I did a segment for a sports radio show called The Sports Insiders out of Buffalo this weekend on WECK 1230. They wanted me to talk about Cleveland sports in general, specifically the Cleveland Indians and what LeBron James is doing in the playoffs. The host, Joe Major, read the name of this website to the delight of his two co-hosts who noted that it could easily be a Buffalo Bills website as well. We talked about the Indians’ start and how it is mostly tied to pitching and that will be the only path for it to continue. This was obviously before I saw the huge outburst of runs the Tribe offense put up last night. Eventually, the question came of who scored higher on the Cleveland hate scale between LeBron James and Art Modell.
I answered quickly and easily. Without a doubt, it is Art Modell by a landslide. I know we’ve talked about this a few times already since “The Decision,” but it bears repeating as we continue to gain distance from LeBron toying with the city of Cleveland. LeBron James for all the negative feelings he implanted in us by handling his business in such an awful fashion can never ever do to us by taking himself away from us what Art Modell did by moving the Browns to Baltimore. Never.
The fact of the matter is that LeBron James is just a player with a finite career length. Even if LeBron goes Moses Malone, that will still be only twenty years. When Art Modell moved the Browns it could have cost the team history and future if not for the fight in that generation of Browns fans. In the end it cost Browns fans 1996-99, but it could have been so much more and so much worse.
Even as LeBron handcuffed the team, dominated the culture and then skipped town for some contrived dream team, he didn’t take anything but himself with him. He couldn’t threaten to take our past even if he did sour those seven years of memories.
At the end of the day, I know that despite what LeBron James did to Cleveland with his exit, he is a surefire hall of famer. He doesn’t even need to win a championship to be considered one of the greatest players ever. Sure, it is fun to point out his shortcomings and laugh at his receding hairline and weakness of character. There’s still nobody more dangerous driving down the crowded lane of any basketball game on the planet earth. That makes him worthy of the hall of fame someday.
I can’t say the same for Art Modell. He did some things that would have made him worthy of the hall of fame too. Those arguments are undeniable. Ultimately though, his body of work as an owner is forever tainted and ruined because he ended up with one of the biggest failures in the history of professional sports on his résumé. He managed to find a way to not make his business work with some of the best fans in the NFL. He threatened to take the history from one of the most storied franchises. He did all this to make up for his complete and utter ineptitude as a business man and NFL owner. Completely unforgivable. Do not pass go, etc.
So, no. LeBron James can’t hold a candle to Art Modell as angry as I am with him. I do feel as if LeBron abused the franchise on his exit, but it is just a temporary effect, hopefully. What Art Modell could have accomplished with his nefarious and dastardly betrayal was far, far worse and should keep him out of Canton forever as far as I’m concerned.
(Photo: David Liam Kyle/Time & Life Pictures/Getty ImagesNov 05, 1995)