Um, no. Though, I do think Spaceballs comes with a cast of more likable characters, the hysteria behind the Star Wars franchise holds water.
What is it that they say? Mockery is the most sincere form of flattery, or something like that. To spoof something, there has to be something worthy spoofing, and Star Wars has it. When you’re not comparing or contrasting it against its source material, something you should not be doing anyways, Spaceballs holds up very well on its own as a comedy.
To prepare for my viewing of The Force Awakens, I, like many others, decided to get a refresher on the George Lucas franchise, going with an unconventional, yet logical order of viewing. It’s called Machete Order, and you start with 4 & 5, the first in order of theatrical release. That tells the story of Luke Skywalker, then you revert back to 2 & 3 to see his father’s story, without the concern of spoiling the reveal in Episode 5, since you’ve already watched it. You skip the Phantom Menace altogether, as it’s really unnecessary to the saga, and watch Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s stories come together in Return of the Jedi. It worked for me, and got me to thinking how complex the sci-fi trilogies are versus the simplicity of the spoof. Imagine how difficult it would be to create the prequel backstories for Vespa, Lonestar1Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role., and Yogurt. Would there have been a time that Yogurt aided the Mogs at war, and had a previous relationship with Barf, a la Yoda and Chewbacca? How was Helmet beckoned to the dark side of the Shwartz? Were Alderaan and Druidia similar places for princesses to grow up? Who knows? Who cares?
While we’re on the subject of immitation, what’s up with the NFL going with the Oregon model, when it comes to outfitting these professional organizations? Did you see what the Rams and Bucs were rocking for the final installment of the Color Rush games this season? I don’t mind a little color-on-color, in the wake of black & white televisions going the way of the dodo, but drowning us in monochrome is not a good application of games without white jerseys. On the field and in the stands, I began to feel the pain of those old scabs being peeled off, remembering that the Rams victory on Thursday night might very well be the last NFL game ever played in St. Louis. If it was, can the diehard Rams fans in Missouri somehow be pleased with what two decades of a team from Southern California brought them?
They got Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title; not bad for twenty years of existence in the Gateway City. Lions, Bills, Jaguars, and Carolina fans would gladly take that. The Browns, on the other hand, would take the perpetual 7-9 run that you get from Jeff Fisher, and they would be glad to have it. That begs the question2Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition., are the expansion Browns the Spaceballs to their original counterparts (the Browns that existed from 1946-1995)?
For those of you familiar with the new Browns, you’d probably liken the new chapter of Browns to some really low budget porn tie-in or a Lifetime original that cuts too many corners in production. You know how it goes, not funny or good, but for some reason, people tune in. This weekend, Cleveland visits the NFL’s answer to the Death Star, as it exists in the form of Century Link field. The Seahawks organization yields its own darkside characters; the once-wholesome Russ Wilson draws some parallels with Anakin/Vader, while Pete Carroll represents Big Poppa Palpatine, and you can find the Colonel Sanders and Major Asshole types on the Sea Chickens defense. How many assholes are on that team anyways?
The problem with the comparison is that the Browns lack heroes, even accidental ones like Han Solo or Lonestar. That’s not to put down the valiant efforts we’ve seen, but as Episode III reminds us, even the greats like Yoda fail from time to time, and sometimes there’s just no hope3No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.. Meanwhile, Browns fans are willing to die on that hill, screaming about how Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and/or Johnny Manziel was supposed to be the chosen one. In reality, the years of 5-11 seasons and no light at the end of the tunnel gives off that vibe of the love of our lives walking away and being left to burn in molten lava by the only friend we’ve ever had.
Maybe I’ve got that all wrong, and it’s Art Modell that left us all for dead, deeming us unworthy as fans of his team. We needed a Sith like Al Lerner or Jimmy Haslam to give us a new beginning, but despite having the Deathstar destroyed twice and the Emperor being betrayed by his established #2, the Republic had a better run than any Browns fan born after 1983. That story of murder, mayhem, betrayal, and redemption are a little heavy for a Friday morning. That’s where it’s nice to instead live in a world of using strawberry to “jam” a signal, Jedi-type weapons coming from Cracker Jack boxes, and Mr. Coffee being conveniently located next to Mr. Radar. At least we can laugh about our owner looking like a giant penis. You have to laugh.That’s the only option to get through a life that has you stuck in purgatory.
The only changes we know are when they go from “Suck” to “Blow”.
