Not Forgotten, Nor Forgiven 16 Years Later

It's been 16 years since Browns fans around the world heard the Browns would be moving to Baltimore. 16 years and harsh words and feelings remain.

An old adage states, time will heal all wounds.

Maybe in everyday life, such a belief can be commonly believed or ultimately recognized, but in the world of football, what the Cleveland Browns mean to fans and that professionally covering the team, this tale isn't necessarily the reality.

In 1995, the hearts and souls of Browns fans were ripped from their very being. It may sound cliché, it may be somewhat dramatic.

Our reality as Browns fans and/or being in the professional market, there has been little as unsettling as the painful time between the overnight hours of Saturday November 4, 1995 when the news broke that the Browns were being moved to Baltimore to the grand announcement on Monday November 6, 1995.

More unsettling were the actions and expressions of men on a run-way in Baltimore acknowledging that the Browns were gone.

Going to Baltimore, only with former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell stating it was something he had to do, while placing blame on the City of Cleveland, Ohio leadership for not taking him seriously.

In the end, the Cleveland Browns were scurried out of town and football in Cleveland has never been the same, some 16 years later.

With the Baltimore Ravens coming to town, the family of Orange and Brown Report writers, reporters and founder share their deepest thoughts (we're keeping it clean for print purposes). Feel free to comment or add your thoughts of what the rivalry between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens means to you personally in the comment section provided at the end of the article.

And without further ado.

Fred Greetham; Senior OBR Browns Reporter

For me, when the Browns and Ravens play each other, it reminds me of the past--and what could've been.

One of the most painful memories was watching the Ravens go to and win the Super Bowl. I couldn't help but think that should've been the Browns and Browns fans celebrating. I've been around the Browns and professionally covering them for nearly a quarter of a century and keep telling myself that one of these years I will be following a championship team.

Wait until next year has been the mantra for far too many seasons.

I personally worked for Art Modell as an intern in 1982 and really liked the man. I couldn't believe he would ever move the team and even when rumors were flying the team was moving, I didn't believe it until I saw him on the podium in Baltimore. I felt betrayed as many Browns fans did.

Many of the public relations and front office people that were with the Browns are still with the Ravens. It reminds me of a different era when the media had a much more personal relationship with the team than what it does today. Ever since the franchise re-booted in 1999 the people brought in to run the franchise are not from here. For the most part, it is more of an us versus them mentality as opposed to a partnership.

Having worked for the Browns, and then Browns News/Illustrated and now The OBR, the success of the team is directly related to our success. We want the Browns to be successful, both from the fans standpoint and from a business standpoint.

Probably the most vivid reminder is seeing the smiling face of' Ozzie Newsome when the Ravens come to town and thinking to myself, "This is the guy that should have been running the Browns since 1999"

Don Delco; OBR Browns Reporter

Two times a year I'm reminded of Nov. 6, 1995. That was the date Art Modell announced the Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore. It still seems surreal.

It stung. It was frustrating. It was sad. To be a Browns fan is more than just rooting for a professional football team on a fall Sunday afternoon. It goes deeper than that.

Much deeper.

Now, 16 years later, that sting, that sense of frustration, that sadness has not gone away and, because the Ravens are also in the AFC North, those feelings resurface twice a year.

While the Steelers are still Browns fans' most hated team because of proximity, the Ravens carry a different kind of dislike. For example, how many of you have seen that NFL apparel commercial promoting the league's clothing line tailored for women? During the 30-second spot, numerous men are getting jerseys thrown at them by their wives and girlfriends. Those ladies no longer need to wear their NFL gear, as they are opting for the women's line. The commercial ends with a door opening between Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his wife. Her Ravens hooded sweatshirt is proclaiming a date that lives in infamy.

"Est. 1996."

Ouch.

Whether it's that commercial, a shot of Ravens fans tailgating or a game involving the team, I will never get over the fact that the reason the Baltimore Ravens exist is because of the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland fans hold grudges. John Elway. Michael Jordan. Jose Mesa. LeBron James. Art Modell. We can go on and on. As the years go on, those names and what they did (or failed to do) continue to elicit those awful feelings.

There is a time in the near future where a younger generation won't make the correlation between the Ravens and the Browns. Today's young Browns fans will grow up amongst smug Steelers fans and because of that smugness, the Browns-Steelers rivalry will continue to be the most important game or games each season.

