We had 586 IP-address-restricted (thus unique) replies to the poll question:
Which Modell activity is most disqualifying for Canton?
Below is why the most correct answer was:
Slumlording the Indians.
Here’s the final poll results.
Let’s review why Slumlord is the most correct answer.
Chasing Jim Brown: bad, but Modell dodged a bullet by replacing him with HOFer Leroy Kelly.
Firing Paul Brown: douche move, but there is a lot of information indicating Brown was losing the team. Modell surely undermined PB’s discipline. But there’s an anecdote where Brown stops letting Plum audible because of his attitude and then ships him to Detroit. That one is hard to defend PB on.
Network rebate: is an example of Modell’s business non-savvy. But this is not the Business Hall of Fame. Art was giving away other billionaires’ money. Art’s lack of business acumen is relevant only when it ‘forces’ him to rip the heart out of a tough-luck rust-belt region and crushes the soul of millions of good hearts.
Double dealing $3MM cash to himself: technically, this transaction was legal. Gries sued Modell only when he asked the Browns (of which Gries owned 43%) to swallow an inflated land valuation as part of the Browns buying Stadium Corp. This also resulted in remarkably petty letter to his partner since 1961*, but again pettiness is not a HOF disqualifier.
Post Paul Brown .500 record: plenty of other owners in the Hall have suck records. I don’t think the win-loss records for Mara or Wilson or Hunt are especially strong. Rooney’s Steelers were spectacular trainwrecks for most of his tenure: he was inducted in 1964 and the Steelers had a .400 winning percentage at that time, 143-200-15. Sure he founded the Steelers in 1933, but to my eye (I haven’t dug deep on this), his 1964 induction seems longevity-based.
Cutting deal with Maryland: let’s face it, that was a hell of a deal to walk away from. As to the covert negotiations, OF COURSE he’s not going to tell the world what’s going on. Who knows what could happen… he’d be tipping off Jack Kent Cooke (who’d blocked the Baltimore expansion bid the year before) and that vulture Peter Angelos might swoop in. We like to say it was immoral and a betrayal. But you’d need a shit-pot load of morality and integrity to walk away from that deal. $175 million to refurb Municipal Stadium? Meh. Lipstick on a pig.** It’s a nice story for us, but really, Maryland put forward an absurdly remarkable package. Without getting into precedent setting, future taxpayer extortions, etc.. from a standpoint of ‘business evaluation of Maryland’s offer versus Cleveland’s’.. it was a no-brainer. To say Cleveland would’ve stepped up to put forward anything comparable is our bit of revisionist history in need of scrutiny.
Slumlording the Indians: The PROBLEM WITH ART.. is that it got to such dire straits that he was looking for exit strategies. The Stadium deal was his greatest missed opportunity. Sure the stadium required a lot of upkeep. But it appears Art focused solely on milking the Tribe only for rent money.
Steinbrenner was a Theatrical crony, perhaps he could have picked his brains on how to best help the Indians. (And/or could he have recruited Steinbrenner to come back? Stouffer fucked Steinbrenner’s attempt to buy the Indians which is why he moved on to the Yankees.)
It comes down to: DID ART EVER REALIZE THAT A SUCCESSFUL INDIANS TEAM IN HIS STADIUM WOULD BE LIKE FINDING SPINDLETOP IN WAITE HILL? Or that even an Indians team that drew just 10,000/game would let him pay down his 20% interest bank loans.
As far as we can tell, he did not. As far as we can tell, he treated the Indians as a tenant in the purest sense; never as the partners that they, in fact, were to him.
* Excerpt of Modell’s letter to Gries in 1982:
I consider your uninvited attendance at our highlight film press preview last night to be the most impudent of your actions to date. Your name was very intentionally excluded from the invitation list precisely because of the chilling and negative impact that your presence had.
You have chosen to create an adversary relationship and to publicize it to the hilt. Surely, you cannot be so insensitive to human relations not to have known full well the impact of your actions.
I have no idea what your motivations are and frankly, don’t care. You have laid down the gauntlet in court and we are fully prepared to meet and prevail in that challenge. In fact, I welcome the opportunity.
From this point forward, I will insist that you not attend any staff, media or team activities unless invited, and will enforce my authority to do so if it becomes necessary.”
** Don’t get me wrong, Municipal Stadium was a dump but it was our dump and I was fine with it.