Do you remember what you were feeling 20 years ago this week? If you’re a Cleveland sports fan, you
The Cleveland Indians had just finished putting the finishing touches on one of the most thrilling seasons of professional sports in a generation’s history, although – in typical Cleveland fashion – they broke our hearts when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series, 4 games to 2.
Even though the loss stung, the general feeling was that the Indians were built to be contenders for many years and that they not only would get back to the World Series, but they would win it. The ’95 World Series was the first true championship game for any Cleveland team since the Browns lost in the 1969 NFL Championship Game to the Vikings (although the winner did advance to the Super Bowl), so for people my age, it was the first one we ever experienced.
And, man, it was fun.
The World Series came to an end on Saturday, Oct. 28 in Atlanta with a 1-0 loss. With Cleveland still a bit hung over from that experience, things were brewing in Berea – more specifically, a private plane in a Baltimore airport – that would make the World Series a quick afterthought.
A day after that Series loss, the Browns played the Cincinnati Bengals at the old Riverfront Stadium. Head coach Bill Belichick made the controversial decision to bench veteran Vinny Testaverde, who had taken the team to the playoffs in 1994 following an 11-5 regular season, and go with third-round rookie Eric Zeier.
Zeier completed 26-of-46 passes for 310 yards with a touchdown to much-maligned free agent signing Andre Rison – it was Rison’s first touchdown of the season and one of only three he caught that forgettable season. Despite blowing a 26-16 fourth quarter lead, Zeier led the Browns to a game-winning field goal in overtime by Matt Stover for a wild 29-26 win. That win snapped a three-game losing streak and put the Browns at 4-4 – still in contention for a winning season and a playoff berth.
A few days later, Cleveland threw a parade for the Indians, even though they lost the World Series. Cleveland fans descended upon Public Square in droves to celebrate one more time with one of the most-loved teams in the city’s history. In the meantime, while the city toasted the Indians for their first American League pennant in 41 years, their beloved Browns had been signed, sealed and delivered to a town called Baltimore in a private plane on a deserted tarmac just a week before.
The crap was about to hit the fan, and hit it quick.
As the Browns prepared for a pivotal home game against the Houston Oilers – who, ironically, would also be moving within the next two years to Nashville – rumors began to circulate that the Browns would be moving to Baltimore in the near future. Browns owner Art Modell (may he burn in eternal Hell) was in full denial mode, but as reports out of Baltimore began to come out, the Sunday game suddenly took a somber, if not an angry, tone from the fans.
Modell got his family out of town in the middle of the night and was conspicuous by his absence in that Sunday game, which turned out to be a 37-10 loss. Fans hung banners all over the old Cleveland Stadium denouncing Modell and booed the Browns not just for the hap-hazard play on the field, but for what was happening off it.
That game occurred Sunday, Nov. 5. On Monday, Nov. 6, TV stations broke in with a live report from a parking lot in Baltimore that featured then-mayor Kurt Schmoke, then-Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning and Modell on a makeshift dais announcing that the Cleveland Browns would be known as the “Baltimore Browns” effective the 1996 season.
I’ll never forget watching that news conference at my house. I was a 21-year-old college student and an aspiring sportswriter, and for the first time in my life, my heart was truly broken. I was in denial. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought it was a ruse just to get the Sin Tax extension passed in Cuyahoga County, which it did by a landslide the next day.
Cleveland Mayor Mike White, with news cameras in tow, showed up the day after Election Day to the Browns’ Berea headquarters with an agreement in hand containing a new stadium lease with plans on remodeling the existing stadium. Of course, Modell was long gone, but White still delivered the manila envelope to a Browns employee anyway. It made for good TV, but it was a hollow gesture – Modell was gone, and soon, so would the Browns.
White and other Cleveland politicians and ex-Browns athletes urged Browns fans to call, fax and – if it was available since it was relatively new at the time – e-mail NFL headquarters to let them know this move could not happen. I’ll admit to calling the NFL at least once or twice and writing a letter, and some of my friends did as well. Cleveland called and faxed so much that the NFL’s switchboard blew up. The NFL was not prepared for the backlash that occurred from Cleveland fans.
Usually, when an NFL team moves, it is leaving a disinterested fan base behind. Sure, a handful of people
might complain, but for the most part, that community is happy that that team, or that owner, is leaving. While Cleveland’s relationship with Modell had always been a tenuous one ever since the “carpetbagger” (as the Cleveland media called him in the early 60s) from New York showed up out of nowhere as the new owner of the Browns, it wasn’t about him – it was about the team. And Cleveland LOVED its Browns.
