He remembered a holiday song during the 1980 season that began, "On the first day of Christmas, Art Modell gave to me …"
The owner's position in the city made the sense of betrayal that much deeper, Posnanski said, calling the loss of the Browns easily the worst episode in Cleveland's anguished sports history.
"There was this feeling that Art Modell understood Cleveland, that he knew us," the writer said. "When the talk first started that they might move, it seemed absurd. Art Modell? He had owned the team for 35 years."
The strange twist to this saga of antipathy is that few should be better attuned to Cleveland's feelings than Baltimore football fans. The name Irsay is still dirt in this town, 28 years after Mayflower vans hauled the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis and 15 years after the perpetrator, Robert Irsay, died and passed the team to his son, Jim.
The barbs Clevelanders direct at Modell sound so familiar it's eerie.
In 1998, the first time the Colts returned for a game in Baltimore, some fans wore T-shirts depicting a Raven urinating on Irsay's grave and others directed obscene gestures at Jim Irsay's box.
The next season, when the Ravens visited Cleveland for the first time, the Modells opted not to travel with the team. But outside the stadium, Cleveland fans merrily urged their dogs to defecate on a chalk outline of Modell.
Modell's public statements suggested he did not expect to be forgiven. When NBA superstar LeBron James fled Cleveland for Miami in 2010, some wondered whether he had supplanted Modell as the city's chief sports villain. But Modell told several media outlets he would remain the most hated.
His departure from Cleveland was not a perfect replica of Irsay's flight from Baltimore. As part of its settlement with the longtime owner, Cleveland got to keep the Browns name and uniforms. The city was without an NFL team for three seasons compared with 12 for Baltimore.
None of that dulls the pain, of course. And it hasn't helped that the resurrected Browns have posted only two winning records in 13 seasons. The Ravens have won a Super Bowl and made the playoffs eight times in that span.
"It was hard to watch him with the Lombardi Trophy," Wood said of Modell. "Not to take out the violin, but that's what happens to us. People leave Cleveland and then they win."
Wood said he took no joy from Modell's death. But he's not thrilled that Modell could one day be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton, Ohio.
"Let Baltimore have him; don't shove it in our faces," he said. "I think Cleveland fans are just happy to be done with this."
Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Preston contributed to this article.