renovated stadium. For those with a short attention span he was offered to get in on the Gateway deal- he declined. He held the Indians hostage for years, got all the revenue and parking had the first "luxury" boxes in the NFL, yet the guy got himself so totally overleveraged, it wasn't enough.

 

The Divine Justice part of it all is Artie moved (instead of selling out to Al Lerner and having the team remain in Cleveland as he should have) because he wanted to pass the franchise on to Little Davy. Well, turns out even a $50 million dollar bribe and a sickeningly sweet revenue stream from Baltimore and the State of Maryland wasn't enough to keep the booger afloat. So in the long run, Schmodell not only lost what he was trying to preserve, but he lost an immense amount of respect on the national level.

 

Now regarding the HOF. May he never get in. I'm of the opinion short of a few legendary owners (George Halas) owners don't belong. PERIOD. I'll puke the day Jerry Jones gets nominated. Modell is far from "legendary" unless you want to consider moving one of the most storied teams in the NFL out of town worthy of legend. One could argue since Al Davis is inducted the bar is set pretty low. But there is a morality angle. Unfortunately, you can't disinduct someone, but you think OJ would have gotten in if the Nicole thing had come up before he was eligible? And let's consider the PR angle. I can guarantee you this- with Canton being a mere hour drive from Cleveland, a potential Modell HOF induction would be ugly- REAL ugly. Check your rotten tomatoes at the gate, but if you thought those annoying vuvueletas at the World Cup were annoying, you haven't yet begun to imagine how loud the "Go to Hell, Modell" chants would be. They'd have to keep his bust behind 12" bulletproof glass like the Hope Diamond, and that still wouldn't stop a few folks from smearing boogers on the glass, or more foul stuff. (Use Your imagination DAWG Pounders)

 

It was 75 million, but, whose counting. I agree about the owners though. Ralph Wilson is in. Lamar Hunt too, but that was more for their part in creating the NFL. Halas is in more as a coach than an owner. Davis is in more as a coach/GM/ than as an owner. (He wasn't even majority owner of the Raiders until after he was inducted into the HOF). You won't see Bud Adams get in, or Georgia Frontiere, or Bill Bidwill, or Robert Irsay. Modell belongs in with that bunch, not wit the Halas's or Maras.

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Art Modell panicked after loosing 30 million in a foreign film the previous summer and the Mayor White screwed him over after deciding to get the Cavs in the downtown area instead of renovating the stadium.

 

If some remember, Jacobs field could of been extended for football as well, and the design was much better than old Muni.

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The unmentionable piece of garbage refused to share a stadium with the Indians.

 

He was a bigarse bigshot, who wanted to call the shots.

 

And, he consistently made bad decisions about the Browns, because it was, to him, all about him.

 

 

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@Browns57:

 

Having been born in Cleveland and having spent a few years living there for College, I can tell you one thing: Cleveland is Football.

 

So when you talk about Art Modell, even the average Browns fan gets a bad taste in their mouth. There's nothing good there for most folks and you certainly can't post a thread painting one of the city's most infamous villians in a positive light on this Browns forum, of all places, and expect people not to respond angrily or in a heated manner.

 

Cleveland takes sports personally, so when something like this happens, it wasn't just that the Browns were gone and that Cleveland didn't have a team. It was the fact that the fans were personally insulted, like someone had seduced their wives or sisters, and then laughed in their faces like it was no big deal. It might have even been worse than that, I don't know. I was just a kid when that all happened, but to the direhard fans, seeing the Ravens in the same division, and seeing them win the Superbowl in 2000, just adds even more insult to injury.

 

That was supposed to be OUR team. Ray Lewis was drafted in 1996. Jonathan Ogden was drafted in 1996. Two HoFers Cleveland was screwed out of. So instead Cleveland lost 5 years of football, and we've had to endure another 10 years of a pile of crap, which hopefully Holmgren and Mangini can turn around finally.

 

He's obviously done a lot of great things for the NFL, but what's he's done to Cleveland carries more weight than those things. I just can't see them being willing to endure the protests and vandalism that will occur if they try to induct him into Canton over the next 20 or 30 years.

 

Well I did post this on THIS forum so I guess that I can! And you all responded so I guess YOU can too. As for painting him in a positive light...I don't think I did that. I think I said that I have let the hate go, that football is a business, and that I am thankful and appreciate what he has done for the game. People hate Al Davis also but if anybody would let that hatred interfere with the respect for what he has done for the game of football I would call that foolish! Anybody who knows anything about the game should meet people like these and maybe say I don't particularly care for you in some respects but thank you VERY VERY much for taking the game that we all love and making it the BEST sport in the world that it is today! At least that is my opinion.

 

There are many people out there who may be jerks but some of them have contributed to our culture, our way of life, our passions, our dreams, and our faith more then most of us could even dream of doing. So I say thank you to all of those motherf@@kers for making a big difference.

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