You have to watch that video for the context of this blog.
On this day in 1994, Robert Kraft officially purchased the New England Patriots for $175 million dollars from James Orthwein. Inflation is a bicccchhh! In the 26 years since, it's safe to say RKK made the right call going against everything he knew in business by purchasing the team. (graph)
I could go on and on like the fault in our stars song about the success of the franchise; not only since Tom Brady became starting QB week 3 of the 2001 season, but since 1994 when Mr. Kraft bought the team (every game has been a sell-out). I could talk about how the Patriots used to have games blacked out or how they only hosted one playoff game (a 31-14 loss in 1978 Divisional Round to the Oilers) at Foxboro Stadium prior to his ownership or how the Patriots were basically orphans until the 1970s. I'm not going to do that; I've spent years of my life doing that. You can read plenty of other blogs or articles for information on that topic.
This post is an appreciation of Robert Kraft literally saving the New England Patriots as a professional sports franchise in Massachusetts (and New England in general). It's about the horrors of what the owners of professional sports franchises do to the cities and regions that so loyally support them. How RKK saw his boyhood team the Boston Braves leave the city; how much that hurt him growing up and shaped him. He stopped that from happening again to an entirely new generation of fans.
I don't think many people, especially my age and under understand that had RKK not had the foresight to buy Foxboro Stadium when the Sullivan family lost basically everything trying to fund a Michael Jackson tour there would be no professional football in New England; at least not the Patriots. It may be impossible to fathom given the success of the organization today, but there are no more New England Patriots without Robert Kraft. They were going to move to St. Louis.
In 2020 I swore I'd learn how to read and the basic rules of punctuation. In attempts to hold up my end of the bargain, I've been reading I Never Played the Game by Howard Cosell.
I'm about 200 pages in and loving it. This is a quick, relevant tangent... I am currently obsessed with all things Howard Cosell. As a sports historian, he is my sports media hero. He's one of the most important people in the history of sports IMO. The NFL would not be where it is today without him. He's gotten a horrible wrap for being authentic (sound familiar?) and it's an absolute travesty he's not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his contributions to the growth of the sport. My admiration for Howie is for another day, but entirely relevant to this post.
In I Never Played the Game, Cosell goes as my contemporaries would say "in" on the hypocrisy and idiocy in sports. Three of the first four chapters of the book are about how owners will turn a blind eye to communities that supported them. The battle between Al Davis and Pete Rozelle over the Raiders moving to Los Angeles is fascinating. Davis challenged the legality of the NFL constitution when he moved the team to LA against the approval of the other owners. As someone with an 8th grade history textbook's worth of knowledge on anti-trust laws and monopolies I feel like I learned so much. Al Davis isn't the only owner who's moved a franchise, and he sure as hell won't be the last. My bigger point is that we think of sports as this part of us that will never leave, but these billionaire owners will jump ship as soon as there's a sexier offer across the country. While I referenced Al Davis; he is nothing like these slithering owners I'm referencing.
If you're my age or younger you may not even know that the Brooklyn Dodgers were the most profitable team in the National League when they left Brooklyn for Los Angeles. Or that the Indianapolis Colts were the Baltimore Colts from 1953-1984 before they moved in the middle of the night to Indy like cowards; turning a blind eye to a community that loved and supported them for over 30 years. It may be difficult to fully wrap your head around it now because so much time has passed but the Baltimore Colts were a classic NFL franchise with a passionate following. The Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles are historically relevant franchises that would seem impossible to play elsewhere, but both nearly did. Imagine the landscape of sports without the Philadelphia Eagles. Like many teams, the Colts had an aging stadium that wasn't able to compete with the modern cookie-cutter multipurpose stadiums of the time. When the city didn't give him what he wanted, owner Bob Irsay just up and left; basically told millions of fans to fuck themselves because of the new stadium, the Hoosier (later; RCA) Dome in Indy. This could've been the Patriots fate had a few things gone differently.
The perplexing issue with sports is that of their importance. What I have learned the last few years is that sports don't really matter; at least not like I used to think they do. It's absurd to think the outcome of a game played by strangers has such a heavy impact on our day-to-day lives, but then again they totally do. To a certain extent I love it and despite what I just said; I'm just as guilty. I mean it's why this blog even exists in the first place...my love of sports.
You can call them silly little games all you want, but the fact of the matter is sports are a multi-billion dollar industry in this country; at times they seem bigger than religion. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but it's reality; at least for now. They matter.
Sports are such a big part of community, the economy, family and self-identity. The memories and moments can shape our upbringing. I vividly remember watching the entire 2004 Red Sox playoff run with my mom. Those are moments and memories that shaped me into who I am today.
You can use almost any sport or city in the country as an example. Even if they haven't had the success of the Patriots (nobody has). I'm sure there's people in Denver who fell in love with baseball during the 2007 Rockies World Series run or kids in New Orleans that watched the Saints win the Super Bowl with their parents who never thought they'd see the day AND HAD THEIR CITY DESTROYED BY A FUCKING HURRICANE. There are "kids" in every nook and cranny of America that have used college or professional sports to bond and connect with a loved one. What I experienced that fall with my mom is not uncommon. Sure, I (along with all Boston sport fans under the age of 30) were born in the golden age of dominance. Luckily, the Patriots and their historic, nearly 20 year long, double-dynasty were able to be apart of those memories because without Robert Kraft there's a great chance they'd be somebody else's.