Former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell died of natural causes last week at the age of 87.
Before his death, several Ravens including linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed visited him in the hospital. Art’s son David was so touched by this that he decided to give something back to the fans.
He held a public viewing for fans to pay final respects to his father at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday. Thousands of fans showed up for the public viewing. I was one of them. It is something I will never forget, it was an emotional roller coaster that ended on a high note.
It was a beautiful day in Baltimore, the sun shined as if Art was smiling down on the stadium. At the request of the family, fans wore purple to honor Art and support their beloved Ravens.
The casket was placed in a tent on the 50-yard line. The Lombardi Trophy, won by the Ravens in 2001, sat next to it for fans to see and touch.
There was a sense of calm in the air as we waited in line to pay final respects to the Modell family. Conversations could be heard about the Ravens, about Art and about the Orioles. Frank Sinatra songs played in the background; I felt the love.
The Jumbotron displayed a slide show of pictures of Art, he was shown with his late wife Patricia, with current and former Ravens and of him holding the Lombardi Trophy.
The Modell family greeted us as we entered the tent. I personally gave condolences to his sons David and John and daughter-in-law Michel. They thanked me for coming and I thanked them for everything their father did for Baltimore.
Former Ravens’ offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was also in the receiving line. It was fitting that the Ravens’ first draft pick was there to support the Modells.
The walk through tent was a bittersweet experience; I was overwhelmed with a mix of emotions. While I was excited to meet J.O., one of the greatest Ravens of all-time, it was not so awesome meeting him under the circumstances. By the time I got to David Modell, who stood next to the casket, the tears came… David gave me a hug and thanked me coming.
Then I saw the Lombardi Trophy and more mixed emotions came over me. I had never seen the real trophy, it was exciting. The trophy was covered in fingerprints and it felt good to add mine. It also reminded me how hungry I am to win another one. I was even more appreciative of Art Modell and more tears streamed down my face.
I walked off the field and sat in a lower level seat to grieve some more and collect my thoughts. I was grateful that I got to say thank you and good bye to the man who gave me my purple passion.
I’m not sure it is possible for me to love the Ravens more than I already do, but I do. I felt the sense of “family” I heard some of the Ravens talk about in interviews last week. They truly care about their people and their fans.
I reflected on the timing of Art’s death and how fitting it was that the man who created Monday Night Football will be honored by his former team in a Monday Night season opener in Baltimore.
The Ravens will play with heavy hearts this season, but heavy hearts can bring extraordinary motivation.
Art’s funeral will be held Tuesday at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations can be made to: The SEED School in Baltimore.