By Ryan Kaczmarski
With the recent passing of Arthur Bertram Modell, former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner – in case you’re not from the area, not an NFL fan or have been living under a rock for the past 53 years – a lot of people have been questioning if he will finally be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, posthumously.
Modell was a finalist for enshrinement once in 2001, and a semifinalist seven times between 2004 and 2011.
The arguments for him to be memorialized with a bronze bust down the road off of I-77 are plenty.
- He was the majority owner of the Browns and then Ravens franchises for 43 seasons (1961-2003)
- In those 43 seasons of ownership, 24 teams had winning records, 18 made the playoffs and two won NFL championships (Browns in 1964, Ravens in 2000)
- He was the only elected NFL president in league history (served from 1967-69)
- He was the chairman of the Owners Labor Committee (1968), which successfully negotiated the NFL’s first players’ collective bargaining agreement
- He served on the AFL-NFL Merger Committee, breaking the impasse for realignment of the two leagues by moving the Browns to the AFC
- He worked closely with then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle to establish NFL Films and became its first chairman
- In 1970, he was an important negotiator with ABC to launch “Monday Night Football” and volunteered to host the first game, in Cleveland (Browns beat the Jets 31-21)
There are also reasons, personal reasons, that I really don’t want him in Canton.
He took my team to Baltimore. What else do I have to say?
Yes, the Browns have been back in Cleveland since 1999, with all of the records, colors and logos, but what about those years that we had no NFL football in Cleveland? From the time the 1996 season started, until the expansion Browns started in the fall of 1999, there was a hole in my heart – and my family’s pocketbook – that could not be filled, no matter how many times the Indians made the playoffs and World Series.
In the ’80s and ’90s, my family owned a bar and restaurant in Berea; and in those years there was no home team to root for, my family lost a lot of money from people who used to go out to watch the Browns every Sunday. Some of our employees had to find other work, because my father could not supplement the missing tips from those customers.
Sure, I’m one of those people who became a casual Green Bay Packers fan, but at least my dad is from Milwaukee. Now we have a whole generation of local kids, adolescents and young adults who have no idea of winning football in Cleveland – and worse yet, they are Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
I don’t want to be another old curmudgeon talking about the Kardiac Kids and Bernie Kosar teams we loved, while dismissing the current product, but what else is there to do? This did not need to happen. The Browns could have stayed here the whole time.
Modell tried to secure ownership of the franchise to secure the future for his children and grandchildren, but that could have been done by just selling the team. He did end up selling 99 percent of the Ravens team to Steve Bisciotti in April 2004, therefore making him a rich man again.
To take a line from the Indians’ promotion department: “What if … ?”
I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who have similar stories, and I’d like to hear them. If you would like to share your story of how you felt when the Browns left, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It might bring up some sad memories, but it also can be cathartic. We will be posting your stories on www.westlifenews.com, and might even print a couple in a future issue.