Saturday, February 2, 2013

Falling short . . . again

OK, Browns fans, you can breathe now.

And Baltimore fans can resume bitching and moaning.

That’s right. The least qualified man on the Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot Saturday was correctly eliminated in the first round of voting.

Art Modell, the man who robbed an entire city of professional football for three unnecessary years, remains where he belongs. On the outside looking in.

There is no way we will know exactly what went on or what was discussed inside the voting room in New Orleans. The fact Modell had advanced this far was disconcerting to Browns fans and had them on edge.

Until the announcement around 7:30 p.m., skeptics had to wonder whether this would be a karma weekend for the Baltimore Ravens. The team was in the Super Bowl, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was on the HOF ballot and Modell, who passed away last September and to whom the Ravens have dedicated this season, was a sentimental favorite.

Fortunately, the voters did not see it entirely that way. Ogden deservedly was voted in. He was arguably the National Football League’s best offensive tackle for a dozen seasons. No argument there. But other forces were at work against Modell.

Tony Grossi, the Cleveland representative on the board of electors, wrote on the ESPN Cleveland web site that he prepared a three-page speech for the Modell discussion.

We don’t know what he said, nor will we ever know what he said, but it was obviously powerful enough to elicit at least 10 no votes for Modell. And that’s all it takes to eliminate a candidate from further consideration.

In the years to come, other stronger candidates will come along to push Modell even further back when consideration for HOF status comes up.

The Hall of Fame should be for greatness. Modell did many wonderful things from a philanthropic standpoint in Cleveland in his lifetime. But when it came to the NFL, his one egregious act should never be forgotten nor forgiven.

At the time he moved his Browns to Baltimore in 1995, he said he “had no choice” but to change his address. Not true. He could have sold his team.

The real reason he did not was to keep the Modell name attached to the franchise. Fans in Baltimore have been fed a twisted tale for years. That – and the fact he brought the NFL back to their city – is why they champion his HOF quest.

That’s why it’s important that Grossi and those voters who really know what happened that caused the saddest day in Cleveland sports history are still around to block subsequent attempts to incorrectly elect him to the Hall.

Ravens fans can grouse all they want at the latest snub, along with that small group of Browns fans who have forgiven Modell for his unconscionable act. Today, most Browns fans rejoice.

Hopefully, this will be the last time the HOF nominating committee places Modell’s name on the final 15 ballot. It’s not worth the anguish it puts Browns fans though. However, it is worth the joy they feel when he falls short.

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