Modell has a similar passion for the NFL. It was Modell who chaired the league's television committee and negotiated the TV contracts for three decades, which has led to millions of dollars for the league in revenue. It was Modell who was involved in the start of Monday Night Football. He was chairman of the Owners Labor Committee (1968), which successfully negotiated the league's first collective bargaining agreement, and served on the NFL-AFL Merger Committee, breaking the impasses for realignment of the two leagues by moving the Browns to the AFC.
Modell belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even some of the anger in Cleveland has started to subside. As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ira Miller wrote, "You can't write the history of pro football without [John] Elway and [Barry] Sanders, and you can't write it without Modell, either."
But today may mark the end of Modell's 43 years as owner of this franchise. He has left the franchise in great shape with eight Pro Bowl players, a quarterback of the future and plenty of cap room to make a serious Super Bowl run in the next two to three years.
Modell would prefer to go out without much fuss, but the organization won't let him. Around the Ravens' complex, there isn't a soul who will say a bad word about Modell.
They all speak of him with great reverence.
It has been earned. In 1996, Modell gave Baltimore the football again. He gave this city a three-hour escape from reality on Sundays during the fall and winter months. He helped put Baltimore back where it belongs, in the same league with the Green Bays, New Yorks and Dallases, other cities that have a storied past in the NFL.
Often though, Modell has been just as anonymous as some of the players behind those helmets and face masks.
But underneath was an engaging, gentle man who was just as compassionate for others as he was passionate about the game.