“You can’t write the history of Pro Football without Art Modell”

by Cleveland Frowns on February 1, 2013

“There is an oft-used phrase in the annual Hall of Fame discussions — that one ‘cannot write the history of the league without including’ certain candidates — that might be appropriate to Modell.”Len Pasquarelli, Sports Illustrated

“You can’t write the NFL history without Art.”Ozzie Newsome

“He left a huge imprint on the game, and one can’t write the history of the league without mentioning him.”Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune


Rapists leave imprints, too. Indelible ones. And you can’t write the history of Germany, or Europe, or the world, really, without mentioning the N-evermind.


Jackie Robinson would have turned 94 yesterday, which reminds us that folks like to say the same thing about Robinson that we like to say (and like to hear Hall of Fame Selection Committee Members say) about Art Modell:

“If he hadn’t done it, someone else would have.”

Of course, in Modell’s case we’re talking about his having helped expand Pro Football’s presence on broadcast television. With Robinson, it’s him having broken Major League Baseball’s color barrier by becoming the first black person to play in the league. And if we keep going down this road, we’ll get to folks who’ll say that someone else surely would have freed the slaves had Lincoln not.

“But what if Lincoln hadn’t acted when he did?”

Of course. And he was assassinated two years later for it.

Jackie Robinson wasn’t assassinated, but you’ll never convince me that such an untimely death (he was 53) didn’t have at least something to do with his having heard as much as he did from people who wanted to kill him. And even Modell had to take much more than anyone should have from folks who spewed hate and fear in reaction to the Cleveland Browns’ having been owned by a Jew.

So the best question here — since Modell’s work with television has emerged as his supporters’ apparent best argument for his receiving Pro Football’s highest honor (He put football on TV on Mondays! Bronze him!) — is probably just: Who was ever trying to keep football off of TV, anyway?

The answer is surely, “nobody.” Nobody without whom the history of television can’t be written, anyway. After the smashing success of “Market Melodies” (remember, Modell rose to fortune on the revolutionary 1950s TV show that was posted in supermarkets to give housewives something else to stare at), football on TV couldn’t have been any more of a no-brainer.


Save for another day the argument about where fifties-era housewives rank on American history’s list of most exploited classes, because it’s enough for now to note that Art was certainly never worried about breaking any glass ceilings.

Which not only goes a significant way in explaining why he was so comfortable doing what he did to Cleveland and the Browns, but also too perfectly accounts for why Sports Illustrated’s Len Pasquarelli, a Hall of Fame Selector himself, leads off the magazine’s definitive and extremely disappointing column on Modell’s candidacy with quotes from Dan Rooney and Mike Brown, the owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively.

“Art Modell was a good friend to our family and he will be sadly missed,” Pasquarelli quotes Steelers “chairman emeritus” Dan Rooney as having said. “He was instrumental in helping the National Football League become what it is today and he always had the league’s best interest at heart.”

“Art was one of a kind,” the writer adds from Bengals owner Mike Brown.

The idea here is supposed to be that Modell is an honorable man, because his closest rivals — “bitter foes,” Pasquarelli calls them — will say these things about him when he’s dead and up for an honor that they want, too, preferably before they’re in their graves.

And it’s this — the idea that Rooney, Brown, and the Arthur B. Modell Family Trust could possibly be considered “foes” in today’s world — that characterizes Modell’s legacy as well as anything. Because Modell is one of the few who figured it out first. Take advantage of the latest that technology has to offer the human race by making everything okay for the ladies with Mornidine and Market Melodies, and for the men with football and lite beer. Once they’re hooked, make the biggest fortune you can by selling it to them, until you get so rich that you can rewrite the rules so much that you can even get away with taking the Browns out of Cleveland. By then you’ll have pulled the ladder so far up behind you that the last thing you have to worry about is any “rivals” anymore, let alone bitter ones.

