We all know that there are a lot of unsung heroes on the New England Patriots; looking back at it now, I probably should have started this little project weeks ago in order to give them all their proper respect. Unfortunately, the season is almost over, so I'll just have to chalk it up to one of my many failures and move on.
In the time I have had this past week, I've tried to pick the Patriots players or coaches that I think haven't gotten a lot of press, but will be instrumental in the Patriots' chances for a Super Bowl victory. There were plenty that I missed, and I probably could have done a better job with the ones I did pick, but I did the best I could.
What I don't want to do, though, is end this series on anything less than the absolute highest of high notes.
And to that end, there is no member of the Patriots organization, the National Football League, and perhaps the country, more deserving of the term Unsung Hero than Myra Kraft.
I'm more than a little embarrassed to say that I knew very little about Myra and what a remarkable woman she was until her recent passing. As a Patriots fan, my fandom was restricted only to knowledge about the players, the coaches, and the members of the front office directly involved in the game itself. I knew who Myra Kraft was, and was familiar with her one and only move in regards to personnel (her insistence that her husband not sign 1996 5th round draft choice Christian Peter after learning that he had a history of violence towards women), but other than that, I assumed she was just Bob Kraft's wife - nothing more. But as more and more people came forward to speak to how much Myra meant to them and the amount of good she did, the more I came to realize just how special she was and just how pivotal her role was in the cementing of what is now known nationwide as The Patriot Way.
"Locker room chemistry" is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the National Football League. Most would argue - correctly - that solid locker room unity starts from the top, and you don't get any higher up than the Krafts. The Pats are known for choosing men of high character - team captains, scholars, award winners - in the draft, and for being the organization where malcontent veteran players come to revive their careers and prove to the world that they can still play football. If they don't buy in to The Patriot Way, they are gone, no questions asked. In order to construct that kind of environment, and maintain its success for over a decade, you have to lead by example. And while I always thought that Bob did exactly that, holding himself just as accountable for his actions as the lowliest coaching assistant, little did I know that his wife made him look like Plaxtonio Scottmartie by comparison.
Myra Kraft exemplified what it was to put others before self, to give rather than receive, to surround yourself with class, and to make the world a better place through countless acts of charity, love, and kindness. A simple Google search for Myra's name will yield innumerable articles about what she stood for and how highly she was regarded in the eyes of the Patriots players. She was the driving force behind dozens of charities and organizations for the greater good. She was instrumental in raising over 100 million dollars that has gone towards education, youth sports, healthcare, and women's issues. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Tufts University, Williams College, The Harvard Business School, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Children's Hospital of Boston, and the United Way of Massachusetts all have Myra and The Kraft Group to thank for the help they have gotten over the years. I couldn't possibly begin to do all of her good works justice here, so I'm not even going to try.
As this season reaches its culmination on Sunday, a season the players have dedicated to Myra Kraft and her memory, I can't help but feel a little emotional over just how much one woman could mean to a group of men who in reality had no reason to associate with her other than that they simply, and genuinely, wanted to . Do players on other teams refer to the wives of their owners as "mamma"? Did 6'2", 365 pound linemen give them kisses before each game? Do running backs forgo spikes and end zone dances in lieu of pointing vehemently to a patch when they score touchdowns for their team? Do players on other teams all come together to present owners with memorial oil paintings, paintings that were funded out of their own pockets?
I don't know for sure - but I don't think that they do.
I don't want to write too much on Myra; I don't think I deserve it. But Bob has said it multiple times this season: the 2011 Patriots team is something special. There is a band of brothers in that locker room unlike any this franchise has seen in a long time. They are dedicated. They are hungry. They care about each other and they care about this team. They have proudly worn three simple letters over their hearts for every single snap of this season, a season that exists largely because of the efforts and sacrifice of a man who started from nothing and rose to prominence as one of the most influential men in professional sports. Anyone who thinks that these Patriots don't know what hoisting a Lombardi Trophy would mean to Robert Kraft in the wake of one of the saddest, darkest times he will ever have to endure simply hasn't been paying attention. Anyone who thinks that each man on this team won't leave every last shred of his soul out on that field on Sunday just doesn't understand that that small piece of land off Route 1 in Foxborough, Massachussetts stands for something far greater than any record, statistic, matchup, analysis, scandal, or business transaction you could possibly associate with it. Since 1994, the Patriots have built more than just a team. They have built a family. And the matriarch of that family is Myra Kraft.
Myra Kraft is more than a Patriots unsung hero. She is the woman behind the man that saved the NFL, and an angel on the shoulder of every Patriot about to take the field.
The Patriots are in the Super Bowl. And you're damn right they are going to do their mamma proud.