More on Art Modell and the Hall of Fame with Hall of Fame Selector Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post

by Cleveland Frowns on February 18, 2010

As mentioned yesterday, retired Washington Post columnist Leonard (Len) Shapiro responded to me via email on yesterday’s post on the good reasons why even folks outside of Cleveland might want to keep Art Modell out of the NFL Hall of Fame.  Not only does Mr. Shapiro disagree, as you’ll see, but he wants to put us in the The Hall of Shame, and maybe even send us to journalism school.

Below is Mr. Shapiro’s email, along with my response that I haven’t yet heard back on.  Note that Mr. Shapiro is on the Hall of Fame selection committee, and wrote Mr. Modell’s autobiography for him, an effort that “convinced [Shapiro] even more of [Modell’s] worthiness for football’s highest honor.”

On Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 11:02 AM, Len Shapiro wrote:


They always taught us in journalism school that a tragedy occurs when someone dies. Far as I can tell, Cleveland got a new franchise, got a new stadium, kept its colors and records and traditions, and Baltimore was made whole as well. I agree Modell’s decision to move was wrenching for fans of the team, but I wonder where the vitriol is toward your politicians, specifically the moron mayor and his bumbling minions, who kept screwing Modell at every turn.  By the way, despite Tagliabue’s public stance, I have it on pretty good authority that he also saw the handwriting on the wall in dealing with city officials, and actually advised Modell that he really had no choice in the matter and ought to make the move. Same goes for Ohio Senator Voinovich. This facebook site may make you all feel warm and fuzzy, but after 15 years, gimme a break. Modell is hardly the first Hall of Fame owner to move a franchise–Al Davis did it twice and would jumnp again if he could. Modell is a world-class human being who gave Cleveland his life’s blood, his money, his civic support for countless projects all over your city. So give it up already, show a little magnanimity and stop all this vengeful hate mongering. Modell belongs in the Hall of Fame for countless reasons. His haters belong in the Hall of Shame. And feel free to post this on your web site. Best.

Len Shapiro, retired Washington Post football writer
Hall of Fame selector since 1982



from Peter Pattakos
to Len Shapiro
date Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 12:54 PM
subject Re: Cleveland, Art Modell, and the Hall of Fame: More than Just a Grudge

Feb 17 (1 day ago)


Very much appreciate you taking the time to respond. Thanks.

With respect to your journalism degree, I’m sure there’s an appropriate use of word tragedy that applies well to what happened both with the Browns and the Colts, but at least we can agree that something very bad happened in both places as a result of decisions that humans made.

We’re talking about uprooting a lot more than just a football team here. We’re talking about uprooting part of the fiber of a region and a way of life, and there’s an argument that it hasn’t recovered since. Your argument minimizes this, which couldn’t possibly help any case relating to what a professional sports league ought to honor. It’s hardly worth addressing Al Davis moving the Raiders to and from LA as a meaningful comparison, nor franchises that were moved when the league was in its infancy. We’re really just talking about the Browns and the Colts here.

As noted in the post, nobody’s pushing for any moron mayor or bumbling minion to be inducted into any Hall of Fame. The point is that if there was a case to be made by Modell against the City that would have absolved him, no doubt the people of Cleveland would have heard it before he’d have moved the team, especially with the prospect of losing the Browns hanging in the balance. If there’s a concise and persuasive explanation of why Modell had no choice but to do what he did (like an opinion column), I assume you’d be aware of it, so if it exists and you could pass it on, you might have a chance to change minds about Modell’s candidacy. I’d certainly be interested to read it anyway, because I’ve not been able to find one, and it would certainly be of more interest to me than allegations about off-record statements by Tagliabue, Voinovich, or whomever else.

Also noted in the post, I don’t question that Modell is a world-class human being, and I have no problem with him being recognized for that. The fact remains that — entirely unlike the case of Pete Rose — the only way that meaningful justice can be done for what Modell did with the Cleveland Browns is to keep him out of the Hall. Modell’s been rewarded with much else in his rich life. The particular manifestation of justice represented by keeping Modell out of the Hall and what it might mean to current and future owners of similar public trusts has to be worth a lot more than giving Modell one more reward.

I’m not at all hate-mongering here, I promise. I’m willing to be convinced that Modell belongs in the Hall, but I’d suppose that a persuasive showing that he had no choice but to do what he did could be the only thing that could do that (and further that any such persuasive showing could be and would have been summarized concisely as a newspaper column if it existed). I’d be grateful if you could pass any such thing on, and I’d be glad to pass it on myself.

Thanks again, and all the best,



In the meantime, here’s the facebook group you should join.

And a reminder from our favorite formerly known commenter about Mr. Modell’s statement that:

“All the national furor over [my moving the Browns out of Cleveland], compared to other teams moving, is something of a reflection of how I marketed the team on a national basis.”


And I realize it was a big mistake to omit this in my reply to Shapiro.

(UPDATEArt Modell’s Hall of Fame Candidacy:  Worse than We Thought)

That’s all for today.

Enjoy what’s probably the last interesting game of the 09-10 NBA regular season.  Back tomorrow to recap and who knows what else.