What could be more ridiculous than the idea that the Modells would worry about “foes” from the Brown or Rooney family? What could there possibly be for any of these folks to worry about but convincing the lucky few who get to write about football for a living that they belong in the Hall of Fame — writers who want to think they’re Hall of Special too just because they’ve “made an imprint” in the spectacular national diversion that’s the NFL.

But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco got it better than any of these writers did.

“The reason [the NFL] is as popular as it is today and guys are making the money is a lot because of what [Modell did],” Flacco said. “And the vision that he had.”

It’s true that if anything can be said about Modell’s NFL legacy it’s that a few “guys are making the money because of what he did.” Whether or not anyone else had or would have had the same “vision” as Art’s had he not been there, these “guys making the money because of what he did” (it apparently doesn’t have to be at all as much as Flacco makes) are the only non-Ravens-fans on earth who are talking about putting him in the Hall of Fame.

So again, and hopefully for the last time, it’s really not about Cleveland being “bitter,” it’s not about Cleveland waging “a war” against Modell, and there’s nothing about what Cleveland should or shouldn’t “get over” that moves the needle a micrometer in favor of this candidacy. It’s just about right and wrong, fame vs. shame, good rules vs. bad ones. And Cleveland has the most useful view possible here: The bottom of the boot.

Raze Canton; What’s it for if Art Modell gets through those gates?

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

    We’ll be back Sunday with a Super Bowl preview and pick. Cheddar Bay picks and essays have been posted here:


    It’s Handshakes (Ravens) v. MPLS (Niners), with D. Hemingway jumping Handshakes for second prize if the Niners win.

    Does anyone know when the HOF decisions are announced?

    • Easy_P

      Of course the NFL is going to milk this announcement for all it’s worth and have a special show at 5:30 pm on Saturday.

      Living in Massillon, I will concur that no good reason exists for the Hall of Fame in Canton or the city for that matter if he gets enshrined.

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        I’m at least relieved that we won’t have to wait any longer than tomorrow afternoon.

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        Perfect that it’s Groundhog Day, too, because if Art gets in all I’m going to see is shadows.

  • humboldt

    It’s a sad state of affairs when the best argument for Modell is that he played some nebulous role in moving football to Monday nights and opening up a new market through which the wealthy further profited. Neoliberalism profoundly lowers the bar for actions worthy of consecration.

    • peter

      Neoliberalism? More like the massive media machine corprations feeding the little guys more bullshit.

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        You’re both right.

        • actovegin1armstrong

          Frownie,just because you do not understand that does not make them both correct.

          I once had a nebulous consecration on my neoliberalism, but a few shots of penicillin cleared it right up.

          No offense guys, I agree wholeheartedly, however my constant need for dictionary.com tempers my enthusiasm.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            LOL I thought neoliberalism was just what let Obama run to the left of MLK and govern to the right of Reagan. I stand corrected. Pass the penicillin and/or bikilettuce.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            #TEDX conferences, too.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    pro football owners are foes in the same way i have foes in my saturday morning nassau at the club: i win three ways up two dots, take my $8, and have a bloody on the deck with my foe afterward.

    the fact of this old-boys club is the underpins the fallacy that ~30 years on a TV committee was an achievement.

    truth is any advancement or improvement in the nfl was driven by non-members of the old-boys club:

    * al davis caused nfl to approach afl to merge (lamar hunt et al held secret talks without davis);
    * nixon’s AG (kliendienst) suggested congress review NFL anti-trust exemption if blackout rule not fixed;
    * john mackey kills rozelle rule;

    * jerry jones stopped modell’s attempt to rebate $200MM and allowed fox to get into the game.

    citing of nfl owners and tv execs only proves that art was a member of their club. it doesnt speak to whether he belongs in the hall.

    • mo_by_dick


    • ChuckKoz

      kanick, great work on your amazing takedown of ozzie

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Great work with the artout argument!
      If Art gets in they will eventually go to the replay booth and impeach him upon further review. I hope we have a challenge left.

