Thursday, January 04, 2007

Vote Modell or bust (in Canton)

Jim Williams, The Examiner
Jan 4, 2007 3:00 AM (4 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 5 of 17,180 articles

BALTIMORE - The NFL Hall of Fame should have inducted Art Modell years ago.

Next month, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee will meet to elect this year’s inductees. Per the Hall of Fame bylaws, three to six new members are selected each year, and Baltimore Ravens fans are hopeful that Modell will be one of the inductees in 2007.

This Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the “Mark Viviano Show” with “The Bulldog” Damon Yaffe will pay tribute to Modell. The program will include surprise guest appearances by many familiar sports personalities and football legends — current and past. Ravens head coach Brian Billick, team owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome (himself a Hall of Famer).

Why does Modell belong in the Hall of Fame? Today’s billion-dollar TV contracts — the life blood of the NFL — all can be traced back to the hard work of Modell.

It started in the 1960s, when Modell, then the brash young owner of the Cleveland Browns, and his good friend, late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, worked tirelessly together to keep the league’s TV revenues growing.

Many NFL historians and TV broadcast executives would tell you that without Modell, there might never have been a Monday Night Football. He used his clout as the head of the TV committee to convince the other owners to play games in Monday prime-time in hopes of expanding the league’s popularity among casual fans.

“The people and the media of Cleveland look at Art as the people and media of Baltimore look at Robert Irsay,” said Tom Wilson, the president of Cleveland-based Sports Marketing, Inc., who worked closely with Modell for more than a decade. “He is the man that took the most prized sports possession from this city, and for that, he is a villain. But those of us who know Art know his move was all about business. The Indians and the Cavs got new homes, but the Browns could not get a favorable new stadium deal. The Baltimore offer was one of the greatest deals in the history of sports, and Art would have been a fool not to have taken it.”

NFL Films boss Steve Sabol said, “You really can’t deny the contributions that Art has made to the NFL. He should be in the Hall of Fame.”

The media in Cleveland needs to leave the past behind. Modell deserves a place in Canton while he’s still alive. It’s just the right thing to do.

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. E-mail


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