Yet for my generation and the generations older than me, the sight of that Ravens logo will always stir up those past emotions. Heck, it was the Steelers' Rooney family who voted against the Browns move to Baltimore. You have to have some respect for that gesture.

The Browns-Steelers rivalry is and always will be strong because of tradition and proximity. Every Browns fan personally knows a Steelers fan, whether it's a brother, a sister-in-law, a co-worker or even a spouse. Ravens fans are mostly located in and around Baltimore.

Still, for those who vividly remember Nov. 6, 1995, the Ravens game will always cut deeper.

Much deeper.

Dave Kolonich; OBR Browns Reporter

It's so easy to think that had the Browns stayed in Cleveland, all of the success enjoyed by the Ravens would have been the sole property of our eternally tortured city. From former Browns' great Ozzie Newsome assembling a roster around 1996 draft picks Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis to the culmination of a 2000 championship dictated by old school physical play, the Ravens were indeed the missing chapter in the Browns' aborted return to glory.

Of course, the funny thing is that had Art Modell been even a competent businessman, or had the city of Cleveland been more conducive to supporting a modern football franchise – it's not at all probable that Modell would have gained the foresight to grow his franchise into a champion.

After all, this is the same Modell who was famous for his stubbornness, the same owner who watched the Browns crumble under the weight of Bill Belichick's NFL growing pains. In a more realistic version of revisionist history, if the Browns could have somehow remained in Cleveland beyond 1995, Belichick would have stuck around to affirm Modell's vision of being "the last coach he would ever hire."

Regardless of whatever direction the Browns would have taken during the lost years of 1996-1998, one simple fact would have remained. Simply put, the Browns would have been run by a rapidly aging owner whose visionary days had long ago eclipsed. Throw in an archaic stadium – or even a newer one looming above the horizon of a decaying Rust Belt city – and the Browns' most optimistic returns could only be framed within modest means of survival.

Or – the Browns of today as shaped by a continued Modell legacy would prove strikingly very similar to the tenuous existence the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills are facing today.

Yet somehow in Baltimore, Modell must have been flush with new cash and ideas – or at the least, he finally found himself a competent person to throw the entirety of his trust behind. In Baltimore, Newsome – a true football executive – replaced the likes of Jim Bailey in Cleveland – a true lawyer.

Logically, success followed and because of the floundering direction the newly minted expansion Browns took, watching a spastic Modell dance with the Vince Lombardi trophy was a bitter tonic to digest. Even some twelve years later, the slightest remembrance of a triumphant Modell still serves as the biggest sports sucker punch ever delivered to Cleveland.

So – logically, a true Browns fan would have to concede that the only way to relieve the pain associated with Cleveland fandom is to enjoy wins over Modell's Ravens. In theory, this makes sense – however, two flaws are found here.

First, the Ravens have proven to be one of the league's most stable franchises. The Ravens swiftly move from challenging for a Super Bowl title to reloading after a down season. The manner in which the Ravens identifies needs and procures talent is reflective of a grounded belief in the organization itself. Compared with the constant rebooting we have witnessed in Cleveland over the past decade, it's obvious that the Browns are incapable of competing with the Ravens in this manner.

Second, the Ravens are no longer Modell's team. In fact, Modell himself never established much of a presence in Baltimore after stealing the hearts of Browns fans. After the Raven's Super Bowl run, Modell quietly slipped into the shadows of his new home before eventually selling his long-held franchise. Now, Modell is only occasionally mentioned – usually in reference to health issues or conjecture regarding a Hall of Fame induction that will never come.

These final points really color just what the Browns-Ravens rivalry has become. Without Modell, there isn't much of a rivalry. The Ravens long ago became disassociated with Modell – just as the current expansion-age Browns have little to do with the now secluded octogenarian. Both cities support fully-capable NFL franchises – and will continue to do so for the near future.

And of course, with such a disparity of talent existing among the two teams, the true meaning of a term like rivalry is lost. Because the Browns are still lost in a wilderness of expansion malaise, holding up their end of even of a divisional rivalry is quite the feat. While the occasional wins over the years have felt really good, the results of these matchups have lately produced the same numbing effect.

But then again – considering how painful that first sting of a victorious Modell was – perhaps that's all we can ask for at the moment.

At least until better days arrive.

Barry McBride; OBR Founder

I guess it's true what my close associates say.

Namely, "you're overweight and balding". No, wait, not that… the other thing. Oh yes: "You have no sense of proportion".

