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Modell has no claim to Fame



Published: Sun, January 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



So, Art Modell is one of the finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, eh?

That's terrific. What's next, Osama Bin Laden receiving the key to New York City?

OK, maybe that comparison is a bit much, and I'll apologize for it -- just as soon as Modell apologizes to all Browns fans for ripping out their collective heart and soul in the fall and winter of 1995.

You may have inferred that I'm still a little bitter over the Browns leaving for some fishing village on the East Coast.

But I'm not -- I'm still really bitter.

Epitome of greed: Modell was then, and continues to be, the poster child for all that is wrong with professional sports.

In the 11 seasons the team played in the NFL before Modell bought the franchise, the Browns won eight division championships and three NFL crowns.

From 1961, Modell's first season, through 1995, the team's last in Cleveland, the franchise won 11 division championships but only one league title. The Browns never competed in the Super Bowl, losing conference championship games five times.

From 1950-60, when the Browns played 12 regular season games, they won 99 times, an average of 9 per season and a winning percentage of .743. In the Modell era, Cleveland averaged barely 8 wins per season, despite playing regular season schedules that ballooned to 14 and then 16 games. Cleveland's winning percentage under Modell -- .543.

But ineptness on the field and in the front office go beyond the stark numbers.

It's true Modell poured a great deal of money into the renovation of Cleveland Stadium in the '70s, a move that probably kept the Indians in town.

Enough blame to go around: And it's true that the region's politicians have to be given some blame in the fiasco that led to Modell's leaving. If nothing else, the mayor of Cleveland and others should have had a better grasp of the situation.

Still, that doesn't excuse Modell, in my book. It was Modell who stopped negotiations with city and county leaders for a new stadium, then bolted for the first deal somewhere else.

His exact words -- "I had no choice" -- still make my blood boil.

I am ashamed to be a part of a profession -- sports journalism -- in which my brethren would have the slightest notion to even consider Modell for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Sure enough, though, he'll get some votes. Northeast Ohio's villain is the Chesapeake Bay region's hero.

I don't expect he'll get enough votes this year. After all, Pete Rozelle, probably the most effective sports commissioner by any standard one chooses by which to judge, didn't get elected until his eighth year on the ballot.

Take a stand: It sure would be nice to see Browns Hall of Famers like Dante Lavelli, Jim Brown, Frank Gatski and Otto Graham, threaten to have themselves removed from the Hall if Modell were to ever be voted in.

But that's a longshot. I don't expect the old Browns to even consider such an act and really, it wouldn't be fair to ask them to.

But, make no mistake -- someday, Modell will be elected. His legacy -- helping Rozelle with the groundbreaking television contracts in the '60s and his role in helping the merger agreement with the old AFL -- will garner votes among the older pro football writers from other regions of the country.

And soon after, on a warm August morning in Canton, a shrine to a great game will become just a little tainted.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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