The fans’ passion and the fact that there was litigation in place that would have blocked a move from happening made the NFL think on its feet and come up with a compromise. That compromise was that Modell could move to Baltimore with the existing coaches, players and front office, but it would be treated like an expansion team with a new nickname and a clean slate. Cleveland would retain the Browns’ nickname, team history, heritage and colors, which would be given to a new franchise within the next three years, provided Cleveland build a new stadium and drop its litigation. It’s the first time that has happened in NFL history, and it hasn’t happened since.
We’re closing in on the 20-year anniversary of that fateful day known simply as “The Move.” And, if you would have told fans back then that not only would the Browns be back, but playing in a new stadium by Lake Erie, we would have been ecstatic.
Of course, if you would have added on that the team was an absolute joke in the NFL – and, by and large, has been ever since the NFL saw fit to grant us an expansion team in 1999 – how excited would you have been about it? My guess is, probably not.
Would you have wanted to fight harder so the franchise wouldn’t leave at all, knowing that the NFL would cut corners in granting the expansion team and with the building of the new stadium? Or that the expansion draft would be full of castoffs and bums? Or that they’d give the franchise to Modell’s former silent partner Al Lerner, who would turn the franchise over to Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark – the latter who was ill-prepared to be an NFL general manager?
It was one bad domino after another from that moment 20 years ago. Add in the fact that the newly-christened Baltimore Ravens would not only reach, but win two Super Bowls during that time span just makes it worse.
Today, the current Browns are 2-6 and are undergoing more turmoil than ever. A new owner is in town from Tennessee, who was promptly indicted on federal charges of embezzlement over rebates to his trucking customers at Pilot/Flying J. That new owner has already fired two coaches, two GMs and two team presidents since he came to town just before the 2011 season and it looks like that list will grow to three coaches and three GMs when it’s all said and done. The continuity is gone and the franchise is in a perpetual state of rebuilding and “five-year plans” that never seem to come to fruition. It always seems like the head coach and GM are never on the same page and they continue to try to put square pegs in round holes when it comes to evaluating and adding talent.
The Browns have hired coaches with NFL experience, college experience, hot-shot coordinators on the offensive and defensive side, brought in the hot-shot GM candidate with the supposed “eye for talent,” brought in the respected former NFL guru to run the show as the team president, and even brought back guys who used to work for the franchise in different capacities before – but nothing has worked. NOTHING!
And, while Modell wound up going bankrupt anyway because he was a shoddy businessman both before and after he left Cleveland and his family wound up losing their beloved franchise that he felt he had to move in order to save, that franchise has been one of the model NFL franchises over the last 15 years. They’ve had one GM and two head coaches since 1999. Do we really need to recount how many of each the Browns have had during that span?
This is why, 20 years later, The Move still stings. It still cuts to the core. It still hurts. It’s also why I will always hate the Baltimore Ravens and why I will argue any chance Modell has to get in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s also why I find it funny that Baltimore fans will condescendingly tell Browns fans to “get over it,” but yet they still hate the Colts and the Irsay family and still pine for the days when their football team had white helmets with blue horseshoes on them and not black helmets with a bird.
In the span of one week 20 years ago, Cleveland lost a World Series and a storied NFL franchise, and I don’t think we’ve ever fully recovered from that.
Sure, Cleveland underwent a renaissance of sorts with the building of Jacobs (Progressive) Field and Gund (Quicken Loans) Arena, and the Indians were one of the best franchises in baseball from 1994-2001. But they never could deliver that World Championship, were sold to a local owner in 2000 who ran out of money and have been run on a shoe-string budget ever since – every winning season becomes few and far between while the front office talks about things like “bottom lines” and “Snow Days” instead of wins. Now, they can’t draw fleas despite the fact that they’ve been remotely competitive for the past three seasons, even hosting a Wild Card game in 2013.
The Cavs were an afterthought in the 90s until a set of ping-pong balls bounced their way in 2003 that allowed them to draft local high school sensation LeBron James with the first-overall pick. James took the Cavs to their first NBA Finals in 2007, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, then suffered three straight postseason letdowns before James decided to embarrass the city on national TV by announcing he was signing with Miami Heat. After four miserable years of James winning two NBA titles and finishing the runner-up in two more, he decided to come back to the Cavs last season. Now, suddenly, the Cavs are once again one of the premier teams in the NBA, having reached the NBA Finals last season, and have the best shot of ending that championship drought that will pass 51 years on Dec. 28.
