The Cleveland Browns will honor Art Modell on Sunday.
It's a sentence that is so ridiculous and incomprehensible, I could barely type it. I, a lifelong Cleveland sports fan, found no joy upon reading that Modell had passed away on Thursday. That doesn't mean, however, that his death somehow erases what took place in the mid-90s. Despite the fact that Modell worked with multiple noteworthy individuals to move the Browns to Baltimore back in 1995, the so-called "new Browns" will, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "give some type of appropriate recognition to the passing of Art Modell during the pregame of Sunday's opener against the Philadelphia Eagles."
You don't have to be an expert on Cleveland sports to understand why so many Browns fans are so upset on Friday afternoon. A common thought expressed on local sports talk radio and on social networking websites is that any tribute to Modell will trigger a hostile response from many, but maybe not all, who attend Sunday's game. I won't be at Cleveland Browns Stadium this weekend, and I honestly can't say if I would boo or merely ignore any Modell tribute. What I do know, however, is that honoring the man who took so much from so many is nothing short of one final slap in the face, an insult to a diehard fan base that continues to support a losing franchise.
It's an insult to my grandfather, a man who raised all of his children as Browns fans, a man who routinely took his kids and grandchildren to Cleveland Municipal Stadium for regular season games, a man who gave both his time and his money to the Browns every year until he passed away in the early 80s.
It's an insult to my grandmother, a woman who joked that she "just wanted to see the Browns make it to a Super Bowl one time" every season until she passed away last summer. That same woman decorated her house with Browns merchandise every fall, wore a Browns sweater every NFL Sunday during the season, and watched or listened to every game regardless of the team's record.
It's an insult to my father, who proudly wears Browns apparel every season despite living in northwestern PA, an area that's part of "Steelers Country." It's an insult to my uncle and cousin, who travel from Erie, PA to Cleveland multiple times a year for Browns games. It's an insult to every Browns fan who wrote letters, picketed, protested and did all they could to keep the franchise in Cleveland back in 1995.
It's an insult to every Browns fan who watched the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl in 2001.
I'm all for the city of Cleveland and Browns fans "moving on." You don't give a shout-out to your ex on your wedding day just because you've moved on. You don't owe that person anything, just like the Browns don't owe Art Modell or his family anything. The following passage taken from a piece that was posted on the Waiting For Next Year blog on Thursday sums things up nicely: "But for those of us who grew up living, breathing, eating, and sleeping Browns football, Art will always be the guy who ripped our hearts out because he was a bad businessman with too much pride and ego to do the right thing and sell the team." Modell didn't do the right thing two decades ago.
The Browns should do the right thing on Sunday by not mentioning Modell at all.
For more: The heartbreak of losing the Browns