"PB: The Paul Brown Story" presently is a low grade tempest in a Middle America teapot that is gathering steam, from book stores in Cleveland to the Browns' executive suite to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
Rozelle is going to have to rule on Cleveland owner Art Modell's complaint that his former coach, Paul Brown, now in control of the Cincinnati Bengals, violated the NFL regulations against publicly criticizing another club's management.
Normally, Modell delights in bantering, with wit to spare. Now he is as reticent as Brown had a longtime reputation for being.
The dust jacket blurb on Brown's book, written in collaboration with sportswriter Jack Clary, says, ". . . after a long silence, it is the first full and complete account of his (Brown's) stormy relationships with famed running back Jim Brown and Browns owner Art Modell."
In his book, Brown recalls No. 1 draft choice Ernie Davis of Syracuse being stricken with acute leukemia in the College All-Star training camp before joining the Browns.
Brown writes, "Modell came to me one day and said, 'Put him in a game, and let him play. We have a big investment in him, and I'd like to get some of it back.
"It doesn't matter how long he plays;, just let him run back a kick, let him do anything, just so we can get a story in the paper saying he's going to play and the fans will come to see him. If he has to go, why not let him have a little fun?"
Modell was asked Monday to comment on that and other remarks about him in the book and replied. "I have nothing to say; I am not talking about it to anyone."
A Cleveland newspaper published exerpts from the book for seven days. Burrows' book store reported Monday that it sold 200 copies in the first week of sales. An advertisement was accepted for Sunday in the Cleveland Browns' issue of "Pro!", the publication that the National Football League sells at games. It notes that Brown will make personal appearances at two book outlets in the Cleveland area on Oct. 18.
Brown's Bengals (0-6) play Modell's Browns (4-2) in 80,385-seat Cleveland Stadium on Oct. 21. In view of the controversy, Modell was asked if the stadium would be big enough to accommodate the anticipated crowd. "We have no plans to expand," Modell said in good humor.
Does he have any plans to change the nickname of his team, since some people content originally was named for Paul Brown?
"I have no comment."
In the book, Paul Brown says of Hall of Fame fullback Jim Brown," "Jim's biggest problem was his attitude, and his worst enemy was himself. I often felt he really couldn't stand himself and that this inner resentment touched everyone with whom he came in contact.
"By nature he was an unhappy man, it seemed to me. Throughout his time with us he was a loner and never said much to anyone. He had few friends on the team, and none of long standing. I've been told the roots of these games were in his childhood, particulary his adolescent years on Long Island (New York); his mother toiled as a maid in the homes of some of his high school teammates, who often taunted him about it, even though he was a great athlete who brought fame and recognition to their school.
". . . Until Jim came to the Browns, we never had any black-white issues or attitudes, yet in his second year he told me he no longer wanted to room with Bobby Mitchell (now executive assistant to Edward Bennett Williams, president of the Redskins) and demanded that we put him with a white player.
"I told him to get any roommate he wanted, but the man had to agree to room with him, too. It had to be mutually agreeable, not forced. That was the last I ever heard of it."
Paul Brown also said of Jim Brown, "With the exception of his lackadaisical approach to practice and blocking, I never faulted his total effort in any game he played for the Browns and never hesitated to compliment him for his outstanding play.
"As a pure runner he stands alone. Those who try to compare him with O. J. Simpson are comparing apples to oranges, no pun intended. O. J. is more of a will o' the wisp runner, in the same style as Bobby Mitchell, while Jim combined power, acceleration, speed and great balance with an inner toughness that never conceded the slightest edge to anybody.
"Still, I could never excuse his lack of effort in blocking, which in some instances was so poor that pass rushers went right past him; other times, he failed to help other running backs when he was the lead blocker."
Jim Brown said on the telephone from Los Angeles that he had read the book. "Basically, not to be evassive," Jim said, "I really don't have much to say. The reason is, I think Paul honestly tried to tell things as he saw them, but he didn't understand the racial aspects of the 1950s and 1960s, when he tried to use psychology, when he said what he thought my personality is.
"The comment about Bobby Mitchell was the worst of all. Bobby is one of my best friends and knows it. He was as great a player as any I ever saw.
"Paul only saw things from his own perspective and it was pretty high-collar. As far as my blocking was concerned, he was absolutely right. It is difficult to be a racehorse and a plow horse at the same time.
"Paul represented in general what white America thought at the time. White America always felt that black Americans who enjoyed great status in football ought to be satisfied.
"I was a symbol of a black man who wanted all of my freedoms. as to his reference to my mother -- I think one would have to get a psychiatric report to make a judgment like he did . . . that's way too heavy; that's deep. When you write a book an try to psychologize, you don't have too many facts to lay out. That's way out of the range of Paul's depth.
"It's very difficult for white America to understand that if you are part of football's elite why you are not satisfied with recognition and good money; yet, if you went into the wrong neighborhood you were in trouble. As an American citizen, I wanted the same rights as all Americans. Anyone who expected me to be overjoyed that I was doing well in football would be disappointed.
"That's when we had the riots in Watts and there were dissatisfactions being demonstrated all over the country.
"On the other hand, Paul was one of the first to bring blacks into the NFL. But that's only a thing that should have been done anyhow.
"I have no gripes. When someone writes a book he is expected to make comments. I benefited from football. I have no great grudge against anybody. I left when I was on top; my health is good. I showed up for every practice -- I think. I played every game. They paid me well. I hope Paul has luck and I hope Art has luck, and I hope they wish me some, because I have no gripes.
"I am going to do a book, but I don't have a hatchet in my hand. I know Art well and I knew he would have nothing to say about Paul's book."
Since Modell has declined to use the safety valve of letting off some steam by commenting on the book, a temperature was taken among some people close to him.
Modell is said to be most incensed at Brown's accusation in print that the owner was trying to exploit terminally ill Ernie Davis at the gate, and by an allegation that Modell once rooted for the opposition to score a touchdown.
On pages 280-281, Brown's book says, "Later (in 1962), in a game the Cowboys which we eventually won, 19-10, we had taken the lead when Modell told one of our ground crew that he hoped Dallas would run back the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. It was at times like this that I made a point of keeping the league office aware of the situation."
Modell was represented by an acquaintance as being distressed by that because it could be interpreted as meaning he might have bet on games. The source said Modell had never appeared on a field for a home game before, during, or after a game.
As to exploiting Ernie Davis while ill, the source wondered, how much could Modell have recouped on his investment in Davis by appearing for a few plays? The source recalled that Davis once was introduced on the field between the games of a double-header and emphasized that it was done without any announcement prior to that date.
Brown writes of a stockholder in a club who "used to call me for information on our upcoming games, and I never understood why until I found out that he was betting on football games, forbidden for all owners by the NFL constitution. I reported these calls to (the late commissioner) Bert Bell, as required by the rules, and a short time later he was ordered by Bell to sell his stock because of conduct detrimental to football."
Brown writes that when Modell bought the Browns in 1961 and eventually dismissed him, "it was the darkest period of my life." He likened himself to "Napoleon on Elba." Brown accuses Modell of encouraging the players to go over his head and buying them drinks in an airport.