When I was a kid, I ran away from home a lot. I'd be doing something stupid, my parents would yell at me, I'd threaten to run away, and then when they seemed willing to call my bluff, off I'd go. Exactly where I went and how far I got depended on the weather and how mad I was at the time; if it was cold or rainy, I would usually just hide in the closet for a few hours before rejoining the land of the living. One time I ran away to the back yard and set up what was actually a pretty badass tree fort that totally could have sustained me until at least the fall, provided I could still go inside to eat and use the bathroom. I'm pretty sure the furthest I ever ran was down the street to my grandmother's house, where I watched a few hours of TV before heading back home.
But I always came back. I always calmed down, realized that whatever fight I was in wasn't nearly as bad as I thought, and I came back. And before long, I had completely forgotten why I was so upset in the first place.
Sadly, that was well over 20 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. For one, running away from home is no longer a viable solution to all these adult problems. And two, we now live in a very reactionary world. Everyone always wants to express their opinion these days, immediately and across many platforms, and the rampant availability of hundreds of online forums now makes that very easy to do. Whereas in years past there would have been plenty of time built in to calm down, take a walk, write a letter and tear it up, or whathaveyou, in the 21st century it's just so easy to take to the internet and share however you may be feeling at a given moment with the world that we often forget to just stop and process things before we fly off the handle.
Which is why, to a degree, I can understand why there are so many Patriots fans calling for Robert Kraft's head right now. Whether it's fury over him putting the league's best interest over his team's, his sudden 180 after coming out swinging, or his somewhat unexpected claim that he's just going to take his lumps and move on because he's sick of the whole thing, I've seen everything from "I'm disappointed" to "Kraft should sell the team and I'm never watching football again" coming out of the New England area. And of course, fans of other teams are absolutely loving it.
If you're upset about recent events, that's completely understandable, and you have every right to be; after all, it was certainly fun to think of scenarios in which Bob Kraft singlehandedly brought the league to its knees and got every single penalty levied against the team redacted in the wake of a formal apology from Roger Goodell. It was enjoyable to take an us against them mentality and fight for a just cause. And since it seemed like the longer all of this nonsense went on, the stronger New England's case against The Wells Report was, it was even easy to be optimistic about a severely reduced penalty and sentence regarding DeflateGate. But now with this recent press conference, it seems like all of that has more or less gone up in smoke. It would appear that by reluctantly accepting whatever penalties the NFL has decided to impose, Kraft is admitting guilt of wrongdoing in some capacity, even if the Patriots are in fact innocent.
And in all honesty, they may very well still be innocent. They may very well still be guilty. There isn't much evidence to support either side. But with Kraft choosing not to continue fighting here, it's very, very easy to say that there must have been something going on here and Kraft is now simply trying to play damage control. And nobody in Patriots Nation is happy about it; after all, why put up such a strong fight if you're just going to end up rolling over?
But if you're calling for Kraft's head this afternoon, if you're calling him a coward and a corporate suit and a savage disappointment of an owner who, just like everyone else, puts the bottom line before the good name of his team, I respectfully advise you to take a moment, back away from the keyboard, take a few breaths, and then come back to the issue after you've cooled off a bit. Immediate reactions to initial statements is what started this whole thing in the first place, and it's in everyone's best interests not to fan the flames.
The bottom line is that Bob Kraft saved this franchise in every way it could possibly be saved. He prevented the team from relocating to New Orleans. He kept the Patriots in the Boston area rather than ship them off to Hartford. He brought in quality leadership, smart football minds, and a stellar front office. He took this team from laughingstock, to relevance, to dominance. He has never made a poor decision or acted without the best interests of the team in mind. And now, whether we can see it or not, he probably just saved the team once again. Sure, the short-term hit is a big one, but in the court of public opinion the damage was already done and completely irreparable. Nothing at this point was going to stop those who choose to label the Patriots as classless cheaters from continuing to do so. God himself could open up the heavens, tell the world that New England is innocent here, and the first words out of Felger's mouth would probably be "I wonder how Kraft managed to pay off God?" So there was no coming back in that respect. Where there was room to save face, however, is in the long run. A lengthy appeals process that ended up going to court would more probable than not do more harm than good. The Patriots couldn't afford to isolate themselves further with other owners, many of whom were already siding with Goodell. And it's quite possible that Kraft saw this as an opportunity to enact positive, important change upon a league that is literally getting worse by the day. The Patriots are kings of the NFL, and Tom Brady is its face. When something happens involving the Patriots, no matter how minor, it's national news. So maybe this becomes the ultimate case study in altering the way the commissioner handles things. Perhaps the NFLPA is going to take this and run with it, and Kraft doesn't want to get in the way of that. It sucks that the Patriots are the ones to be on the forefront of it all, but there are only a handful of teams with the clout to actually make a difference, and this might be the only way to go.
Who knows. This is all conjecture. It has all been conjecture from the very start. But in all honestly, what did we really think was going to happen? Full reinstatement for Brady, the 1st round pick given back, the fine reduced, and Goodell crawls to the podium on his hands and knees, letter of resignation in hand, to apologize to the league for yet another bungled investigation that all would be a non-issue if he had just taken an initial complaint seriously and made one phone call?As sweet as that would have been, that just wasn't happening.
But couldn't he at least have tried??? Couldn't he at least have fought this thing right to the very end instead of just keeling over like this? If he doesn't win, fine, but at least he had the stones to stand up the league for once and make them bleed over this farce. Right?
In a perfect world, yes. But that just isn't how the world works, sadly. And perhaps that's what hurts the most - that many of us thought that Kraft was finally standing up to a crooked, broken, incompetent regime and doing what he had to do to right the ship. As an NFL owner, Robert Kraft made an explicit agreement not to sue the NFL. He simply wasn't able to take the league to court. And he had no real grounds to win off of an appeal, as the commissioner can pretty much do whatever he wants. So what else was he really supposed to do besides make some kind of deal with Goodell behind closed doors, say what he had to say, and try to move on?
So yes, let's be disappointed. Let's by all means wish that Kraft had taken this all the way to the mat. Let's wish that once, just once, something could get done the way it's supposed to get done without any shenanigans, politicking, and rich white men making deals behind closed doors. Let's express our frustration with all of that. But let's also recognize that we still have the best owner in this league, one who I wouldn't trade for anybody, and one who worked very hard to make sure that people in the New England area still have a team to root for - even a team who once again finds itself in the middle of a controversy.
I still support Bob Kraft, just as I still support the Patriots. He isn't a man who makes rash decisions, and if he says he was acting in the best interests of the team, I believe him. If taking this punishment meant getting Brady back on the field, or Goodell now deciding to lessen the penalty, or some other concession from the NFL, then it might have all been worth it.
Everyone is more than entitled to their own opinion, of course - but if yours right now involves a desire to see Kraft ousted from the team he basically built from the ground up, you might want to breathe a bit before sharing it with the world.