      And now I also know all about Nassau Country Club on Long Island too. (I had to look up what a “Nassau” is.)

  • willy loman

    Of course, you can’t write a definitive history of the Browns without using the names “Pat Shurmur”, “Mike Holmgren”, “Romeo Crennel”, “Carmen Policy”, etc etc etc. Can’t wait til they are all enshrined in the ring of honor!

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      I mean, if in another 50 years we still can’t write a useful enough history of the Browns without glossing Shurmur out of it then humans really are not long for planet earth.

    • Believelander

      I can write a definitive history:

      “Upon returning to the league in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have been plagued by with a mire of incompetent management and executives. Now, in 2013, Cleveland hopes their new management team under head coach Rod Chudzinski will return their beloved franchise to prominence.”

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        S’what I’m sayin.

  • jpftribe

    Really interesting post. Seems to be the ultimate irony that the HOF is located where the game was born, or most likely to be honored, and it may enshrine the man who removed it’s most beloved institution from it’s very locale.

    What is the point of going to Canton, if Art Modell is enshrined. I know I never would.

    But is raises a more fundamental argument. A reflection of American society as a whole, I would proffer.

    Seems to me, this is a condemnation of the very institution the site is founded upon. It’s turning on itself. We post pictures and stories of a yesteryear romance of mud on white uniforms with orange helmets protruding, the thrills of games gone by, whilst criticizing the bourgeois elite that controls what has essentially become an interesting activity between commercials convincing you to buy beer and hard on pills.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is what is the point? Is it to destroy the very institution at the base of its existence? Or maybe some altruistic endeavour to fundamentally change and reform it?

    Or maybe it’s just a bunch of dudes bitching (in a highly intellectual way) because their team has never been to the Super Bowl. ( I would certainly put myself in this category.)

  • WooMike

    Regarding football on Monday Nights, it happened numerous times before Modell was around. Sounds like an HOFer to me!

    • nj0

      I think JK pointed out the fact that Clevelanders couldn’t even watch the first Monday Night Football game thanks to the Modell supported black out rules.

  • nj0

    The more I contemplate this, the more likely it seems to me that Modell will get in the Hall. That’s just the way of the world. Bastards perpetrate evil, get rich off it, and then use their ill gotten gains to rewrite the rules. Modell has the multi-billionaire vote behind him and that’s all he needs. Those people don’t care about justice, just helping their own.

    Whoever has shall be given more. Whoever has little, that shall be taken away.

  • nj0

    I’d also like to point out the very obvious fact that you can write the history of Pro Football without mentioning Art Modell.

    Here are 198,000 examples.


  • Miguel Grande

    As a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers I would like to thank Art Modell and nominate him for the Hall of Shame. When a tribe of trolls named the Glazers purchased the Bucs, they did not have any money, they owned a traile park. They created a bogus internet start up named Zap.com. It was supposed to be just like Yahoo.com. They held an IPO and raised $50 million, back in those days every one threw money at dotcom IPO’s. The Glazer’s had a deal with Baltimore to move the Bucs as soon as the ink was dry on their purchase. First they had to clear the move with the chairman of the Relocation Committee, Art Modell. The whole move had to proceed quickly, they had to replace the $50 million they mis-allocated from the IPO.

    When Art received the application, he called Baltimore to see if any team would be eligible for the money. The rest is history.

    The Glazers had to do some fancy footwork to avoid prison, but they were stuck in Tampa.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      Thanks for sharing this.

    • maxfnmloans

      is that real? or just a good story? I hope teh Googlez don’t fail me now

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-White/100000446546049 Steve White

    Rapists leave imprints, too.

    That’s a little cold even for you Frownie. Rape isn’t a laughing matter.

    • http://twitter.com/ChrisInCLE Chris Mc

      You must have missed yesterday’s post. And I assure you, nobody is laughing about anything going on here this week.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-White/100000446546049 Steve White

      Okay, I saw the following post. I get the reference, but it’s still cold.