Here's an example: I was so irritated by the Browns being ripped out of Cleveland and sent off to the horrific sinkhole of public health and sports ethics that is Baltimore that it wound up pushing me out of one career and into another. Ultimately, I can't overstate the impact that it had on my life.

My backstory vis-a-vis the Baltimore Ratbirds is pretty well known by folks who have been hanging out on the OBR for years. It goes like this: Dorky middle-aged guy makes the mistake of saying "I wonder what Usenet is saying about the Browns being swiped" back in 1995. He wanders onto Usenet (a still-existing set of Internet discussion forums) and begins arguing with Ravens fans under the handle "Art Bietz". He then keeps arguing with them. A lot. "Ad nauseum" is probably the appropriate legal term.

Said nerd gets bored with tormenting Ratfans about the glaring inconsistencies in their views on franchise movement circa 1983 and 1995, builds a website called "The Ravens Suckzone" to poke fun at their team, turns that into something called "BrownsTNG" in 1999, which morphs into "Bernie's Insiders" for a few years, and ultimately becomes "The Orange and Brown Report". Now you're reading something on that website, 16 years later. Whew.

Given that I enjoy my current career much more than what I did before 1999, some have asked if I shouldn't be appreciative of Art Modell (since appropriately booted out of the NFL) and his misbegotten franchise of after-whistle hitters and preening linebackers.

This is a stupid question. The answer is this: No. Because they're scumbags.

All of this was a long time ago, but whenever the Ravens come to town, it's hard not to feel all those feelings come rushing back: The betrayal of their ex-owner, the humiliation of seeing our beloved Browns torched painfully during the expansion years and afterwards, remembering Jamal Lewis' "two or three runs" that set an all-time record and, most of all, seeing the NFL relent and allow Ray Lewis to play football in 2000, enabling Modell to hoist a Super Bowl trophy just a few short years after stabbing Cleveland in the back.

Ravens fans, and many Browns fans fans, have forgotten the pain and the anger. But to Art Modell and the City of Baltimore I can only say what I told them in 1996:

There are no excuses for what you did. None.

Lane Adkins; OBR Football Analyst

The overnight hours, the early morning of November 4, 1995 is not a day I won't soon forget, nor should I want to. Growing up in the Greater Cleveland area, as a kid you mimicked those warriors of the area, whether you played on a field, or on the concrete streets of my Brook Park, Ohio residence.

Not a kid any longer by this time, I was a huge Browns fan. From listening to everything on the radio and television, going back to the good old Quarterback Club, if it was Browns related I was all over it. I was shockingly awoke from a deep sleep by my wife in the early morning of November 4, 1995, telling my incoherent self the Browns were leaving town.

I was lucky or unlucky on this day to have known a couple sports talk personalities working the story – The Browns move to Baltimore. It was tough day for all Browns fans; it was especially trying for those guys that were misled by the intentions of the team owner during the period.

Hearing the news from those working the story, my disbelief and ultimate disgust remains a bitter pill to swallow some 16 years later.

How does a team, an organization, a business, a large part of football history seemingly just become up-rooted and ripped from generations of fans, families which lived their autumn and winter months to visit the grand old lady on the lake and watch the Cleveland Browns.

It happened in the NFL before the Browns move in 1995, just ask the fans and City of Baltimore, Maryland as their sacred Colts were whisked away in the middle of the night some 11 years prior.

At this defining moment, I truly started looking at the NFL as big business and less than the game our brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents grew to love.

To this day, I still hold resentment toward the move, the team owner and what the National Football League enabled to become a Browns fans nightmare. Gone was the perception that this couldn't happen in Cleveland, they are too storied of a franchise.

Sunday, once again we have the opportunity to be reminded of that fateful day of November 6, 1995. Browns fans, those true Browns fans from generations past to present that sat around the radio, the television or ventured into Cleveland Municipal Stadium, those memories can't be stolen as our team was.

The names and faces have changed in the years since the grand monetary gain Modell fielded with the move. All that remains are the memories.

While nearly everything Modell touched turned golden in Baltimore, the constant turmoil and poor management remained in Cleveland.

The past isn't something easily forgotten – too bad the Cleveland Browns, the reborn version has left every fan wanting much more.

Such as Super Bowl trophy, Art Modell thrust in the air a mere five years following the departure.

The thought sickens me to this day.


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