COMMENTARY BY CODY LEIST
PDT Sports Writer
Who knew an organization had to be told by a grieving family to NOT do anything for them?
That is essentially what happened in the final hours before the Cleveland Browns took the field Sunday to open the 2012 season. Just three days before kickoff, Art Modell — known to everyone in Cleveland as anything but a nice guy after he moved one of the NFL’s historic franchises from Cleveland to Baltimore after the 1995 season — died at age 87 from natural causes.
League officials asked teams to recognize Modell with a moment of silence for his contributions to the game, such as hiring minorities in the front office, developing television strategies and volunteering his team to host the first-ever Monday Night Football contest. To those who don’t follow the Browns, the idea of memorializing Modell may not be a hard thing to do.
But as someone who grew up a fan of the team on the lake, I already knew the possibility to recognize this individual in the city who had been vilified by those who bleed orange and brown was a dumpster fire waiting to happen. If anyone wants to know how intense a Browns household I was raised in, my father would tell everyone during the Dark Ages (The time when the Browns did not exist) that in every NFL game he would cheer for the officials.
It was probably a good idea that I was not in my dad’s presence the night when Modell hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as an owner of the franchise he moved out of a city that would not bow down to his demands when many of his failed business plans went belly up. Since the new Cleveland franchise entered the league in 1999, Brandon Weeden became the 17th starting quarterback to line up under center.
Think about that for a minute. Also remember this current franchise that sits next to Lake Erie has one playoff appearance.
So having the chance to turn the dagger even deeper into Browns fans this weekend by remembering Modell with a moment of silence was the worst idea ever. And the organization actually thought about honoring him.
Fortunately, the Modell family told the Cleveland front office to not do so.
It’s facts like those listed previously that would drive normal fans into pure insanity. So naturally, I had tickets and made the annual pilgrimage to what has been called by an area comedian as “The Factory of Sadness” because I am always glutton for punishment and I wanted to see the reaction of fans towards Modell.
And as usual, the team did not disappoint in its expectations in a 17-16 loss to Philadelphia. The defense, just as it was many times last season, was overworked and finally gave up the game-winning score late in the game because the offense was anemic to put it lightly.
Just as a tip for those who play fantasy football, always draft Phil Dawson because he is the Cleveland offense. This guy is the only remaining member of the inital 1999 team and he is playing for his fifth head coach.
Sad to have a Browns fan tell outsiders that a kicker is the best option but when the reality smacks you in the face, you can’t avoid it.
When I left Cleveland Sunday night, the only anti-Modell sentiment I noticed came from the products peddled by shirt vendors while walking towards the stadium before the game. It wasn’t until when I got home to see a halftime essay by Bob Costas making a case for Modell to the Hall of Fame that made me hotter than the pregame grilled pepper that I had on my burger. The entire Costas report went off without stating Modell’s ineptitude to operate his own franchise.
Just putting salt on a reopened wound. Another day in the life of a Browns fan.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.