SBD/February 1, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Late Ravens Owner Art Modell's Pro Football HOF Inclusion "Far From Certain"

Modell has critics in Cleveland, but many in the NFL believe he deserves the HOF
Pro Football HOF voters on Saturday “will consider a group of finalists that includes” late Ravens Owner ART MODELL, but his inclusion “is far from certain,” according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. There is a “lingering bitterness about Modell’s decision to move his team from Cleveland to Baltimore.” Even with a new Browns franchise in Cleveland, “many in that region have refused to forgive Modell.” ESPN Cleveland's TONY GROSSI conducted a social media poll that showed 81.8% of 3,400 respondents "were against” Modell’s HOF candidacy. Still, Modell’s influence in “shaping the NFL" after he purchased the Browns in '61 for $4M is "undeniable.” He was the NFL’s Broadcast Committee Chair “for 31 years and helped orchestrate the launch” of “MNF.” He also “aided in the establishment of NFL Films.” Former Ravens coach and current Fox NFL analyst BRIAN BILLICK “called it ‘regrettable’ that sentiment over the team’s move from Cleveland could keep Modell from being enshrined in Canton, Ohio.” Current Ravens Owner STEVE BISCIOTTI said, “I’m not asking Cleveland to understand. I’m not even asking Cleveland to forgive. I just know that Cleveland’s rabid fans should not be the reason that they keep him out” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/1). Bisciotti added, "I do think he’s the most accomplished person in the history of the NFL that is not in" (ESPN.com, 1/31).

MAKING THE CASE: ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley wrote Modell “eventually will make the Hall, and he undoubtedly deserves to be there.” There is “no debate that Modell contributed enormously to the sport's popularity and growth.” Hensley: “You simply can't write the history of pro football without Modell, which is the best reason anyone can give as to why his legacy should be honored in Canton.” Although fans will “never see any justification for uprooting a team, history says that shouldn't block Modell from going into the Hall of Fame.” It is “unfair for Hall of Fame voters to hold Modell to a different set of rules” than late Raiders Owner AL DAVIS, who relocated his team from Oakland to L.A., and late Rams Owner DAN REEVES, who moved the team from Cleveland to L.A. in '46 (ESPN.com, 1/31). In a special to the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, Ravens GM OZZIE NEWSOME wrote, “Although I love the Baltimore Ravens and am proud to be the team's executive vice president and general manager, I never played for this team. I am a Brown. And I believe Art Modell should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.” He added, “He was an architect of the game we love today.” Newsome: “To my benefit, but so historically important, Art Modell is the first owner in NFL history to hire a minority to run his football team. I will be forever grateful for that” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/31).

DOUBLE WHAMMY: FOXSPORTSOHIO.com’s Pat McManamon wrote Modell “fired PAUL BROWN, the greatest coach and greatest innovator in NFL history,” and that “move alone changed the fortune of a franchise.” Modell also “hastened JIM BROWN’s retirement" by getting into a contract spat because he wanted Brown to return from filming "The Dirty Dozen" in time for training camp. Modell “didn’t give, and ran Brown away from the game.” The HOF is for “the best of the best, the most special players and people from NFL history.” It is “not a Hall of sentimentality or perceived influence.” McManamon: “With respect to a lot of good people in Baltimore whose opinions are worthy of respect, Modell doesn’t meet the standard” (FOXSPORTSOHIO.com , 1/31).

THAT'S OLD SCHOOL: In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote a common theme for both Modell and former 49ers Owner EDDIE DEBARTOLO is that their “shadows loom, their influences remain.” Both men "wound up ceding control of their teams before they really wanted to.” DeBartolo was 21 years younger, but “in many ways his ownership reflected that old-school version of the NFL: paternalistic, parochial, perennial.” One of the “staples of old NFL Films is the sight of DeBartolo, drenched with champagne, hugging every one of his players after a big win.” Vaccaro: “Not just JOE MONTANA. Not just ROGER CRAIG. Everyone. Modell was exactly the same” (N.Y. POST, 1/29).
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