Keeping ties to team suits Modell just fine
Former Ravens owner is still a visible presence
Former Ravens owner Art Modell said of the organization: "It's part of my existence. ... It's been my life." (Sun photo by Kim Hairston / November 15, 2006)
Modell's reign as majority owner might have ended in 2004 with the sale of the Ravens to Steve Bisciotti, but his attachment to the team and its lifestyle did not.
On any given Wednesday or Thursday, he can be seen motoring around the team's Owings Mills practice facility in a golf cart - often with his wife, Pat - lunching with friends or chatting up former employees.
It's a less demanding routine that suits his unofficial position as owner emeritus with the Ravens. His 1 percent interest in the team is a lifeline that keeps him coming back for more.
"It's part of my existence," he said recently. "You can't take this ballclub out of me. It's been my life."
Once one of the league's most powerful owners, Modell is revered in Baltimore for bringing back the NFL. At the same time, he is reviled in Cleveland for moving the Browns' franchise.
These days, he navigates the Ravens' cavernous training facility in a wheelchair because his balance isn't quite what it used to be before a 2002 stroke. At 81, he shows the wear from 46 eventful - and sometimes turbulent - years in the NFL.
"The worst thing is not being able to get around himself," Pat said. "He's such a strong, sensitive man. It makes it very difficult. He has fits of depression."
Despite a spate of health issues the past few years, Modell still has a sharp mind and strong spirit. His presence permeates the team's complex, starting in the main lobby, where a life-size oil painting of a stoic Modell in a camel-hair coat greets visitors.
The painting and a second-floor office with a balcony overlooking the Ravens' practice fields are courtesy of Bisciotti, who purchased minority interest in the team in 2000 and took control in 2004.
"Art and I were partners for four years and I thought it was just a nice way to honor him," Bisciotti said of the portrait done by California artist Joe Liang. "He was leaving me in charge of something that he loved dearly for 40 years."
Except that Modell really hasn't left.
In addition to his practice excursions, he attends home games. Afterward, in his private suite, Modell reviews the day's events with coach Brian Billick.
During the week, he'll call general manager Ozzie Newsome two or three times, as well as old friends in the league, such as Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson.
At his home in Cockeysville (he and Pat have another in Vero Beach, Fla.), Modell enjoys visits from his four grandchildren, watches news shows and the Weather Channel with devotion, and gets daily exercise with the help of a therapist.
And when the question of retirement comes up during a 45-minute interview, Modell virtually bristles.
"I'm not retired," he said. "I'm not putting in the 80 hours a week I used to; those days are over. [But] I'm mentally active and I talk to my own people."
His "own people" include sons David, the former Ravens president, and John, who run Modell Ventures, a film production business. Modell said he also has controlling interest in Sportexe, a company that supplies artificial football surfaces (M&T Bank Stadium has a Sportexe surface).
Modell's stewardship in Baltimore has been distinguished by his participation in the community. He is a champion of charitable causes.