And the Browns … well, that 1995 season that started with such promise – Sports Illustrated and several other national publications predicted that they would win the Super Bowl – wound up being a disaster. They only won one more game after The Move was announced, an emotional 26-10 win over the Bengals in the final game ever played at the old Stadium. Because it was blacked out, I listened to that game on the radio with my late-mother and, after that game ended, we both sobbed.
The final game of that season was held on Christmas Eve in Jacksonville. Almost fittingly, the game was lost on the final play on a Mike Hollis field goal. An expansion team literally kicked the Browns out of the NFL for three years with a 24-21 defeat. Little did we know that the way that ’95 season ended – completed with the last-second heartbreak – would serve as a mere appetizer for the way things have been here since 1999.
Hopefully the next 20 years in Cleveland sports history are better than the past 20 years have been. We can wish and hope, can’t we?
Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks and always will!
I know everyone is done hearing about LeBron and all that jazz. This July marks the three year anniversary of “The Decision” marking when the entire state of Ohio (except maybe Akron) began to hate LBJ. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I do feel like I am speaking to the majority. I’m over LeBron. As I watched game seven and the Heat celebrated their title, I felt no anger or frustration towards LeBron. It didn’t bother me one bit that he won the title. The next day I realized, I’m over him…I’m over the decision. I never hated him for leaving, I think the way he did it was used as a scapegoat for hate, no matter how it was done people were going to hate him.
So the question I have is after three short years why am I over LeBron, but not the Ravens? I have mentioned before that I was just coming into my fandom as a Browns when they moved. So I was not as emotionally or financially invested in the team as many readers of this column, I did however hate the Ravens and the city of Baltimore for what I refer to as “stealing” my team. So as I sit here and can move past LeBron leaving and winning titles, I can’t do it with the Ravens.
Many factors play into this feeling of hate for the Ravens. I have lived in Baltimore since March of 2006, so “bird land” has been forced down my throat for almost a decade. In that time the Ravens have been a consistent participant in the AFC playoffs and currently sit atop the NFL as reigning champs. While LeBron winning a title doesn’t spark emotion, every great draft pick, trade and FA pick up made by Ozzie Newsome grinds at me. First ballot Hall of Famers like Ogden and Lewis were drafted the year the team left Cleveland. Essentially, they would have been Browns.
It doesn’t help that when the Browns did return, they have been nothing short of a dumpster fire of an organization while the Ravens are a well-oiled top performing machine. I am sure that if I lived in South Florida I may not be over LeBron as quickly. While he wouldn’t be jammed down my throat year round, I would probably here some rumblings around the city about him come mid-June every year.
LeBron took the easy road, he was the best player on the planet, grabbed a couple of other really talented dudes, and won himself a couple titles. He did what he felt he had to do to win. To that point I kind of understood.
There is no way to understand what Modell did to the city of Cleveland. His team didn’t need a fresh start or the stars to align to make it work. They were well on their way to being a perennial winner. His greed and lack of business savvy took over and he was in way over his head. The fact that the Ravens are division rivals obviously plays a big role into the continued hate. To not only see them be successful, but then to be successful head to head makes it even worse.
LeBron left Cleveland to join a different cast of characters to bring home a title. While many believed he could have won one here in Cleveland with the team he had, he never did. So it’s not like him winning those titles means he would have won them here. The Ravens took the entire organization and won. While there were major personnel changes made, some of the key front office decision makers were still in place (and still are today). So it is safe to say and believe that had they never left, the Browns could be a perennial playoff team with a couple Super Bowl’s to their name.
I think that’s why it’s so easy to be over LeBron and not the Ravens. LBJ was a singular figure, who left and won. Had the entire Cavs moved to South Beach and won it would be different. But they didn’t. The entire Browns organization got up and moved and found a lot of success. That’s why it’s so hard to get over. You can honestly feel that had they stayed, the Browns would be in a different position in the current NFL than they are today.
