We knew this was coming. I guess.
Ozzie Newsome wrote a pro-Art opinion piece for the The Plain Dealer today.
Let’s just work through this and see what we find. Ozzie’s words are in grey.
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.
My reasons are the same as most of the voters for putting any person into the Hall of Fame: Can you write about the history of the game without using that person’s name?
What a convenient, bizarre, absurd, subjective metric this is. We’re supposed to play “Let’s Pretend” in order to make the case for Art. Can we play dress-up too?
[Other names you can't write NFL history without: Pisarcik, Norwood, Pardee, Jackie Smith, Earnest Byner, Bart Scott, Drew Bledsoe... if you've got more, log em in comments here.]
You can’t write the NFL history without Art. He was an architect of the game we love today.
Architect is a large word. And there are good architects and bad architects. True enough, Art was the architect of:
- a .500 record post Paul Brown in Cleveland;
- the money-first NFL TV policy;
- ransoming regional taxpayer bases for public funds to subsidize a monopoly.
Fair. Agreed. Art was an architect.
The first person who recognized that television and football were perfect for each other was Art Modell. He did that in the 1960s, became the chairman of the NFL’s TV committee and had that job for 31 years.
The Greatest Game Ever Played didn’t create some recognition on this? Out of the 45,000,000 viewers of that game in 1958, only Art recognized that football and television was a good fit? Not Pete Rozelle. Not Ed Sabol. Art Modell. You sure want to go with that Oz?
And about those 31 years on the TV Committee. Here’s what I found.
- Pete Rozelle negotiated the contracts;
- Rozelle + Roone Arledge created MNF;
- Ed Sabol created NFL Films, Rozelle brought them in-house;
- Art’s committee maintained home team black-outs for sold-out home games up to 1973 (so the 64 Championship and the first MNF games were not seen on Cleveland TV in spite of selling-out with 80,000+);
- Art feared satellite TV so much (and wanted to protect his network friends so badly) that he sent cease and desist orders to bars streaming non-network feeds to ex-pat football fans;
- Art tried to rebate (his friends in) the networks $230MM in 92;
- That last episode ended with Art drummed off the committee in 1993.
I see that you cite Dick Ebersol as a source below. Ebersol says in his tribute to Art, “My good fortune is that I met Art when I was a 20-year-old intern for Roone Arledge, and he was creating the first Monday night game. …” Isn’t it just weird that 40 year friend in the TV biz would say great things about him? I wonder if Ebersol was for or against the rebate Art fought for in 1992.
All of pro sports owes Art thanks for how he changed the financial landscape of pro sports. He recognized the value of the NFL to TV and sold it, dramatically increasing the money paid to the league.
Ozzie, seriously. This is beyond the pale. I will charitably engage you on the financial landscape question w.r.t. to television because it’s not clear if you’re intending to make a case for breaking leases so as to extort tax dollars from regions to enrich further your obscenely wealthy monopoly.
(psst, Ozzie: PSLs? I just took a quick poll and… yeah… none of us fans like them. Might want to save the ‘financial landscape’ talking points for the next owners’ meeting. Keep that on the down-low in public. k. thx.)
So, on TV, I take it you’re saying that Art and only Art was responsible for the early growth in TV contracts. You do know that Art was partying on Clint Murchison’s private island in the Bahamas while Pete Rozelle opened the envelopes of an auction (not a negotiation) in 1964, right? You know that the fact of contract’s tripling in size two years later had everything to do with NBC’s work with the AFL and ABC’s being left of the sideline? You know that Wellington Mara ante’d up New York’s share of ad revenue making internal negotiations among teams a non-issue?
No … you don’t know nor care to know any of this. And that’s fine. But now that you’re weighing in on this, you might want to look into it.
This, in turn, helped every player, coach and owner in the league make more money.
Except for Art. Art whose $250,000 investment grew to $600,000,000 but continually lost money. Weird. Ironic.
I was proud to be a member of the NFL Players Association. Art recognized the need for the players to form a membership, and negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in league history when he was the first and only NFL president. (His fellow owners voted him to this prestigious position.)
Thanks for bringing this up. How did all of Art’s ‘bargaining’ work out for the players from the 50s, 60s, 70s? Wasn’t the Rozelle Rule found to violate anti-trust laws? That pension ever get funded? Did players get any royalties from NFL Films? You played against Mike Webster, ever check his story? Were Modell and your NFLPA out front on the head injury or player safety things?
Not sure this is a path you want to travel, Oz.
He was instrumental in the merger of the NFL and the AFL, creating the league we know today. As Dick Ebersol recently said, “Monday Night Football” was Art’s brainchild.
Art collected $3,000,000 for his instrumental-ness. The fact of Al Davis running the AFL drove the NFL to initiate merger talks, nothing else.
And Art won. The Browns had 27 winning seasons in 42 years. We made the playoffs seven of the 10 years in the 1980s when I was a Brown.
Art failed 35 consecutive years before finding his way to a Super Bowl in 2000. Not for nothing, but that was YOU, Ozzie. Not Art. Unless you’re telling us now and for the first time that Art drafted Ogden, RLewis, JLewis, Boulware, Sharper, Starks, McAlister. Did Art trade for Sharpe and Woodson too?
His Browns won an NFL championship in 1964 — the last Cleveland team to accomplish that. His Ravens won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season. His teams played in three more title games, four AFC Championships, and five other teams had a chance to make the playoffs entering the last game of the year.
Art’s record for suck (i.e., no Super Bowl appearances) in 1995 was matched only by the Lions, Falcons, and Cardinals.
And the Falcons got to Super Bowl before Art (1998).
So only two franchises out of the 24 in 1966 failed to reach the Super Bowl more than Art.
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.
In all of my years, I have never found a former Browns player who did not admire Art for the way he treated his players. He cared about us. He sacrificed for us and, for many, he became our friend.
Jock-sniffing is not a HOF credential. We know he screwed at least two of his partners. He didn’t care or sacrifice or stay friendly with them.
I know many Clevelanders will never forgive Art for moving the team. I understand that. But he didn’t want to move the team. As I look at it, because he took over the running of Cleveland Stadium — and he did that at the request of a mayor of Cleveland — his finances were never what they should have been in just owning an NFL team. In the end, to stay in the business, Art moved. But Cleveland got its new stadium shortly after and the Browns still exist today and they play in a beautiful home. Why that couldn’t be done for Art’s Browns, some of us will never understand.
Today, @clevelandfrowns tackles whether Art did or did not want to move the team. Whether he worked in good faith with the city. The degree of behind-the-scenes prep that was done to facilitate the move. Addressing the papering over of Art’s role in the move is not a cudgel I’ve taken up here. Frowns’ review is comprehensive.
But this is what I believe: Art Modell should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I hope he makes it this time.
And, if he does, I will be sad that it didn’t happen when he was alive.
Ozzie Newsome was the Browns’ Offensive Player of the Year in 1978, his rookie year, and played 198 consecutive games in 13 years with the team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and three years later became the first African-American NFL general manager, when he was named to that position with the Baltimore Ravens.
Alrighty Oz. Thanks for… writing this I guess.
And be happy. Because you’re going to have a lot of Browns fans lauding you for your
obtuse sycophancy loyalty; trying desperately to separate Ozzie the player from Ozzie the Modell hack.
But I’m not one of them.
There was an interesting map released yesterday. Someone on Facebook tracked NFL team ‘likes’ and from that was able to create a county by county map of the preeminent NFL fan base for each county. Check out Ohio.
Ohio is now Steeler country.
And THAT, Mr. Newsome, is Art’s most enduring legacy.