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It’s The Curse of Art Modell…or IS it? … by THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER, Brad Eastland

January 23, 2013
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Please don’t overreact to what I’m about to say. I’m not suicidal.

But in some ways, I think I’ve lived too long.

I’ve lived long enough to see many of the great movies I saw 20 or 30 or even 40 years ago remade, and the remake is almost never half as good. Just something for greedy producers to feed to a new generation of moviegoers who respond (based on their spinning the turnstiles in record numbers) like they’re getting something original and new. And good. But they’re not. Did you guys see the remake of the classic “Yours, Mine, & Ours”? Or Warren Beatty’s sleep-inducing version of “An Affair To Remember “? My son tells me that they are remaking “The Lone Ranger”, with the “Social Network” Winklevoss twins guy as the masked man and Johnny Depp as Tonto, my god, and he tells me that this disaster is hitting the theaters soon. There are remakes in the works for “The Great Gatsby”, “A Star Is Born”, “War Games”, and “The Birds”. And did you know that a few years back Tom Laughlin—the Billy Jack guy—remade the iconic “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”, cleverly entitled it “Billy Jack Goes To Washington”, and actually had Billy Jack mimic all of Jimmy Stewart’s lines??? It was horrific. Makes me sad for Humanity. (*although I do admit I always liked watching Billy Jack do his karate & judo whup-ass on bad guys….I’m flawed.)

Same with politics. Every single campaign speech calls for “a new vision”, or “a new direction”, or for us to “leave our children with a better world than that which was given to us”, gimme a break. When was the last time you saw a truly original campaign speech? Do politicians, out of laziness, simply go to the video archives and pick out one of the oldies but goodies from yesteryear and act like they thought it up?

"The Duke" and football go together.

"The Duke" and football go together.

And finally, Sports. Even sporting events are starting to repeat themselves. It’s creepy.

Y’see, I knew even before the Patriots and Ravens took the field in the AFC Championship game on Sunday that the Patriots were gonna win. I literally knew it.

How did I know? Well, it wasn’t because the Patriots are better (though I think they are) or that I’m better at picking football games than other folks (though I kinda sorta am), no no no, that wasn’t it. It was because it had already happened.

Here’s what I mean:

The Patriots are a smart, well-coached football team with a quarterback with a John Wayne-like swagger and a John Wayne-like name, Tom Brady, who someday is headed for the Hall of Fame. The Patriots are always in the Super Bowl. They don’t always win, but they’re always there. The Ravens, conversely, never go to the Super Bowl, at least not in the last decade or so. They get close, but never quite make it. Their quarterback doesn’t have a name befitting an American hero like John Wayne, it’s a sort of geeky stupid name, Joe Flacco, and even though he is a very good and totally underrated quarterback he looks sort of goofy and clumsy. And here these two teams are, I thought last week, playing in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row. Second year in a row. Second year in a row….

….and that’s when it hit me.

This has already happened!

The last time two teams played in the AFC title game two years running was way back in 1987/1988. Twenty five years ago. Perfect “remake” spacing. Because this year’s game was a remake of that last back-to-back AFC title occurrence, between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns

All I hafta do is take the above paragraph, insert the corresponding teams and players from 1987/88, and change it to past-tense, and it will make perfect sense to you. Here goes:

The Broncos were are a smart, well-coached football team with a quarterback with a John Wayne-like swagger and a John Wayne-like name, John Elway (who even had Wayne’s nickname, “Duke”), who someday is headed for the Hall of Fame. The Broncos were always in the Super Bowl. They didn’t always win, but they were always there. The Browns, conversely, never went to the Super Bowl. They got close, but never quite made it. Their quarterback didn’t have a name befitting an American hero like John Wayne, it was a sort of geeky stupid name, Bernie Kosar, and even though he was a very good and totally underrated quarterback he looked sort of goofy and clumsy.

See what I mean?

Twenty-five years ago the Browns lost two close, agonizing, gut-wrenching AFC title games in a row to the Broncos. These defeats were epic, and came with portentous nicknames: “The Drive” and “The Fumble”. Google them up, each was heartbreaking. Fast-forward 25 years to the Patriots/Ravens. Same deal. Last year the Ravens’ defeat could easily merit the nickname “The Drop”, due to Lee Evans dropping the winning touchdown pass at the very end when a Patriots guy karate-chopped at it, after it was already virtually caught. That’s as close and agonizing as it gets. This year, as in yesterday….well, tell you the truth, as I am writing this and typing this, uh, the game hasn’t actually happened yet. Sorry. That’s how sure I am that they are going to lose. But I do wonder what horrific gaffe some luckless Raven will commit to commemorate this game….

You wanna know what makes the linkage of these two versions of the same back-to-back title games even creepier? Well, the Ravens have only been around since 1995. They were an expansion team. A team that relocated from another city. Which other city, you ask?

Cleveland.

That’s right. The current Baltimore Ravens are actually the old Cleveland Browns. The Ravens are the Browns! No wonder each franchise blew both of their AFC title games in a row!

Which means this whole thing comes down to the owner. Art Modell.

The City of Cleveland hates Art Modell. They rank him below Hitler and Bin Laden. He yanked their beloved Browns out of Cleveland, where they worship football. There’s a new Browns team there now, but it’s not the same. This is the same Art Modell who in 1965 alienated his star Browns running back, Jim Brown, who abruptly retired in his prime, and then went off to become an actor and make “The Dirty Dozen” with Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. Wasn’t it great when ol’ Jim threw all those hand grenades down the air shafts and killed all the Nazis trapped in the basement?

Things were never the same for the Browns after Jim Brown retired. And it has carried over to his recycled Ravens. Bottom line? Blame Mr. Art Modell. Who just died this last September, by the way.

Anyway, I suppose that’s why the Ravens and the Browns are both cursed….

Well that’s my column. A little bit of football history, a little bit of movie history. Hope you liked it.

{–this is the part where time passes….it’s now Sunday evening….insert creepy Twilight Zone music–}

Wait a minute….the Ravens just won? Really? The curse of Art Modell is over? It was the Patriots who made the dumb plays and the Ravens who were smart? Tom Brady just lost for the first time in 68 home games in which he led at halftime? The Ravens are going to the Super Bowl? Flacco out-quarterbacked John Wayne???

Okay, now I don’t understand anything.

I’ll tell you one thing, though: If current Ravens ownership goes and alienates their star running back Ray Rice, and he abruptly retires in his prime, and then signs on to reprise Jim Brown’s role in a remake of “The Dirty Dozen”? Well, then I will kill myself.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0023

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, a film buff, an undiscovered literary savant, and a big fan of “The Dirty Dozen”….who isn’t? Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’. His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’. Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.

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