Winning always helps getting over disappointment, anger, hate and jealousy. While I am over LBJ, I am also happy with the current state of the Cavs (yes I am happy with the current state of a 24 win team). So it helps me to deal with LeBron’s success. I so bad want to be happy with the state of the Browns. But no matter how well the off-season translates to the field another ownership change in the near future is a very real possibility. And with that would likely be another front office restart.
If the Browns hit the playoffs every couple years, make a run to the AFC championship once in a while, I wouldn’t be so distraught by the success of the Ravens. Continually being hit with billboards, TV spots and sports radio reminding me of what could have been certainly doesn’t help.
I am really looking forward to the day where I don’t have this sort hate towards the Ravens. It’s jealousy, because they have what should have been mine. I want to hate them like I hate the Steelers, a division rival where there is a mutual respect among the organizations and the fan bases. One day I’ll get there, one day.
It doesn’t help though seeing that Baltimore still isn’t over the Colts leaving…
Following the Ravens incredible win over the Bronco’s Saturday, I ran into a true die hard Browns fan at a local bar here in Baltimore. While the entire city was in celebration over the come from behind victory, this old timer was decked out in orange and Brown. He immediately spotted my Tribe hat and I gave him a nice old “Go Browns”. There was nothing but excitement in this man’s eyes. He excitingly said to me, “the curse is broken!”
I gave him a chance to expound on his deep perils of wisdom. Believe it or not, this man may be on to something. He explained how the Ravens victory over the Broncos was in fact the original Browns finally getting past Denver in the playoffs. All the bad luck that this franchise has experienced is over. Now that we (The Browns Franchise) were finally able to get over the playoff hump of the Broncos, all can be forgotten of the tumultuous last couple decades; the drive, the fumble and the move.
I was a tender age of two when the subject of this documentary was taking place on the banks of Lake Erie. However, as I watched each and every minute, I felt the pain and anguish of those fans runs through my body, convulsing like a shockwave through my system. It was unbelievably sad, yet very informative, an aspect that was useful for someone who didn’t know all that much, like me. I try my hardest to study the history of the Cleveland Browns. I studied the legends like Otto Graham and Jim Brown, the cult heroes like Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar, and the coaches like Sam Rutigiliano and Marty Schottenheimer. I try to understand what the people felt like in the 80’s and 90’s, and the historical value of all that had ensued. Yet, I had no idea that the Browns were as loaded as they were in the early 1990’s. I knew Bill Belichick was the Head Coach of the Browns, and I knew Nick Saban has his place on the staff, but as for the sheer amount of future NFL Head Coaches and GM’s, I had no idea. To see guys like Kirk Ferentz, Jim Schwartz, and Eric Mangini in such “belittling” jobs. All in all it was a very heart-wrenching and informative piece, that gave me insight into a few things that I previously taken note of.
First and foremost, Browns fans have yet to change. In the documentary, there was a clip in which Browns fans voice their feelings about Belichick after he cut Bernie Kosar. Browns fans were infuriated with Bill for cutting their beloved Bernie, regardless of how the team was improving. Why? Because Browns fans were, and still are today, ignorant. The Browns fans have to change, and change soon, if they want this organization to improve. Part of Randy Lerner’s problem was his willingness to listen to the public. The public, for the most part, knows nothing about actual football and rather likes a player for more sentimental than practical reasons. If Jimmy Haslam starts his regime by listening to the fans, I’ll be rather upset. We have to learn to trust our guys in the front office, and not our own feelings.
Imagine if Modell fired Belichick after cutting Bernie Kosar? Imagine that. I know Modell did an absolutely horrendous thing by moving the Browns, but he made a good decision keeping Belichick around. Imagine if Modell didn’t move the Browns, and Belichick remained as the head coach. As Ozzie Newsome said, “We would’ve won multiple Super Bowls.”. Modell stuck with Belichick because he loved the plan that Bill had, he knew Bill was a hard worker, and knew that he could bring winning football to Cleveland. He remembered that plan when the fans so desperately wanted to fire Bill and made the good call in keeping him around.
As a fan base, and I’ve said this before, we need to be more educated. We need to rely less on our heart, and more on our mind. The practicality of cutting Bernie was crucial to the improvement of the Browns, yet, no one wanted to see it happen because they “loved” Bernie. While I don’t deny that Bernie is an all time Cleveland favorite and one of the greatest and most beloved Browns, at that time, it was necessary to move on and cut Bernie.
