The NFL lost one of its most influential visionaries this morning when former franchise owner Art Modell passed away at John Hopkins Hospital early this morning. More importantly, the world lost one of its finest citizens, and there should be no one who feels anything but a deep sense of loss today.
Today, a legend has moved on, leaving behind a legacy so full of twists and turns, a team of Hollywood writers would have a difficult time replicating. Modell was born poor, a high school drop out working to support his family at 15, a night school graduate, a military man, television pioneer, advertising genius, and above all, a humanitarian.
At one point, he may have been the most beloved man in the NFL, and he should be remembered as such. Unfortunately, business has a way of coming between what a person wants to do, and what they believe they have to do, and for Modell it meant moving his franchise from its home in Cleveland, to a new one in Maryland.
The uprooting of the Cleveland Browns destroyed what had been a beautiful relationship between owner and fan base for over 30 years. During those three decades, Art Modell’s Browns won 1 League title, and contended in 7 Conference Championship games. There were many contributing issues to the split from Ohio, but at the center of it all was money. Modell left the state and took his Browns with him, leaving behind a sea of outraged and hurt football fans.
While the city of Cleveland was shocked and angered, Baltimore was overjoyed as Modell’s move meant the return of football to a city once abandoned in the night. Modell became an instant hit in his new home, and saw another championship trophy hoisted by his team, now known as the Baltimore Ravens.
Modells accomplishments include the negotiation of television rights, the birth of Monday Night Football, and serving as NFL President, just to name a few.
He was a leader in the communities, whether it was in Cleveland or Baltimore, donating his time, as well as his money to those who were in need. It can truthfully be said, Art Modell never stopped giving back to the communities from which he came. He gave to hospitals and children’s homes, to schools and art centers. Mr. Modell never stopped giving back to his past.
The move created a hatred for Art Modell so intense it marred a very distinguished career, and is likely the one thing keeping him from the Hall of Fame. It is a shame he was kept out, when he so obviously deserved his place among the greats. The success story of the NFL is what it is today, thanks in a large part to the efforts of Mr. Modell, and as a fan, I know I thank him for his efforts.
Today, it does not matter where you live, whether it is in Cleveland, Baltimore, or anywhere else in this beautiful country of ours, our flags should be at half mast regardless. Being upset about a man moving his business elsewhere should have no bearing on the feelings of his passing. Instead his life should be celebrated, and looked upon as an inspiration.
For every young adult, forced to take a job too soon, or every adult going back to school in a non-traditional manner, Modell’s life shows hope for the future. For every child in need of support, every charity on the brink of failure, Modell’s heart shows there are people who care.
Art Modell did his part in making this world a better place, it is on us to thank him by doing the same.
Jeff Everette is a featured columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. You can follow him on twitter @jeverettesports, or subscribe to Jeff Everette-RantSports.com on both Facebook and Google+ for all of his latest articles, opinions, and rants.
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