In the fall of 1981, I was a freshman at CalArts. I lived in the dorms, room 251. I had a small, black and white Regal television in my room, a luxury item back then. Most students watched the big TV in the lounge at the end of the hall. On Sundays, I liked to watch football, which put me at odds with most of my fellow students in Character Animation, and Cal Arts in general. I can still hear my roommate, Dan Jeup, mocking me. "Foootball, yu bet!"
I would watch a game while doing my laundry. It was usually the Rams, the Los Angeles team of thirty one years ago. They were playing the Cleveland Browns one afternoon, the original Cleveland Browns, when there came a knock. A guy at the door asked "Do you have the Browns on? Could I watch with you? They're watching a movie down the hall and won't change it."
I invited him in, he pulled up a chair, and proceeded to watch the game intently. He introduced himself as John, a guitar major. He watched for a few minutes, then asked, "You're not a Rams fan, are you?" I assured him my allegiance was to the Eagles, making it safe for him to openly cheer for his team, which ultimately lost the game. He thanked me for sharing, then left.
Days later, I was walking on campus with my friend Dave Coste, a music major. We passed John on his way to the dorms carrying a guitar case. John waved, and Dave and I both said, "Hey John."
"I didn't know you knew John." Dave said. I told him the story of the past Sunday. Dave shook his head and laughed. "That's John Modell." He said.
"Yeah?" I said cluelessly.
"His father is Art Modell."
"The owner of the Cleveland Browns."
"Oh." I said, ""No wonder he liked the Browns so much."
Art Modell died yesterday at age 86. I read that John and his brother were at his side when he passed. R.I.P.