The ‘Curse of Art Modell’ is alive and well in ‘Believeland.’
I’ve got to hand it to the city of Cleveland — they really have this championship thing down to a science.
The 1964 Browns were the last team in Cleveland to win a championship in a major sport until the LeBron James-led Cavaliers shattered the city’s 52-year-old jinx in June of 2016.
The Indians last won a World Series in 1948 — that’s 69 seasons ago. Since then, they have played in four World Series, in 1954 losing in four games to the New York Giants, in 1995 losing in six games to the Atlanta Braves, in 1997 losing to the Florida Marlins four games to three, and then in 2016, the Indians led Chicago 3 games to 1 and still managed to lose to the Cubs, who were breaking their very own 108-year skein of seasons without a championship.
But those are curses or jinxes that live in the overall realm of Cleveland sports. They hold no candle to the “Curse of Art Modell” that I personally placed on the new Cleveland Browns franchise that began to play in 1999 after I became aware of lobbying efforts by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s football writer Tony Grossi to keep Art Modell out of the Hall of Fame.
I do take any opportunity I can to get on Twitter to remind Tony Grossi and his 118,094 followers of the curse and to explain how they can exorcise themselves from the curse. Usually, I wait until Tony tweets some sort of exasperated-filled tweet about the ineptitude of the Browns.
I was reminded of this curse the other day when news came out that they hired John Dorsey as their new general manager. If you Google this hire, you’ll see that Dorsey was handed a mandate to solve their problems at quarterback.
Hmmm, that presupposes they don’t have myriad other problems.
Dorsey is by all accounts a pretty solid football man who the Browns rushed to hire before the New York Giants’ firing of their general manager, Jerry Reese, had reached a fourth day. Rumors were flying that Dorsey would have been on the short list in New York. No, the Browns simply had to have Dorsey.
Just like they had to have Sashi Brown, Ray Farmer, Mike Lombardi, Tom Heckert, George Kokinis, Phil Savage, Butch Davis and Dwight Clark. All told, since the city of Cleveland was awarded its beloved “new” Browns franchise for the 1999 season, the Clowns have had eight predecessors to Dorsey. That’s nine GMs in less than 20 years. The Ravens have had one GM in 22 seasons.
Coaches? Oh, there have been a bevy of those, too — Chris Palmer, Butch Davis (he did double-duty as coach and GM), Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine and now Hue Jackson. That’s eight coaches in less than 20 years. The Ravens hired Ted Marchibroda knowing he was a caretaker for three seasons and still have only had Brian Billick and John Harbaugh since in their existence in Baltimore.
So how has all that frenetic hiring and firing worked out in the age of the “Curse of Art Modell”?
Combined since 1999 — and including their to-date record of 0-13 in 2017 — the Browns are 88-213, which comes out to a winning percentage of .292. But surely the fact that they had to start all over again as an expansion team in 1999, it must have taken them some time to build up to where they are now.
Well … that’s not exactly the case. In fact, their first nine years they had two seasons (‘02 and ‘07) where they were over .500 at 9-7 and 10-6, respectively. In fact, in their first nine seasons the Browns played to a .347 winning percentage. Still, so great is Grossi and the fans’ hatred of Art Modell, Cleveland football fans look back on their glory years as ‘02 and ‘07.
Current Browns owner billionaire Jimmy Haslam — who to date hasn’t been charged in a federal case against his truck-stop company Flying J for a fuel rebate scam — purchased the Browns on Oct. 25, 2012. So it would be grossly unfair to blame the Browns’ 5-11 record in 2012 on him.
But he and his wife, Dee, can begin to take credit for the record starting in 2013.
Since then the Browns have won 15 games and lost 62 — that includes their current mark of 0-13 in 2017. That, my friends, provides them with a lower winning percentage than I used to have at singles bars — .194.
Yes, the “Curse of Art Modell” is alive and well in Cleveland. All they have to do to end it is do the right thing and support and push for Art Modell’s inclusion in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Stan “The Fan” Charles is founder and publisher of PressBox.