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Ravens Former Owner Didn't Live to See Second Victory

February 4, 2013 By:
JTA
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Art Modell, the late owner of the Baltimore Ravens, has a hug for star linebacker Ray Lewis, 2001. (Courtesy Baltimore Ravens)

NEW YORK  -- The Ravens'  former Jewish owner didn't live to see his team win its second Super Bowl title and he didn't make it into football's hall of fame.

Sunday's victory against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII  came just five months after the death of former owner Art Modell, the Jewish Brooklyn native who moved the team to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996. Ravens players dedicated this season to Modell, wearing a patch with “Art” on their jerseys. 

A day earlier, he was eliminated in the first round of voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was the first time that Modell had qualified as one of the 125 names on the eligibility list and reached the final 15.

Modell died on Sept. 6. 

Modell's legacy is something of a touchy subject for football fans. Supporters see him as a brilliant businessman best known for his role in negotiations with the ABC television network leading to the creation of "Monday Night Football" in 1970, and for his support for community charities in Cleveland and Baltimore.

In Cleveland, Modell isn't remembered as fondly. After 34 years as owner of the Browns, Modell took the team to Baltimore in 1996 and renamed them the Ravens. Many Cleveland fans remain bitter over the loss of their team. 

David Modell said that many Cleveland fans wrote to him and his brother, John, to offer condolences after their father passed away. It seemed they forgave Modell, who sold the Ravens in 2004, for abandoning Cleveland and now remember him mainly as a football legend.

Although Modell's two sons are Catholic, children from the first marriage of his wife Patricia Breslin, David Modell said his father made sure to teach them the basic Jewish traditions of the religion he loved.

“My father wasn’t the type of man who wore his spirituality on his sleeve, but he was a quietly religious and very spiritual Jew," David said. "We knew that he carried around a piece of paper with God’s name in his pocket every day of his life. Every year he would light memorial candles for his parents death. He always attended temple on High Holidays. And Chanukah candles were so important to him that my brother in California and I Skyped together this year to light candles and recite the prayers.”

Modell had a special relationship with football players as well as fans, specifically with Ray Lewis, the Ravens' All-Pro linebacker who is retiring at the end of this season. Modell watched his team practice every day and had a father-son relationship with Lewis.

Unlike his former boss, Lewis did wear his spirituality on his sleeve -- or at least on his chest. Following a 24-9 playoff victory over the Colts earlier this month, Lewis removed his game jersey to reveal a T-shirt that read “Psalm 91,” which concludes with the line, "With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation."

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