Nineteen months in Baltimore haven't mellowed Art Modell. Nor have they given him any reason to think he's at fault for moving one of the most beloved teams in sports. As he sat on a golf cart and watched his Ravens practice last week, the controversial owner defiantly defended his decision to move out of Cleveland.
"I'm the only owner in the history of professional sports who moved but left the team intact—the nickname, the colors, the franchise," said Modell, who generally avoids discussing the matter. "I moved my players and two jockstraps. That's it."
He remains convinced that he never could have gotten the stadium deal that the new Browns, who are expected to begin play in 1999, received. "When I said I wanted stadium improvements," he said, "the columnists blistered me. I was called a shakedown artist. The politicians would have never given me a great stadium deal. I'd never have gotten anything unless I went through hell to get it."
True, had Modell persuaded Cleveland politicians that he was serious about negotiating with Maryland interests and as a result won the concessions that would have kept him in Cleveland, he would have gotten the rap of a shakedown artist. He also would have had a new or refurbished stadium in the city he still so clearly loves.
TV Talks, Continued....
The league's television contracts expire after this season, and the Monday-night game could command the most interest among the networks. ABC, which has held the rights to Monday Night Football for 28 years, wants to keep the starting time at 9 p.m. Eastern, in part because the hour preceding the game is such a moneymaker ($1.5 million per week). But because ratings in the Eastern and Central time zones often plummet in the last hour of the game, the league would like to move the kickoff up 60 minutes.
ABC, which has exclusive negotiating rights until Nov. 1, remains the odds-on favorite to keep the package, but if it is inflexible about the starting time, the league could turn to CBS or long-shot Fox. Sources close to the talks say that neither would have a problem tipping the ante from the $230 million per year that ABC is paying to about $360 million annually.
Carter Sets Sights on 1,000
Vikings wideout Cris Carter caught the 700th pass of his NFL career during Sunday night's 28-19 win over the Eagles, and though he turns 32 in November, he believes 1,000 catches and 100 touchdowns (he has 81) are reachable before he retires. The scoring mark shouldn't be that tough, but rare is the receiver who can catch 70 or more passes a year into his mid-30s. "In this system, where I know I'm going to get a lot of chances, I believe 1,000 is realistic," Carter says.
He shakes his head at how high Jerry Rice, soon to be 35, has set the bar (1,054 catches). "Times have changed, and receivers are catching so many more balls," Carter says. "How amazing is it that Jerry's got 400 more catches than almost any receiver still playing? He's got to be the greatest player ever."