Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ten Years Later, He's Still Full of Crap

Earlier this week, Art Modell gave an interview to WTAM's Mike Trivisonno. I didn't hear the interview when it originally aired, but listened to it this morning on the WTAM website. (You can download the entire thing here. ) Art came across as he always does--a truly odd combination of bluster, arrogance, bitterness and pathos.

Art spent most of the interview telling us all what a great man he is and how evil his enemies are. He and his wife are the world's greatest philanthropists.... Every problem he's ever experienced has been the result of him trying to help somebody else out.... Nobody ever loved Cleveland more than he did --stop me if you've heard this before.

While local and state politicians, businessmen and even Paul Brown all catch heat from Modell, he saves his greatest wrath for Tony Grossi, whom Modell accuses of spearheading the effort to keep Modell out of the Hall of Fame. Grossi has reportedly been a leader in these efforts, and ought to receive a medal for them.

Modell traces the Browns' move back to what he sees as his selfless offer to take over the Stadium in order to help the City of Cleveland keep the Indians in town back in the 1970s. According to Modell's version of the truth, this move was a financial disaster from day one that ultimately cost him the Browns. Really? I think not.

Modell rented the stadium from the City for $1 per year beginning in 1973. In doing so, he picked up all operating and repair costs, but also picked up the Tribe as a tenant, with 81 dates a year to add to the Browns' 10 home dates. Not only did he pick up the Indians, but he was more than willing to use the Stadium as a venue for concerts and other events. I remember seeing Springsteen, U2 and Paul McCartney at the Stadium, and as far back as the mid 1970s, events like the "World Series of Rock" generated huge crowds at the Stadium. Modell also built luxury suites, and the money from suite rentals went to his Stadium Corporation alone. The Tribe never saw a penny.

Most people agree that Art's decision to take over the Stadium was a good business decision, and it generated tons of revenue for him over the years. But no landlord could afford to lose his biggest tenant, and when the Indians left for Gateway, there's no doubt that Modell took a big hit to his wallet. When you add on the fact that the Stadium was becoming increasingly decrepit, then yes, I think it's fair to say that the Stadium led to his downfall. But it's a much more complex story than the one Art tells, and it leaves out all the bad business decisions along the way that led him to squander 20 plus years of revenues generated by the Stadium.

Art's statement that former Gov. George Voinovich (or some other very prominent Ohio politician with a wife named Janet) told him to move the team is attracting a lot of attention, most of all from Voinovich, who has made a political career out of never having an identifiable position on any issue. Boy, is he ever squirming now.

Ultimately, the best that we can hope for from this is that Modell's transparent effort to resurrect his Hall of Fame candidacy through a media blitz will fail. Fortunately, Art didn't make the list of finalists again this year, and if he doesn't make it soon, he'll have to wait 20 years before being considered again by the Veterans Committee. That's a small price to pay for the damage he did to the Cleveland Browns during his 35 years as their owner, and an even smaller price to pay for the dagger he stabbed in the City's heart 10 years ago.

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