Can we get Art Modell’s name as loud as we ever got O-R-I-O-L-E-S back on 33rd Street? That booming sound, larger than anything this side of a rock concert singalong?
IN-DUCT ART! IN-DUCT ART! IN-DUCT ART!
As many of you who have followed my career as a sports journalist/civic activist over the years knows, I’m a dreamer. My official title on my business card says: DREAMER, WASHED UP HOST. I hand those cards out every day and they’re still pretty accurate.
When people have told me over the years that “Art Modell will never get into the Hall of Fame,” I can only laugh at the liberal use of the word “never.” Because for years, I thought we’d “never” get into the NFL. And lo and behold, we’re 13 years into this odyssey called the Baltimore Ravens because of Art Modell. And we’re on national TV tonight playing essentially for a chance at a division title. Oh, and we won a Super Bowl as well.
Here’s what I see tonight: A stadium full of half-tanked, really feisty Ravens fans swathed in purple ready to rip the roof off the sky over South Baltimore tonight. The Redskins are going to bring out the “ugly” in our fans. I’m pretty sure of it. I absolutely LOATH the Redskins as I’m sure most of you do as well.
From Jack Kent Cooke’s antics to the 13 god-awful years of watching the freaking Redskins on my TV every week, it’s not hard to dislike all things burgundy and gold if you’re from Baltimore. Cooke tried in vain to put the team in Laurel in the early 1990’s, which would have FOREVER left Baltimore outside of the NFL and we’d have never had the Ravens.
I’m old. I remember this political manure and how it made me feel as an NFL fan in Baltimore. And I still smell and feel and taste those 13 years of Sundays when we didn’t have a team. The Redskins franchise and Cooke’s desire to annex Baltimore (while not caring about or marketing our community at all…not even a freaking preseason game!) was a MAJOR part of why we didn’t have a franchise. That’s just a fact!
(One more reason to kick their arrogant asses again!)
So this first trip in for the “politically incorrects” – with all that’s at stake here for the playoffs and January and primetime – well, this figures to be a doozy.
Last night I literally bumped into John Madden downtown. I looked up and he was in front of me. I happened to have a handful of the “INDUCT ART” signs you see above. I handed him one and told him he’d “hear from us during the game.” He was extremely cordial and polite. He had his flip card with him for the game and was studying. (I’ve run into Madden many times at games, owners meetings, events, even once on the street in Las Vegas in front of Caesar’s Palace. I’ve never spoken to him before last night.)
Whether he shows the signs or mentions Art Modell or refers to anything about the Hall of Fame remains to be seen. But he not only knows about the “movement,” he actually has a sign in his possession. And I know for sure that Andrea Kramer is very aware of tonight’s effort. My moles tell me that Al Michaels has known about “INDUCT ART” all week.
But the signs are meant to make noise on a cold, awful night for a football game.
And the signs – all 20,000 of them — are going to be omnipresent in the parking lot before the game. And I know how crowds work in regard to cheers. I’ve been a stadium-frequenting fan since 1973.
I remember every cheer, chant and song from 33rd Street. And they always started with one person clapping their hands, screaming something, doing something that only can be started organically. We’re hoping that happens tonight.
I figure if one person in every section stands and starts chanting: “IN-DUCT ART!” on the first play of the 2nd quarter it ain’t gonna take long to catch on. Try it if you’re going. The signs are pretty self-explanatory.
So, just what’s the goal here? Jamie Costello asked me that on WMAR-TV 2 Friday morning (the video is in the wnsTV vault).
The goal is no different than FREE THE BIRDS. In a word: AWARENESS!
Without the awareness that Modell is wrongfully not in the Hall of Fame, he’ll never get in. And someone needs to bring light to the injustice of it and I think it’s the people of Baltimore and the fans of the Ravens. (It certainly won’t be coming from Cleveland!) And there’s no better occasion to truly “thank” Art Modell for the gift of the NFL and the Ravens than to do it on national television with the country watching us wax the Redskins in downtown Baltimore for the first time in 27 years.
I’ve been dreaming for years and things have worked out for me so far.
In 1993, I dreamed of having an NFL team in Baltimore. I sat at the front bar at Bohager’s on Eden Street with my pals David Hill and Michael Fountain with a bottle of champagne on ice — one that never was opened — waiting for Paul Tagliabue to grant us an expansion team that night at the Rosemont Hyatt.
Obviously, first with Charlotte and then Jacksonville a few weeks later, it didn’t work out so well for us in 1993. But two years later, the “miracle” happened and the NFL returned here. That was 13 years ago last month. Kinda hard to believe because to many it feels like the NFL was our birthright or like the Ravens were “always” here.
They’re here because Modell needed us and we needed him. And he had the courage to make a move that has cost him his reputation until now.
Getting Art Modell into the Hall of Fame is just the next challenge of righteousness for Baltimore sports fans. I’m up for the challenge. I think it’s a noble cause. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s the LEAST we can do.
And I’ve always been one of those guys that when someone tells me something is “impossible” or “never going to happen” that I do my best to test the theory.
If you’re going to the game tonight, I hope you grab a sign and support Art Modell.
I’m trusting that the “beating the Redskins” part will take care of itself. That’s what Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis are for. Of course, a little energy from the purple crowd as the 12th man wouldn’t hurt either.
Dress warm. Dress for victory. I hope to see — and more importantly HEAR — you at the game.