By Bruce Hooley
Ozzie Newsome crafted much of his Hall of Fame resume as a Browns tight end with a then-NFL record 150-game streak with at least one catch.
Newsome’s hands aren’t what they used to be, though, because he definitely dropped the ball this week.
His op-ed piece in The Plain Dealer advocating Art Modell’s candidacy for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame featured ample disputable points to stoke a spirited debate.
But arguing any of Newsome’s contentions about Modell’s merits for enshrinement in Canton obscures a greater transgression.
“I am a Cleveland Brown and I will always be a Cleveland Brown,” Newsome began.
Then you should understand, Oz, the egregious and fruitless endeavor upon which you embark when attempting to force your pro-Modell views down the collective gullet of a Browns’ fans base forever resistant to swallowing any of it.
Modell scripted an indelible final chapter to his own story here, and no amount of rewriting truth into fiction by you or others who hold Modell dear can or will change his legacy in Cleveland.
We get that you love him because he gave you the chance to become the NFL’s first African-American general manager.
In our rational moments, we understand why you accompanied him to Baltimore when he pirated our team away to bail him out of his own colossal business blunders.
We can even suppress the jealousy we feel over you building a perennial playoff team with what once was our franchise.
After all, we saw you rescue us from too many bleak third-down predicaments and catch too many touchdowns to expect anything less than your competitive best when it comes to tracking down the talent that’s extended our misery in the AFC North.
But don’t overvalue our affection for you by believing it can buy Modell a second chance in Northeast Ohio. That transaction is beyond your budget, and always will be.
Peddle that pablum in 49 other states or 31 other NFL markets, but don’t bring it here.
It won’t wash, unless it’s to rinse away the totality of good will you banked during your career as a Brown.
Frankly, Oz, you’ve made it hard lately to love you like we once did.
Wearing your Ravens golf shirt in the NFL Network’s, “Cleveland 95,” was an insensitive, uncaring decision on your part.
Dismissing the pain of Browns fans wistful over what might have been here had Modell not moved the team to Baltimore with your callous statement, “I got my Super Bowl,” was far worse.
And now you’ve gone over the line with your willful decision to accept The Plain Dealer’s invitation and then condescendingly campaign for the Hall of Fame candidacy of a man who betrayed this city’s loyal fan base.
Your only proper written response to that offer should have been, “No, thank you,” because you certainly should know that’s an argument you cannot win.
Here’s what you should do, Oz:
Accept the unchangeable fact that your opinion of Modell and ours will never intersect.
And count yourself lucky that in a region where Modell took until he could take no more, you were among the few who gained from your association with him.
When you came back to Cleveland last May at the invitation of ESPN850 WKNR for an evening honoring your accomplishments as a Browns’ legend, you were the gracious, accommodating, humble gentleman we cheered for 13 seasons.
Not one ill-mannered word was spoken to you that night out of respect for your achievements here.
Fans lavished you with gratitude, reverence and respect.
It’s long since passed the time you return some of the same to them.
Bruce Hooley hosts The Hooligans from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”
Email Bruce firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz
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