All I’m saying is that, for today’s Browns, we need to trust Jimmy Haslam III and the decisions he makes going forward. It would be hard pressed for him to have a worse run than Lerner. Let him make the decisions. While, yes, of course you can have your opinions, and even express them, I would hope that Jimmy doesn’t listen to you, me, or anyone that doesn’t have the necessary experience to make legitimate football decisions.
The second thing I most glaringly noticed about the ’95 documentary was Ozzie Newsome. Ozzie Newsome is undoubtedly one of the best General Managers in football. He has won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and has had some of the best drafts in the NFL in his day. Browns fans seemed to think that Ozzie was a bit to thrilled when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. My question is this: should Ozzie Newsome be on the same level as Art Modell? Some fans seem to think so. Some seem to think that Ozzie was more loyal to Modell than he was to the Cleveland Browns and after his very successful move to Baltimore, I could see where they have a point.
However, I’m not going to hop on that bandwagon. Ozzie Newsome is certainly a Browns legend. He also experienced Red Right 88, The Drive, the Fumble, and the Move. He was one of the most loyal and gracious players to play for the Cleveland Browns organization. Unfortunately for Ozzie, he was put in a very tough situation when Art Modell offered him the general managers job in Baltimore. Ozzie did what he thought would be best for him and his family, and it paid off. After watching the program, I can see that Ozzie wishes that his success was in Cleveland, and how could he not? He meant so much to the city of Cleveland and its fans in his time in Cleveland. He wishes that he could’ve brought a title to the city that he loves. Instead, Ozzie made the best of a bad situation. He went to Baltimore, won a Super Bowl, and is doing one of the best jobs of any General Manager in the NFL.
If you blame Ozzie Newsome for his move to Baltimore, you may be part of the problem.
Finally, and the thing I may have taken away most from the Cleveland ’95 special was the anger and heartbreak. Being only two years old when the Browns were sold, I thought that I would be able to get through the film without getting emotional. When it was over, I was very emotional. I was angry, sad, and heartbroken. I felt the pain of the fans and the city as a whole during the ’95 debacle. I think it’s my deep attachment to the Browns and my desire for the Browns to have a winning team again.
Forget the Indians, “What if?” should be the Browns slogan.
What if Modell didn’t sell the team. It seems like such an easy answer. Modell doesn’t sell the team and the Browns win the Super Bowl in 1997. If Modell doesn’t sell the team, these Browns aren’t the Browns that have yet to win a playoff game since 1999. If Modell doesn’t sell the team, who knows, they might put even more highlights into the dreaded “Misery Montage”. It just puts me into an unending loop of “why?”. Why did he sell the team? Why did this happen to Cleveland? Why can’t the Browns get it right? Why, why, why?!
So Browns fans who were of a reasonable age in the 1990’s, I’m sorry. It must have been the most horrible time in your sports lives. It must have been a pretty horrible time in your normal lives as well. The Browns, as good or as bad as they are, are a massive part of Cleveland. They are stitched into the identity and the people of the city of Cleveland, and to have them ripped away from your sleeve like that must have been horrendous.
So Browns fans, here’s to hope. Here’s to hoping the Browns can finally turn things around with Jimmy Haslam III as the new owner of this organization. Here’s to making Cleveland proud of their Browns again. Here’s to finding the next Belichick and keeping him around for many many years. Here’s to the Browns winning the Super Bowl!
As many of you know, I am a Browns fan living in Baltimore, MD. During my morning commute, I normally flip back and forth between national ESPN radio and the local sports radio station. Since I can only handle Mike Greenberg in very small doses, I normally spend a majority of my commute listening to the local Baltimore ESPN radio station.
As to be expected the main topic the morning of September 7th was the passing of former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell.
When Art Modell sold the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, I was a tender two years of age. I had no idea what a football was, much less that I was going to love the sport so much. Art Modell played almost no direct role in my football life.
The earliest anecdote I can remember about Art Modell began with a Gameboy Color. You see, baseball was my first love. My grandpa taught me how to play catch with a ball and glove far before a football ever entered my hands. I specifically remember wearing a Go Tribe shirt that held the names of the entire 1997 Indians baseball team while playing catch with him. I have pictures wearing cute little Indians outfits. The Indians were the first and, until that point, only professional sports team I knew. Anyways, back to my Gameboy.
