Back in January when the finalists for 2011 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced, I thought we’d made some progress, since, unlike last year, nobody really batted an eyelash that Art Modell wasn’t on the list. I figured that retired Washington Post columnist Len Shapiro and Baltimore radio personality Nestor Aparicio had been the last two people on earth who didn’t understand the rule that if you rip history’s most beloved pro football franchise away from its home for no reason but your own self interest, you don’t get to be in pro football’s Hall of Fame, even if you’re otherwise the best guy there is.
Maybe it was foolish of me to forget the power of another fundamental principle; that of “all politics is local.” Because as long as the Baltimore Ravens franchise exists, there’s always the danger that somebody in those parts will look past the rule about halls of fame and people who stomp on the hearts of millions for money, and go on and say something thunderingly regressive about Art Modell.
Which is to say that the fact that Modell signed Ozzie Newsome’s paychecks for the better part of two decades makes this a little bit easier understand.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is concerned that Art Modell won’t be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until after the former Ravens and Cleveland Browns majority owner is dead.
“I don’t know what we can do,” Newsome said tonight during a conference call with [Ravens] season ticket holders [yesterday]. “My biggest fear is once he passes away then he’ll get the opportunity to go in. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Right right right right right, Ozzie. It wouldn’t be fair if Modell got into the Hall of Fame after he was dead, either; and what you all can do down in Baltimore is stop worrying about Art Modell ever getting in at all, because if Browns Nation ever had to live through an Art Modell induction ceremony, it would be the most painful and widely delivered fuck you moment in modern sports history. In an important way, much worse than the greatest hometown basketball free agent of all time deciding to exercise his free agency to leave his championship starved hometown play somewhere else, and also worse than Modell’s decision to leave with the Browns in the first place, because it wouldn’t just represent one man’s decision to exercise his rights at the absurdly grossly disproportionate expense of so many others. It would also be a collective blow to millions of Browns fans, and everybody else who believes in the applicable principle, from a committee of people from all over the nation who were expressly chosen by civilization to perform a fundamental gatekeeping function to keep precisely this sort of thing from happening.
Ozzie, you just can’t hate us that much. It’s understood that Modell gave you one of the best jobs that anybody could ever hope to have, and that he might otherwise be as decent a guy as anybody. And again, we might feel differently if Modell’s supporters could even start to explain why he had no choice but to move the Browns when he did, and why he couldn’t take the issue to the polls if the politicians were really giving him such a bad deal. But nobody’s ever even started to do that, so in the meantime please understand that people who stand against Modell’s induction into the Hall of Fame are standing for something much more important. And however difficult it could be for Modell and his family have to bear the cost of this stand, consider that they have some $500 million to help soften the blow, and also a Super Bowl ring.
(Also remember that Modell actually said at the time of the move that: “All the national furor over this, compared to other teams moving, is something of a reflection of how I marketed the team on a national basis;” And watch this video again, and this one, and especially this one; Join this facebook group; And please just stop talking about Art Modell and the Hall of Fame. It’s just no way to treat people.)
These pictures of Willie Mays and the kids make me feel a little better, as does the fact that all known Modell-HOF supporters appear to be quarantined within the Baltimore metro area. And the weekend will help, too. Don’t forget about the Clergymen of the Various Denominations of the City of Elizabeth, NJ, and have a decent one. Will be back on Monday per usual unless something crazy happens.