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        I’m not laughing and I’m not feeling anything other than a big chill here. Are there any questions you want me to answer about my reference to the word Modell used when he said he wouldn’t move the Browns out of Cleveland?

        I have some questions of my own about why you’d choose to take issue with my word choices on this of all posts (in all your time reading this website I don’t remember you having done it once), but I’ll keep those questions to myself for now.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-White/100000446546049 Steve White

          Frownie, I’m a doc, I take care of rape victims as part of my practice, and I’m dealing with an employee who was brutally assaulted a few weeks ago near her home. It throws me a little when I see the reference outside what is a horrible crime.

          I’ll confess that perhaps I’m a little overly sensitive, particularly lately. I’m not trying to start a flame war with you.

          I have not before picked a fight with you over word usage (indeed, we both agree on Mangini, and that’s something not many Browns fans can say these days) before. I do see the Modell quote; Modell was in a lot of ways a horses’ ass, and I don’t like the way he used the word.

          So I’ll grant I’m a little twitchy over the word. I hate to see it used casually.

          • nj0

            I couldn’t agree more. It is one word that should not be used as metaphor.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            If you mean to tell me that I’m using it as a metaphor then you are not using the term “metaphor” properly.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            I’m not a doctor but believe it or not, I take care of rape victims in my practice, too. Modell used the word “rape” when he said he wouldn’t move the Browns from Cleveland. Idiot sportswriters then said Modell should be in the Hall because he left “imprints” on the game.

            I am not at all going out of my way here. But you are going far out of yours to suggest that I would mean to make light of rape or do any harm to a rape victim, even by way of my word choice here.

            And as much as it’s beside the larger point, I’m not at all going out of my way to infer from messages that I’ve received from you (or other members of your immediate family, more specifically) that raise a strong inference that your personal political preference for ladder-puller-upper-types is what’s really underlying your decision (or the “perhaps a little oversensitivity” resulting in your decision, however you want to put it) to take issue with my word choice like you’re doing here.

            If you want to say, “fair enough,” I will gladly agree and delete this whole thread between us. If you want to keep going down this road, I’m equally glad to. Your call.

            Or once again, where in this post are you reading that I’m joking about any of it?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-White/100000446546049 Steve White

            First, Frownie, what messages have you received from me? I’m not a consistent poster here; I come to read an independent voice about my boyhood football team. I post once in a while. I have never communicated with you in any other way other than said posting here.

            Second, I am not aware of any member of my ‘immediate family’ that posts here, or who sends messages to you. Please enlighten.

            Third, I’ve taken some time again to re-read your original sentence. It’s a statement (allowing for all context of Modell’s asinine statement and the media’s ‘imprints’) that I find jarring. It’s not clear to me why your point has to be stated that way. It’s cold. I appreciate your statement that it’s not a joke, and re-reading I see that. But I found it rather harsh when I first read it (and the second time, and the third, before I posted here originally). That was my point then — rape is not a laughing matter, on which we clearly agree.

            Fourth, I’ve re-read your paragraph about “ladder-puller-uppers” and still can’t figure out what you’re saying. However I might vote in a presidential election (about which I’ve not commented here to my recollection), I don’t think Modell belongs in the Hall.

            Finally, it is your blog (of course) and I am but a guest. Feel free to do with my comments (these and prior) and any privilege to comment what you wish. I will understand.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            My apologies. I’m definitely confusing you for another friend of the site named White, which I realize now. I shouldn’t have been so jumpy but I’ve been overworked lately and my nerves are a bit raw. Thank you for the response. As for the rest, I don’t believe we should avoid making useful analogies to something just because that something is terrible. It’s all intended toward the purpose of making the world a place where terrible things are less likely to happen, I promise.

    • Believelander

      Does that sentence sound like it’s laughing?

