I am all for holding sports grudges.
I will never again drink Vitamin Water or Sprite because LeBron James is an endorser. I'm sure Mesa, Ariz. is a lovely place to visit, but I will never go there because Jose can't get two more outs. Finally, John Elway, this is your weekly reminder: You ruined my childhood.
Grudges don't get much bigger than the one Browns' fans hold toward Art Modell. He's the man who fired Paul Brown. He forced Jim Brown to retire in his prim. His actions are the reasons why the Baltimore Ravens exist.
This Sunday, the Ravens play at New England in the AFC Championship game. For the Cleveland Browns fans who remember November 1995 that Ravens logo serves as a reminder of how it came into existence.
The end result is a grudge against Modell that the ultimate sports grudge. While I'm not advocating you to drop that grudge, it is time to stop referring to the Ravens as the "Old Browns."
A page needs to be turned. The Cleveland Browns are the Cleveland Browns, just as the Baltimore Ravens are the Baltimore Ravens.
Garrett Downing is from Columbus, Ohio and recently worked as a new media producer at Cleveland's WEWS-TV Channel 5. Last October, he left WEWS to take a job writing for the Baltimore Ravens' web site.
Downing was two days shy of 8 years old when Modell announced the move. He was a little too young to completely understand what it meant for the Browns to leave Cleveland, but his parents are Browns fans and after college he covered the Browns and now the Ravens. He seemed like a good place to start.
"I realized when I started here that the attitude of the Ravens being the ‘Old Browns' is very much a one-sided mentality," Downing said. "The fans in this area don't think about it in those terms."
It is hard to deny the desire for the correlation. At Super Bowl XXXV, there was the image of Art Modell holding the Vince Lombardi trophy. The pain of the move to Baltimore was only five years old and still very real to Browns fans. It is still hard for most Browns fans to digest. The popular sentiment on the days after Super Bowl XXXV was, "That should have been the Browns."
And so began the idea of the "Old Browns."
There is no certainty if Modell never moved the Browns, they would have had the same success as the Ravens.
First, let's go back to 1994. The Browns finished 11-5 in the fourth season under Bill Belichick and lost in the divisional round to the Steelers. The next season, the Browns began 3-1 before the rumors of the move and the subsequent announcement derailed the team to a 5-11 finish.
The following April, the Ravens used their first two picks — fourth and 26th — to select left tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis, respectively.
Consider the Browns were off to a fast start in 1995 and coming off an 11-win season. If there was no announcement, the Browns' winning ways likely would have continued.
Therefore is no guarantee they would have had such high picks and be in position to draft Ogden or Lewis.
Second, Belichick was fired at the end of the 1995 season. The Ravens decided to go in a different direction and hire Ted Marchibroda, who went 16-31-1 in three seasons. Marchibroda's firing led to the Ravens hiring Brian Billick, who led the team to the Super Bowl. If the Browns did not move, Belichick was showing steady progress.
Why would the Browns have fired him after 1995?
Finally, as the years go on, the correlation between the two franchises will die down. For example, how many times have you heard an elder football fan refer to the Indianapolis Colts as the Baltimore Colts or the Cardinals as being from St. Louis, not Arizona? But the same type of fan who was born in the late 70s or early 80s never makes that mistake.
Regardless of city, the Colts and Cardinals share the same uniforms and history.
That is not the case in Cleveland.
You must not forget how big of a deal it was for the NFL to grant Cleveland the rights to the team's history and colors. There are plenty of teams in pro sports that have moved before and after the Browns. Never once did the city losing the team retain the team's history and/or colors.
It only happened in Cleveland.
The team that has had losing season after losing season since 1999 are the Browns, for better or worse.
"To some extent, I understand (the "Old Browns" mentality)," Downing said.
"The franchise left Cleveland and became the Ravens, and has gone on to have tremendous success. They've won a Super Bowl and are contenders for the playoffs just about every season. Too many Browns fans, there's a sentiment of, ‘that should be us.'
"But then there's also the reality, which is that none of the current players on the Ravens were even on the roster when they moved from Cleveland back in 1996. Art Modell doesn't own the team anymore. There is some carryover (mostly in the scouting department) between the "Old Browns" and the Ravens, and their histories will always be intertwined, but the Ravens have very much become their own franchise independent of the Cleveland Browns."
That last part is key. The Ravens are a franchise independent of the Browns. Joe Flacco didn't break any of Bernie Kosar's rookie records. Ray Lewis isn't compared to Clay Matthews. Jamal Lewis didn't break any of Jim Brown's team records.
I'll toast to that any day with an ice-cold glass of anything but Vitamin Water or Sprite.