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Westminster Barber Remembers David Modell

February 15, 2017
On a late summer Saturday at Cal Bloom's Barber Shoppe in 1997, a man in his early 30s came in. The door was slightly ajar to capture any breeze off that hot August day on 13 East Main St. in Westminster, Md. Business was slow, and Bloom was by himself when the man asked him a question. 

"Do you know who I am?" 

"You look kind of familiar," Bloom said.

"I'm David Modell," the man replied.

This moment marked the beginning of a 20-year relationship that ended last month when Modell died of lung cancer at the age of 55. 

But on that August day, Modell explained to the barber that whenever he was at summer practice, he would be getting his hair cut at Bloom's barber shop.

"A couple years later, after the season, he comes strolling in," Bloom said. "I told him, ‘I thought you were only coming during the summer. He says, ‘I'm here, aren't I?'"

This was classic David Modell, as many of the articles published about his life attest. According to Bloom, he liked to joke around and tell stories -- a person who loved connecting with people and making them feel special. 

Bloom cut hair in Westminster for 51 years. His shop is closed now, but his customers once included former Colts Billy Ray Smith and Johnny Unitas, from when the team practiced in the area.

"For Johnny, I'd take the clippers up the sides," Bloom said. "Then work them across the top to get that flat top." 

At first, Bloom wanted to cut Modell's hair for free. After all, Modell and his father, Art, had brought football back to Baltimore. All Bloom wanted was a couple of tickets to a Ravens game.

"I'll pay for the haircut and get you tickets," Modell said.

When the Ravens were on their way to play their first Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., in 2001, one of the buses crashed. Bloom called Modell to make sure he was OK. Modell had already arrived safely. After the Ravens beat the Giants for their first Lombardi Trophy, Modell called on a Friday afternoon to check on Bloom's availability for a haircut.

"I asked him if he was going to bring the trophy," Bloom said. "'We'll see,' he told me. Then here he comes through the door with a black leather bag, and out pops the trophy."

Modell had brought the trophy he called "Silver Betty" to the shop. Bloom's wife, Sue, is a photographer, and she was there to capture the moment. 

When Art Modell became ill in the years leading up to the second Super Bowl, David Modell called Bloom.

"When his dad got sick, I went down to [Johns] Hopkins hospital to cut his hair," Bloom said. "It was nearly once a month after that until he died. His wife, Pat, was there. We talked about football. He had fond memories of his time in Cleveland, but he never wanted to go back there. He was a jokester, like David, but he also had a quiet, inward side." 

Bloom didn't see David Modell much after Art passed away. Bloom said David Modell enjoyed the second Super Bowl victory very much, but his duties with the team had been pared back. In 2015, he received another call. David Modell needed a first haircut for his son, Bertie. 

By that time, David Modell had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and the treatment had begun to change his appearance.

"David never really told me that he was sick," Bloom said. "My wife sent him prayers through Facebook. That's how we knew. I trimmed him up as well. He was a little scraggly. I knew he was going through treatments. He didn't look real good."

Throughout the years, Bloom and David Modell shared many conversations.

"We talked a lot about the Ravens," Bloom said. "He loved Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden. We talked about the draft. He always told me that they were going to take the best player available at the time -- whatever looked good. He'd ask about my family. He had a joyful smile. He loved winning. I miss not being able to talk to him about football."

For David Modell, Bloom, like all of the Ravens players and fans, had become part of his extended football family. After 20 years of knowing Modell, Bloom always felt he could count on him. 

"I knew if I ever needed it, he would bend over backward to help me," Bloom said.

Issue 230: February 2017