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.”
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.
“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.
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.