CLEVELAND - I've been reporting at NewsChannel5 going on 13 years. Born and raised a Browns fan in Lorain goes back decades before that. The Kardiac Kids years were exciting. The Bernie Kosar years fantastic. "The move" heartbreaking. Here are some thoughts on the passing of former team owner Art Modell.
My neighbor Ernie was the first one to tell me that Art Modell passed away.
It was early Thursday morning when I was taking out the garbage.
I knew he didn’t care for Modell after the team moved to Baltimore.
But I asked him what he thought. He paused then said, "He’s 87, let him rest in peace."
I called my dad next. He was a Browns season ticket holder for 30 years. Never missed a game Jim Brown played at home.
My dad said he always liked Modell before “the move.”
My dad said in 1960s Modell sat out in the open seats at the old Municipal Stadium in section nine with his wife Pat. and during the game Art Modell would move to a seat in an overhang area near TV camera set up for game coverage.
There were no loges or luxury suites back then.
Modell walked out of the games with two security guards to the Browns locker room and many times he and my dad who sat in nearby section ten walked out together.
A team owner walking down those ramps at the old stadium talking to a real football fan from Lorain about the game.
Modell even used the same old bathrooms as the fans.
Yes my dad talked to him in there, too.
Could you imagine an owner of an NFL team doing that today?
My dad said Modell was friendly and candid, but he didn’t like when Modell fired Paul Brown.
There’s a black and white photo my dad took arm and arm with Model in the late 1960s or so.
Modell used to go to Lorain for the Lorain’s Browns Banquet and had a few pops with the guys at one of the many clubs near the factories in South Lorain where my dad worked all week to raise his family and have some money left over for Browns games.
My dad showed that photo a lot, even had it enlarged.
He said he was angry with Modell when the team moved to Baltimore, but he didn’t think the city of Cleveland gave Modell a “fair shake” for any hope with help for a new stadium.
“I still like him,” he said.
But he never cared to share that photo again after Modell moved the team.
Never brought it up.
I think there’s more bitterness there, than he cares to admit in the hours after a man passed away.
My dad used to take me to Browns training camp back in the Hiram days.
Then he took me to games with his friends in 1970s.
Like many Browns fans, the memories are burned in my mind and heart.
The Kardiac Kids years were the best.
My favorite highlight was Reggie Rucker catching a touchdown pass from Brian Sipe to beat the Miami Dolphins in overtime.
I wanted to go to the restroom, but my dad said "let’s watch this one play first."
Thank goodness because that play was the Sipe to Rucker touchdown that led to a wild celebration at the stadium.
Standing next to my dad at that moment is one of the highlights of my life.
A moment no one, not even “the move” could take away from me.
I have a newspaper article I saved from the Plain Dealer in 2004 called “The Drought” -- it’s about how Cleveland sports teams haven’t won a title since the Browns in 1964.
Nearly nine years later, the drought continues.
But blame John Elway and the Denver Broncos for that. And the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves for ending the Indians dream of a World Series ring. And the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics for sending the Cavs home early. And that great basketball player burning the city that adored him didn’t help.
But you and I can’t blame Art Modell for any of it.
If you asked my neighbor, or my dad or me yesterday about Modell’s legacy and feelings, the answers might be different.
Modell died Thursday morning at 87 years old.
The first Monday Night Football game ever played was in Cleveland. Joe Namath and the Jets came to town.
Modell was instrumental in creating Monday Night Football with the NFL.
And he gave millions to charity.
Many Browns fans will have no problem being blunt and honest about their hard feelings about Art Modell.
After all for many years cold, rainy or snowy Sunday’s in Cleveland were pretty boring and painful while watching the Baltimore Ravens win.
That’s what really frustrates me.
The move was ugly enough, but Modell and the Ravens winning a Super Bowl when the Browns with the most loyal and dedicated fans in the league have never even been to the Super Bowl.
That’s the punch in the stomach that hurts the most.
Now I’m headed out to hear your opinions and feelings.
I expect to hear it all and it’s understandable. Feel free to enter your thoughts in the comment box below.
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