Art Modell and National Media Revisionist History

Battle for the Browns

Art Modell is dead.

I type this piece from Dallas, so all I am hearing on TV and radio are the National media people speak so glowingly of the man. I would never speak ill of the dead. It is unbecoming. But looking at my Twitter feed and listening to the Adam Schefter’s and Jason LaCanfora’s and Ken Rosenthal’s of the world opine on the man is firing me up. I can’t sit quietly.

On Sports Center this morning, Schefter, ESPN’s information guy discussed Modell and his Hall of Fame credentials. He said something to the effect of  “there are people in the room (Hall of Fame voters) who couldn’t separate the good Modell did for the game from moving the Browns out of Cleveland.” It was an indirect shot at Modell’s most ardent Hall-blocker, Tony Grossi.

Guess what Adam, you are the one who can’t separate the two. You can’t have one without the other.

Then there was Rosenthal, the Fox Sports Baseball insider, formerly of the Baltimore Sun. We got into a back and forth on Twitter as he talked up Uncle Artie. Rosenthal claimed that the Browns move to Baltimore was “more complicated than portrayed.” Really, Ken? How so, I asked. His response: “plenty of blame to go around, He deserved his share. So did the Cleveland officials.”

Classic Baltimore spin.

As I told Rosenthal, it was pure and simple. Modell was BROKE. He admitted so years later. The infamous quote he made at that fateful press conference in Baltimore was “I had no choice.” Yes he did. He could have sold the team and kept the Browns in Cleveland. Instead, he found himself a parachute, and left an entire devoted city and fan base in the lurch. What we’ve seen since has been borderline horrifying. One playoff game in 13 years and only two winning seasons.

Meanwhile, the team that should be ours, the Baltimore Ravens, is run by one of our own legends, Ozzie Newsome, and has become one of the model franchises in the NFL.

Schefter also said that Modell was “hated to a LeBron James level in Cleveland.” He couldn’t be more wrong about that. I am over LeBron leaving Cleveland. I will NEVER get over what Modell did to us. NEVER.

LeBron was a player. Players leave. Franchises, successful franchises at that, don’t move out of town unless a city doesn’t support them. All except the Browns and the Seattle Sonics of course. The Browns have a rabid, national fan base, and sold out every single game for years. Only Modell couldn’t find a way to make a profit in a league where guys are making it hand over fist. Again he was broke, looked for a way out without selling, got his wish, and left us all holding the bag.

And Schefter says Cleveland hates Modell to a “Lebron type level?” Wrong. LeBron wasn’t/isn’t even close to as hated as Modell is in our fair city. It is not in the same ballpark for me.

I know Modell was the man behind Monday Night Football. I know that everyone who knew him is talking today about what a nice guy he was and how easy he was to talk to. I liken Modell to former President George W. Bush. No matter what your politics are, the majority of the people would tell you that W would be a a great guy to sit around, have a beer, and shoot the bull with. However, when it comes down to legacy, you can’t look past his warts. The same goes for Modell.

Today, you will hear stories from the national media types and anyone who was in Baltimore during and after the move about how terrific a guy Modell was and how much he did for the game of football. But for those of us who grew up living, breathing, eating, and sleeping Browns football, Art will always be the guy who ripped our hearts out because he was a bad businessman with too much pride and ego to do the right thing and sell the team.

No amount of revisionist history from outside of Cleveland is going to change that.

  • Dee P

    It’s easy to make a fake name and support a point.

  • WolvesJR

    People forget he spent about $75 million to take over that dump that was the stadium (remove the rose colored glasses folks, it was a decrepit mess) when the city was completely broke and were in what was thought of as a very real danger of losing the Indians to New Orleans. Then the Indians move to Jacobs Field so he loses their rent. Follow that up with the city taking most of his parking away for Science center and R&R HOF and there goes yet another source of income. Then the city screws him over on paying to renovate the stadium. Who would have wanted to have bought a team playing in an old stadium with few luxury boxes and no real source of additional revenue? He called their bluff and left.

  • EdgewaterJoe

    Excuse me, but you don’t need rose-colored glasses — you need facts. The FACT is that when Modell took over the Stadium he was supposed to put the money into it to keep it up — AND HE NEVER DID. The Indians were going to move because Modell was a stingy bastard and was bleeding the Indians dry. Furthermore, you also forget (or was never told) that FOUR DAYS after the move was announced, there was a referendum on the ballot to pay for a new stadium — and it passed with over 70% of the vote. The money was there for a new stadium, exactly as Mike White promised.

    The problem is that it was Art Modell who lied to the city of Cleveland by promising he would stay in Cleveland while negotiating with the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland for a deal he never told the rest of the NFL was on the table for a franchise relocation.

    There’s one person and one person alone for tarnishing Art Modell’s reputation. That man’s name is Art Modell.

    In death, there must be truth. And THAT is the truth.E

  • EdgewaterJoe

    I knew there would be revisionism, but it’s only for today. In about a week or two, the reality of Modell being a bad businessman who screwed a franchise for a tainted, blood-stained Lombardi Trophy is what will be remembered. Modell’s legacy is locked in, and one day’s worth of obits won’t change that.E

  • cmm13

    Wait wait wait wait wait… That didn’t happen?

  • WolvesJR

    I sense a little hostility there Joe. Step back from the keyboard and breath slowly. It’s all right.

    The stadium referendum was not going to be enough and Model HAD told White and Voinovich that early in October. That neither of those two bothered to tell that to the public that was not Model’s fault. Was he double dealing with Baltimore? Yes (and you can give Al Learner a big assist with that one). He was nearly bankrupt as he kept having to take out loans to try and cover stadium related shortfalls.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I remember the “Jump Art, Land on Bill” signs and the plane that said “Don’t Jump Art – Call Kevorkian!” and listed a phone number.

  • Hypno_Toad


  • Dee P

    This argument sounds extremely familiar…

  • Bkosar76

    Please don’t compare a President who dedicated his entire time in office to fighting international terror, with the man who broke all our hearts by stealing our team and giving it to someone else. I like W, I will never like Art.

  • Wheel

    TD. Best. Column.Ever.

  • Warburton MacKinnon

    What sucks is you can find the cover,but not the story on,I kinda wanted to reread that story,but couldn’t find it in their archives. Not surprised but was disappointed.

  • Revolutionary Bum

    Art Modell is just floating around because even Lucifer doesn’t want to be with that type of scumbag.

  • buckeyesRus

    What owner would move a team from a city that was selling out every game every year for 35 years, and pretty much every year before he owned the team? His financial incompetence had nothing to do with the Browns! And the city was going to build a new stadium! Totally awful businessman who fired the greatest coach in the NFL in Paul Brown, Bill Belicheck, Marty Shotenheimer, and got rid of Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar! He took the best NFL franchise in the history of the NFL and was allowed by the NFL to destroy it!