The Art of revenge
For one day, all Cleveland fans should move to Philadelphia. On Sunday, their Art Modell returns.
Today Terrell Owens returns to Philly, just one season after one season after trying to sabotage the franchise. Heck, one season? Try five games into the next season. What do you think will happen in a city where they once booed Santa Claus at a game? Not only does TO have a running, high schoolish rivalry with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb -- ooooh, did he receive my text message??? -- but he was suspended from the Eagles halfway through last season as Philly coach Andy Reid cut off his nose to spite his face. And now his return has inspired extra security at the Dallas Cowboys/Eagles game Sunday.
It's the revenge scenario Clevelanders dreamed about but never experienced once Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore. For years afterward, Modell never came back to town to watch a Ravens/Browns game, for fear that he would be killed, or worse. From the moment Modell announced the Browns were moving, Cleveland Municipal Stadium became hostile territory for Art, what with "Jump Art" signs and corporate sponsors removing their advertising. It inspired the Art Modell Death Watch (1995 until forever).
These types of things happen everywhere except Cleveland. A-Rod came back to Seattle and Texas after asking out of both places. Pat Riley returned to New York to face "Benedict Riley" signs after leaving the team he took to the NBA Finals. Bill Parcells left the New England Patriots the night after he led them to the Super Bowl, then returned as New York Jets coach. We were able to shower fake dollar bills on Albert Belle and boo Jim Thome, but our Joker, our Lex Luthor, and our Green Goblin all rolled into one never came back to face the music.
Remember those "Jump Art" signs? Remember the fans ripping seats out of the stadium after the real Browns last home game? Remember the Sports Illustrated cover showing a caricature of Art punching a Browns fan in the stomach? All we wanted was revenge. All we wanted was Art to come back to face the music, sitting in his luxury box with palm pressed to forehead while the new Browns took on the real Browns. Even if the Baltimore Ravens won, no one would have cared as long as we were able to spend three hours booing Art Modell.
It was never going to happen. It wasn't death Art was afraid of, but bad PR, bad television. You can bet the NFL's TV partners advised Art not to return, because they would broadcast three hours of Cleveland revenge. Even if the Browns couldn't beat the Ravens -- which rarely happens, as the Ravens are 10-5 against the new Browns -- it wouldn't matter. We would hate on Art Modell like he was an old girlfriend who had wronged us, and came back thinking everything was all right.
But we couldn't even get that. Art never came back, the Browns have sucked ever since, and Modell got his Super Bowl championship in 2001. Not since Han Solo was encased in carbonite and the Empire had seemingly destroyed the Rebel forces had anyone so evil came out on top. Art never did come back for any football games, but what did it matter after 2001? The Ravens won, Art got over, and we never even got to release our anguish through booing.
Philly fans get a different treat. Donovan McNabb will carry Philly's everyman on his back tomorrow, as he gets a chance to stick it to his, and every Philadelphian's, playground rival. They've even got a good team which is favored to beat the Cowboys.