  • zarathustra

    Credit Mike Brown for a level of class completely foreign to good ole Art. For on the day Mike Brown’s father died it was Art having his minions calling national media to “correct” the record on the origins of the team name. Again, ON THE DAY HE DIED. He was that small of a man.

    • SeattleBrownsFan

      That classy Mike Brown. He also threatened to move the Bengals to Baltimore if he didn’t get a new stadium. He did get his stadium, but only after ol’ Art jumped in front of him and took the deal.


      • zarathustra

        My claim is not that Mike Brown is classy; only that by saying nice things about a dead Modell he demonstrated more class than Modell did upon his father’s death.

        • SeattleBrownsFan

          Modell set a pretty low bar when it came to class. I do agree with you that, in this case, Brown showed more class than Modell. #Artout

  • BIKI024

    i put Art’s odds at 50:1, any takers??

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      Yup. Put me in for $100. Safety first is what I always say. Thanks.

      • Petefranklin

        Ill take that also. How bout the two hundred you already owe me? Ten dimes would be nice.

        • BIKI024

          thank you come again

  • rgrunds

    “Right and Wrong” are not criteria. I tried them. No one cares. What matters is income, power and exposure. Modell expanded these for the NFL.

    Sorry. I still think Mike White was dishonest with Modell. The economy of stadia changed and White kept promising Modell a new one.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      The record so reflects that this person who wants to celebrate Modell for “expanding income, power and exposure” for the NFL is the same person who has no compuction about publishing in a familiar forum that because he tried to live by a moral code and failed than the very idea must be pointless. This, without even a nod toward what this failed moral code embodied.

      Every time I think I’ve seen everything here.

      • rgrunds

        AND FrOrange,

        I have to give you a little credit. Little bit. You are right to notice that the cost of income/power/preferential association and business success can’t come at too high a price with respect to right and wrong. Modell’s successes and contributions were not all achieved by deceit and at the expense of ethical notions.

        The world can be a very dangerous place.

      • SeattleBrownsFan

        that’s why I keep coming back…there’s always something new!

    • nj0

      “No one cares.”

      I care.

    • Believelander

      Tony Grossi, Hall of Fame selector, cares.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    look alive.

    Art Modell’s ties to bookies and gamblers.

    the shit writes itself you guys.

    • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

      upon further review: art’s early 60s on short vincent may be his most HOF-worthy accomplishment.

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        Fascinating post and would go further and say that he should have kept those mob ties. The ones he made later were much worse.

  • Bandit

    It iss most amazing how people forget that Modell let Brian Sipe go to the USFL because he would not match the New Jersey Generals and then had Coach Sam strapped with Paul Mc Donald at QB. Great reason to fire a coach who was more popular than him. Than he set the wolfs or should we say Lombardi to get rid of the popular Ernie Accorsi. Sad that the best Modells 8th education got him was a huge resentment for those people that made the organization, but were more popular than him.

    • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

      great point. here’s another.

      in 70-71, he traded warfield, ron johnson (at 23), jim kanicki, bob matheson for mike phipps and homer jones.

      that’s 3 1st rounders (warfield/johnson/matheson) and a 2nd. for a 3rd overall and not paul warfield.

  • SeattleBrownsFan

    time to crack a cold one! Art is out!!!

    • BIKI024

      of course he didn’t

      • SeattleBrownsFan

        yeah, I know…I didn’t think it would happen either. but any excuse for another cold one…cheers!

        • BIKI024

          didn’t even make the final 10, he was nominated only 2 times in his life, after the SB death and his death, and that’s a rap for #artout but glad u guys had fun stomping on his grave

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1kbBmlAvdI PML

            If making sure a grave injustice didn’t occur is stomping on his grave, then I haven’t had this much fun since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny f@(king Kaye.

  • oxr

    Art out: not just a hashtag, but a headline.

  • JasonPercy

    ART’S OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Previous post:

Next post: