Art Modell died early today, and that will dredge up a lot of memories – the bad far overshadowing the good – in my hometown of Cleveland. The Plain Dealer had it right that Modell was “forever vilified” after moving the Browns to Baltimore.
I had long since left Cleveland when Modell moved the team in 1996, so the experience wasn’t as bitter for me as it was for others. But it still gets under my skin.
I also found it a great irony that Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore, which itself had its primary franchise — the Colts — ripped from the hearts of its fans. One awful move begetting another.
Neither city deserved what happened, and Clevelanders deserve better than what the New Browns have given them. But at least they have a team.
You’d think someone who spent a significant chunk of his life in Wisconsin, met his wife there and has two cheesehead children would be backing the Green Bay Packers in the NFL playoffs. But that’s not the case with me.
I tried to like the Packers when I lived in Milwaukee in the late 70s and early 80s. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. My allegiance to the Browns was still strong then, and the Packers under coach Bart Starr stunk.
I’d prefer that the Packers beat Atlanta today, my only connection to the Falcons being that I played on a grade school flag football team named for the 1966 expansion franchise. If the Packers lose, I’ll be a bit disappointed but won’t really care.
So who will I back? Certainly not the hated Steelers or ex-Browns Ravens. I tilted toward the Giants when I worked in New York, so forget the Jets and the Patriots. I had Seahawks’ season tickets for four seasons but today’s team leaves me cold.
Which leaves the Packers’ ancient rivals, the Chicago Bears. And I’m hoping they win it all.
The Bears have every bit as great a tradition as the Packers, and Chicago is a manly city full of passionate fans. For this batch of playoffs, Da Bears are my team.
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The Baltimore Ravens thrashed the New England Patriots today in the NFL playoffs 33-14 in a lopsided game in frigid Foxboro, Mass. I’m having a hard time getting interested in the playoffs, and runaway games don’t do much to lure me in.
It’s obvious that the Patriots’ dominating run is over as they’ve succumbed to age, injuries and bad breaks. Not that I care. Years have passed and I’m still ticked off about the blown call that helped the Pats defeat the Raiders one snowy night in 2002.
As for the Ravens, it’s nice to see one of the non-elite franchises advance. I have mixed feelings about this one, however.
The Ravens were wrestled away from Cleveland by the petulant Art Modell. Although he no longer owns the team and the last ex-Browns player on the roster is long gone, I have not been able to get behind the Ravens.
Counterbalancing that franchise move is the travesty of how the Colts were ripped from Baltimore in the middle of the night for a move to Indianapolis.
Wrong is wrong is wrong.
So I hereby bury the hatchet with the Ravens and wish them and Coach John Harbaugh (above) well next week. May they kick the Colts in the keister.
At the risk of alienating a work colleague who is a die-hard San Diego Chargers fan, I hereby link to this year-old photo of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers whacked the Chargers this afternoon at snowy Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, setting up the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens, a match I personally find revolting.
The Steelers are the age-old nemesis of the Cleveland Browns. While I have not fully bonded with the inept Browns expansion franchise, the Steelers’ black and gold uniforms still make my blood boil. The Ravens are, of course, the Browns franchise that the hated Art Modell wrenched away from northeast Ohio.
So it’s a given that I won’t pay much attention to the AFC championship. I’ll be rooting in the NFC game for the Eagles against the Chicago-turned-St. Louis-turned-Arizona Cardinals.
Suffice it to say I’m not a fan of franchise moves.
The Thursday night game between the Redskins and Giants notwithstanding, today marks the real kickoff to the 2008 National Football League season. In celebration, I took my natty corduroy Cleveland Browns cap out into the warm California sun for a morning portrait.
Classic Cleveland Browns corduroy cap
I call this a classic Browns cap because it dates not from the present franchise but from the last years of the old Browns, the team that the sinsister Art Modell carted off to Baltimore to become the dead-to-me Ravens.
The original Browns started in the All American Football Conference that was folded into the NFL in the early 1950s. My early childhood centered on baseball, and football didn’t enter my consciousness until early grade school. In fact, my earliest pro football memory is of the day of the 1964 championship game in which the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts (another team that would ultimately and appallingly be wrenched from the hearts of its fans). The game was blacked out on television in Cleveland, so my dad sent me to the attic to move our antenna around so we could catch the game on a Toledo station.
The demise of the old Browns roughly coincided with my move to California, where I’ve since attached my primary allegiance to the San Francisco 49ers and, given a few beers and the right opponent, the Oakland Raiders. I have not bonded with the new Browns, but should they advance to the playoffs, I’ll be pulling for them hard. And yeah, I want them to crush the Dallas Cowboys today.
In the meantime, I reserve my Browns cap mainly for the winter months, always hoping for the delightful contrast of white snowflakes settling on its rich brown bill.
Posted in Football
Tagged All American Football Conference, Baltimore Colts, Baltimore Ravens, childhood, Cleveland, Cleveland Browns, corduroy, Dallas Cowboys, Football, National Football League, New York Giants, NFL, pro football, snow, Washington Redskins, winter