Virtual Roundtable: Art Modell 1925-2012
Art Modell

Posted Sep 8, 2012


Years of success and respect were lost by Art Modell in moving the team following the 1995 season.

 

DON DELCO: Art Modell is dead. Anyone who chooses to make the Cleveland Browns a big part of their lives, know of this man and what he did to this franchise in 1995.

I never met the man, but I know from talking with Fred Greetham, he knew Modell on a personal level.

For me, I can appreciate what good he did for the National Football League, but it it overshadowed by what he did to the Cleveland Browns. Then, and still now, it seemed like the impossible: He moved the team to Baltimore. For all the national media outlets you'll hear praise Modell for his good today, the fact remains he turned his back on Cleveland, Ohio and moved the Browns. I don't care about the political issues at the time. I don't care if he was upset the city went ahead on stadiums for the Cavs and Indians first. None of that matters because Modell made the decision to go to Baltimore.

I didn't know Modell, but I do know that I want his legacy to be remembered as the man that ripped the hearts out of Browns fans everywhere.

The town and Browns fans have yet to recover. Even if someday in the future when the Browns win that coveted Super Bowl, I will not let Modell's legacy be forgotten.

What say you? What are your emotions?

BARRY McBRIDE: I take no particular glee in Modell's passing. He had long ago passed into irrelevance on the NFL stage, and opinions about him have been set in stone in Cleveland for years. Dead or alive, his actions spoke for themselves. His actions created his legacy.

Nearly 20 years later, I view Modell as a tragic figure, a man with a strong marketing gift who simply couldn't manage his own finances, and selfishly opted to move his team to Baltimore in order to attempt to keep ownership in the family. The good he did was eroded over time as his failures and bad business decisions mounted, forcing the ultimate betrayal of a fan base.

In the end, Modell was left with nearly nothing: No plaque in the Hall of Fame, no significant ownership in his franchise, no team for his adopted son to inherit. Cleveland fans lost, Art Modell lost. The only winner was the group of NFL owners who watched new stadiums pop up across the landscape after the Browns were moved to Baltimore.

The lasting legacy of Art Modell is not the 4AM death of a failed old man. It is the way the City of Cleveland bonded together to fight back and reclaim their team, name, and colors, a battle unprecedented in the history of professional sports. That moment of civic unity against greed run amok is what we should remember today.

DAVE KOLONICH: He was a bad businessman who would have eventually defaulted on the Browns. Enough said.

FRED GREETHAM: I have mixed emotions as I started with the Browns in 1982 as an intern with nothing promised, but a six-week stint toward my Master's in Sports Ad.

However, that summer the Browns started Browns News/Illustrated and I volunteered to write some stories while I was there and something I did caught the eye of someone there and was offered a position to stay on as a writer for the publication. Now, 30 years later, I'm still able to cover the Browns. Modell's right hand man in those days, Jim Bailey also asked me to work in the owner's booth at the home games. I arrived for my first game on a Monday night to kick off the 1982 season with a game against the Chargers and when I walked into the booth I was awed to find Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford sitting at the table with Modell dining. They asked me to join them and for a 25-year old wide-eyed young guy, I was awed.

I have many stories that I could share, but to get back to the topic at hand, Modell was always very nice and generous to me. My wife and I had just got married and we literally loaded up our cooler after the games with leftovers and that kept us going for a week or so.

I never was around Modell in later years as much as I was the first couple years, but when he made the announcement to move the team to Baltimore, I remember sitting in the media room in Berea on that fateful day with other members of the media and it was probably the worst day I can remember covering the Browns.

Ironically, he moved the team to be able to pass it down to his son, David, but was forced to sell the team anyway. He can say what he wanted, but someone would've stepped up to buy the Browns and keep them in Cleveland, whether it was Al Lerner or some other group. He put his self interests ahead of the city. It's too bad Jimmy Haslam wasn't around then.

LANE ADKINS: Art Modell and the City of Cleveland and its business leaders were ultimately responsible for the darkest days in Cleveland for professional football.

There are no winners, just carnage remains from what was the most despicable act from a team owner in professional sports to this day.

Some will say the Cleveland Browns have yet to recover. Many will say Modell realized the pain, grief and hatred he orchestrated in late 1995 and carried that burden to his grave.

Modell escaped and tasted success in Baltimore, only to fall victim to his continued poor business ways.

Browns fans continue to wait for that same success.

Rest in peace Art Modell, you will certainly never be forgotten by Browns fans.


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