Clevelanders blast Modell

By Thomas Sheeran Associated Press Published:

CLEVELAND _ Art Modell finally won a Super Bowl when his Baltimore Ravens beat the New York Giants, but it earned him more enmity in his former hometown.

The owner of the Ravens, a team known as the Cleveland Browns until Modell moved the club to Baltimore in 1995, was labeled a traitor and crybaby Sunday night by fans in Cleveland.

Modell's name is guaranteed to light up the phone lines on radio talk shows in Cleveland, where the Browns never appeared in a Super Bowl. He's the butt of jokes and fans get energized talking about him.

Henry Casey, 38, Cleveland, out looking for a meal in the Flats nightclub district during the Super Bowl on Sunday, paused to say that Modell had betrayed Cleveland after supporting his team for 35 years.

"I don't think he should have ever moved the old Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. It made everyone feel down," he said.

Football returned to Cleveland in 1999 with an expansion Browns club that went 5-27 in two seasons and just fired coach Chris Palmer.

With Cleveland bundled up against a 25-degree night, outward signs of anti-Modell feelings were hard to find during the Super Bowl. Nightclub crowds were sparse in the Flats, where barstools and street parking spaces were available, a rarity.

Still, the fans were willing to vent if given the chance.

"I thought Art really cheated Cleveland," said Ken Thomas, 39, of suburban Parma, as he emerged from a bar after watching the Ravens take a 10-0 halftime lead.

"That is our team. He's a traitor. I really feel he's a traitor. It really hurts to see them even winning at halftime," Thomas said.

Thomas was with Kirsten Mahovlich, 34, of Cleveland, who was wearing a Browns hat and had a personal story common in Cleveland: watching the Browns as a child and attending their final game at Cleveland Stadium.

"The very first game I went to, I was 5, I went with my father. The last game I went with my father," she said.

Clevelanders, where baseball fans detest the dominant New York Yankees, found themselves rooting for the Giants as the only alternative to Modell getting a ring.

"Everyone's a New York fan," Thomas said of the bar crowd. "You know how much Clevelanders hate New York, but everyone's a New York fan. It's insanity."

Mahovlich said Modell had whined about wanting a new stadium, and then moved to Baltimore when Cleveland made overtures on the issue.

"He cried the blues," she said. "I really think that anything that he's gotten, he deserves. Then he comes back and says, 'I'd like to thank the fans in Cleveland.' Well, Cleveland fans don't thank him at all."

Modell acknowledged the years of support of Clevelanders two weeks ago when the Ravens qualified for the Super Bowl. When asked by Jim Nance of CBS Sports after Sunday's 34-7 win what he had to say to the people of Baltimore and Cleveland, Modell stuck to thanking his family and staff.

Of course, not everyone in Cleveland dislikes Modell.

Rob Dintaman, 28, of Parma, working as a nightclub security guard, was mellow on the Modell issue. "I don't feel that bad about it," he said.

Do his buddies feel the same way? "Split down the middle, surprising, same way," said Dintaman, who was complimentary of the Ravens fans in the club. "They've actually behaved themselves."

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.