  • Chris

    Shapiro wrote and (I'm assuming) reaped monetary benefits from writing Modell's biography (I don't think you can actually write someone's autobiography for them) and then started campaigning to get him inducted into the Hall of Fame? No conflict of interest here.

  • Pittsburgh is for Man Lovers

    No new or fresh arguments from him on why Modell deserves to be in the HOF. He's a great guy blah blah blah. Guess what? Even great guys make horrible decisions. Just because you're a great guy doesn't mean you shouldn't suffer the consequences of them. The biggest difference between living in DC and God's Country? The way our teams are woven into our genetic makeup and identity. The Redskins definitely have a lot of fans, but DC is a horrible sports town overall. It's something you will never know or feel unless you're a part of it. Finally – Modell didn't have to have a new Stadium, he just wanted one. Gimme a break.

  • Pittsburgh is for Man Lovers

    Oh yeah, I'm not going to get over having an Aston Martin taken from me and getting a Kia Spectra in return.

  • smittypop2

    @everyone—I heard Dante Stallworth is a great guy now.

    @frowner—Excellent email back to Leo. I applaud your methods and your efforts.

  • CleveBalla

    Yo gimme dat fools email adress ill telling to take dat shit outta herr…we aint play dem games up where we from playa. dat some bullshit.

  • Chris

    @ Balla – word.

  • El Capitan

    Can we start a facebook group "Keep idiots like Len Shapiro out of voting for the Hall of Fame"?

    As much as Modell gave back to the Cleveland, Cleveland made him rich. You don't give someone a reward for kicking their best customer in the balls. Seriously, what is it that Len doesn't get?

    One of my "off the record sources" told me that Modell's kids were spoiled and out-of-control growing up. Since we are factoring Modell's civic contributions into whether he gets into the Hall of Fame, should we also factor in his family life?

  • fjmckenna

    Good stuff frowns. Two things from Shapiro's email jumped out at me:

    “Far as I can tell, Cleveland got a new franchise, got a new stadium, kept its colors and records and traditions…” – Shapiro

    (I'm no local clevelander, but as far as I know, Modell initially intended to call the team the Baltimore Browns and take the colors and records with the team. His hand was forced to give this up and yet after the fact, he still made a habit of publicly suggesting that he left the browns name and uniform as a gesture of good will)


    Modell is hardly the first Hall of Fame owner to move a franchise – Al Davis did it twice… — Shapiro

    (far as I know, Modell testified against Davis on behalf of the league and tried to stop him. And wasn’t it after Modell pulled off the heist that like a dozen other teams pointed the same threat toward their home cities to get public money for new stadiums?)

    But the best quote is on the facebook fan page from a guy named Richard Domnic who, re: Modell says:

    "i wouldn't piss on that bastard if he was on fire."

    – dood

  • Coachie

    truly great work, Frowns. and second what Don Bigdoodz said.

    I love how he tries to deflect the blame to city officials. "wahhh, they wouldn't build a rich guy a stadium! waaah, it's their civic duty. we need luxury boxxxxxxes!!! we need heinekins and crab dip!!!"

    how soon before every team tells its city they need what the cowboys have?

  • Biki

    i have no problem with art model, the browns were his baby for 30 years and he put his sweat and blood into the team. it's his team and he can do what he wants with it. sure it sucked for a few years but it obviously made a lot of money for model i can't blame the guy for taking the MUCH more lucrative deal that was on the table from bmore.

    he's done a lot for the community and was generally a good citizen, but that being said, he doesn't belong in th HOF. while he has been an NFL owner for nearly 50 years, only winning 2 championships in that timespan while not being a champion of any major causes or policies in the NFL that i'm aware of doesn't seem to me to be HOF worthy.

  • chuck r.

    The way this city reacted and fought to get the Browns back is reason enough for me to keep Art out of the hall. If Modell had gotten his way, the team in Baltimore at the moment would be the Browns, colors and all. And yes, I agree, we did give up an Aston Martin for a Kia!

  • Believelander

    And without the books, colors, and legacy of the Browns franchise securely in a lockbox in Cleveland collecting dust instead of Art Modell's filthy greedy hands in Baltimore, the city of Cleveland may have lacked the clout and enticement to bring a new franchise back to Cleveland so quickly – if at all.

    I miss Muni. I think that the new Browns stadium is, well, kind of crappy compared to Muni. It's newer and fresher and stuff, but comparatively? I'd take the old, big, awesome stadium any day.

    I cried. An 11 year old boy, crying, because of what happened. And even if the City of Cleveland may or may not have recovered by now, starting over from scratch has not boded well for the Browns franchise.

    Maybe someday we'll recover. Who knows?

    But I'll keep hate mongering on Modell. Pete, a great spokesman skillfully presenting one of our town's most unanimous collective points of view, can keep being credible and even-mannered. I'll spit bile and hate over this issue.

    Hopefully we don't have to desecrate Canton with a mini pipe bomb to the Art Modell shrine anytime in the future…

  • fjmckenna


    i can't even fathom what it would've felt like at eleven years old if there was (were?) suddenly no more NY Giants.