I would often play games on my purple Gameboy Color. Mostly, they were baseball or Pokemon games, but eventually a football game entered my collection. I noticed while playing this game that there was no Cleveland team. I knew the Indians were from Cleveland, and it seemed very strange to me as to why Cleveland didn’t have a football team. As I wondered and wondered, I eventually asked my mother: “Mom, why doesn’t Cleveland have a football team? My mom answered, “Because Art Modell sold them to Baltimore.
I didn’t understand then, but I learned. The only Browns I have ever known are the new Browns, therefore my knowledge of the old Browns is through the stories of my family and research on my own. I understood the hatred, but I didn’t feel it. Even as I watched Modell lift the AFC Championship Trophy, my boos were fake. (I was too young to watch him lift the Lombardi Trophy. It was way past my bedtime!). They were more out of principle than out of pure hatred for the man.
The whole Browns story is one that I know very well, but that I’m sad to say I can’t fully feel. While I know the heartbreak that was felt after Red Right 88 or the Drive, I can’t feel it as fully as those who were there. It’s not my fault, I just wasn’t there.
I was there for LeBron, I understand every bit of the pain that LeBron caused me and the entire city of Cleveland. I understand the entire situation and feel it just as much as any other Cleveland fan. However, I still don’t know if LeBron will ever equal Mr. Modell in hatred among Clevelanders. While the Cavs have a massive following, there is no denying that Cleveland is a football town. While LeBron definitely moved the team from Cleveland to Miami, there was still a basketball team in Cleveland to console our massive wound. They were still the Cavs, the same Cavs that have been in Cleveland since 1970.
I don’t really understand it, but for some Browns fans there is an irreconcilable difference between the old Browns and these new Browns. These new Browns will never be able to fill the hole that Modell left. Those are the fans that dislike Modell the most.
My feelings about Modell’s life, as well as his death, are rather indifferent. Obviously it’s a difficult time for his family, and to them I offer my deepest condolences. While I don’t know much, here is what I think I know. I hope and believe that Art Modell will not “rot in hell” as some Browns fans have hoped. Modell was no Sandusky nor was he a Sadam Hussein. Art Modell made a business decision that made many people angry. While it certainly warrants a sort of hatred from a certain city in Northeast Ohio, it doesn’t warrant any hellish wishes of any sort. He was not a truly bad man. While to Cleveland he may be the worst man to ever live, in the grand scheme of things Modell was a fine man and meant a lot to the world of the NFL.
For those Browns fans who were there for the old Browns, which I would assume to be most of you, I offer my deepest condolences as well. The pain of losing those Browns must have been constant and seething. If Jimmy Haslam III decided that he was going to sell these Browns, I don’t even know what I would do. Hibernation? I’m not even sure. The pain would be great, and my feelings for Jimmy Haslam would definitely not be in the best favor. Art Modell caused you an incredible amount of pain and for that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you had to endure that. It must have been a horrible time, and one that I hope to never have to experience. That being said, you can hate Art Modell. You can hate what he did to you, you can hate the time that he left you without something you love so much. However, don’t expect the rest of the football world to hate him too. And for you, rest of the football world, I don’t need to hear your opinions on why Cleveland shouldn’t hate Art Modell. You can offer your condolences, you can be sad, and you can offer your thoughts and prayers to the Modell family. I don’t need you to tell the city of Cleveland how to react to Modell’s death. You weren’t there. You don’t know. You don’t even begin to understand. You and I are in the same boat. You may have been alive, but you weren’t in the world that was Cleveland without football.
I have really nothing to offer you in terms of an opinion of Art Modell. I wasn’t there, I really don’t know. I can only imagine, and my imagination takes me to a very barren and heartbreaking place. A place without Browns football is a place I know I really would not want to be. Art Modell took football from Cleveland. It may have only been for a short time, but it caused pain. Pain that, for some, still hasn’t gone away.
That was the thought going through my mind on Thursday morning when I heard that Art Modell had passed away. While it was a shame that he died this week, the real reason that thought kept going through my head was because it meant Modell passed away without taking his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I know, I know – being a football fan in Northeast Ohio, I am supposed to hate Modell for moving the Browns and never forgive him or give him any credit for what he has done for the NFL. Sorry to tell you, but I am over the fact that Modell moved the Browns. It happened and we can’t change it. Besides, it isn’t like football never returned to Cleveland.
While I was upset at the time that there would not be professional football in Cleveland for a few years, I have learned to accept it and move on. And in doing so, I have learned to understand exactly how much Modell did for the game of football and the NFL.