Ed Driscoll

Browns/Ravens Owner Art Modell, Dead at 87

“In his own weird way, the late Art Modell was the NFL version of Michael Jackson,” sportswriter Jason Cole writes at Yahoo — and there’s a comparison you want in your obituary. I suspect a lot of Browns fans will vigorously agree with that comparison:

He was a brilliant, innovative, forward-thinking businessman armed with great wit and charm who helped propel the NFL into being America’s game and by far the most successful sports business in the country.

He’s also the man who ripped the heart out of Cleveland, a city that defines this country’s passion for the game. He didn’t just spit on the adoring fans of the Browns, he did it with a smug smile. He violated a seemingly sacred trust by moving the Browns to Baltimore in 1996.

And that is why, as Modell passed away Thursday morning at age 87, it is so hard to categorize him. Is he a hero of the game who deserves a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Or is he a pariah whose presence should never be glorified again, let alone be enshrined in a place less than an hour from Cleveland?

I wonder if diehard Browns megafan Hugh Hewitt will have anything to say, pro or con, about Modell on his show today.