    And Bik, why can't you blame Modell, or anyone else who already has a shit ton of money, for effectively pissing on a whole city for no other reason than another shit ton of money? If you won't i will.


  • Biki

    dood – i guess it's because i'm a jaded sports fan.. i expect that team owners want to make a profit. i don't know all the financial details, but it seems pretty clear to me that modell made a mint on the deal and set his family up for generations and generations. it sucked, but oh well, thank the lord for the lerners!

  • Chuck

    love the site for the browns coverage above all, but how bout some cavs bashing:

    "ball don't lie" – 1/9 3pt, 5 missed FT (including in final minute)….can't blame that on Jamison, or the lack thereof….maybe cleveland should get a winner from the '03 draft like Melo…or Wade….or Darko

  • Believelander

    Chuck, your statistical spin is almost as good as mine.

    Did you know that LeBron had an error rate of 100% in all of his mistakes on Thursday night? Simply unacceptable.

    That said, the dish for a 3 pt attempt was a bad play call. Should have frankly just launched an alley oop and gone to DoT, the Nuggets weren't covering that sort of insanity very well, but as usual the Cavs put that part of their game on the shelf in the 3rd quarter.

  • Believelander

    And ANOTHER thing. LeBron came up through Melo's hand on a 3 pt attempt late in the 4th. Easy to see on replay, but the refs missed the call. Not only did they miss the call, but they then whistled Varejao on the rebound, sending Billups to the line. This sort of tick and tack is the kind of stuff that gets blown all the time, and the only reason LeBron releases that bad three is because he got cleanly contacted, so he followed through on it to make sure the foul got called. Which it didn't. But fortunately they got Varejao for trying to rebound a basketball.

    Clearly though, if the Cavs ever lose it's because LeBron James is a failure at life and basketball. The Cavaliers would be vastly superior now with Dwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony, even though neither of these players is as good as James.

    When you have some real evidence about how big of a flop LeBron is, feel free to share it. I'm sure we'll be getting that overwhelming compilation of damning evidence right around the time we get the transcripts of Tagliabue and Voinovich talking about how Modell did right by packing up and rolling to Baltimore.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    Maybe that was a bad call on the LeBron three, but I'm pretty sure the Cavs got every single other call there was to be had in that game, including and especially on whoever it was on the Nuggets who was hacked on the way to the basket on the play before the awesome alley-oop to Hickson. I thought it was pretty bad the whole game. I dunno. But either way, I told you about the Nuggets weeks ago.

    WORD VER: "yakof"

  • Biki

    bad call? we shot 14 more free throws, had 5 less fouls called.. it comes down to defense or lackthereof.. can't blame the refs when you give up 106 in regulation and 12 in a 5 minute OT..

    in the end it's a meaningless game, and i expect some more growing pains without Big Z and adding Jamison, but luckily we have a comfy lead in the East while we experiment..

  • smittypop2

    @chucker—I know you hate Lebron and I am the first to admit his 3s and FTs were shitsville tonight, but don't tell me Melo is some sort of winner. I think he has won 1 whole playoff series in his career. He has had far superior teams than Lebron has also. I only had a chance to watch OT tonight and the Cavs didn't look very good. The FT shooting was terrible all around and the D looked like crap. I hope Jamison can help out on offense sooner than later. I don't want Boston or Orlando even thinking about getting that 1 seed in the East. The Cavs really need to buckle down and assume themselves of homecourt against the Lakeshow. They are really rolling without Kobe now—if we had 5 games without Lebron, I would have to guess 1-4 against 5 average teams. They are just stacked compared to us.

  • Chris

    I'm fairly certain you can blame this loss on 17 missed free throws out of 40.

    Well, that and Lebron jacking bullshit 3's at the end of the game while the other 4 guys stood around and watched.

    This team will never win a championship as long as Lebron decides to run his LeISO for the last half of every fourth quarter against elite teams.

  • Chris

    On another note regarding defense, if you have 4 guys completely uninvolved at the offensive side of the floor, that will definitely impact how they play defense.

  • Chris

    While I'm on a roll, it's completely unforgivable that Mike Brown had Gibson playing defense at the end of the game instead of West. This game is just one big clusterf**k of fail.

    Now I'm done.

  • Uncle Pens

    Yeah…Thanks alot for letting us keep our colors and records(screw off). When you take a team away and try and replace it, it's not the same. The players and the chain of events that led up to getting them is gone. You start over with a group of scrubs that were not and have no clue about the Clevelad Browns. Then you take our team nad win a Super Bowl! No hard feelings!

  • Pittsburgh is for Man Lovers

    Definitely agree on the bizarre logic of having Boobie d'ed up on Chauncey. Not a fan of that call at all.

  • gretchenaro

    Gave up hating Art Modell years ago because it's just not good for me. But, I do not want to see him in the HOF in my lifetime.

    Shapiro's 'arguments' were lame and you addressed them quite well. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

  • jimkanicki

    excuse me but does shapiro ever get to the part where modell’s credentials are outlined?

    i wonder if he learned ‘hall of shame’ in j-school too. #haterz

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