If Patriots owner Robert Kraft were atop the masthead of any other NFL franchise he’d routinely get eggs tossed at his house by angry, fired-up local football fans.
But he is not the owner of the Jags or Jets, Raiders or Ravens, Packers or Panthers. He is the owner of your New England Patriots.
He is the former season ticket-holder who in 1994 bought this one-time sinkhole of a football club from James Busch Orthwein, thereby providing local ownership and financial stability.
He’s the guy who hired Bill Belichick and then stepped aside and allowed his new coach to do what he wouldn’t let Bill Parcells do, which is shop for the groceries.
After clumsy dalliances with trying get stadiums built in Hartford and Southie, he’s the guy who reached into the Kraft family piggy bank and built what eventually came to be known as Gillette Stadium.
In terms of local legends, he should be treated as though he’s Arthur Fiedler, Red Auerbach, Tip O’Neill, Jack Kennedy, Robert Gould Shaw and the original Boston Patriot, Paul Revere, all rolled into one.
And yet . . . it’s complicated.
Pats fans will cuff you one if you run afoul of In Bill We Trust, or if you attempt to make a case that Tom Brady is not the G.O.A.T. Yet while it’s understood that Kraft is the grown-up former Boston Braves baseball fan who turned the Patriots into the straw that stirs the sports drink around here, there’s an element out there that seethes over Papa Bob’s corporate bromance with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell has long since supplanted Ulf Samuelsson, Bucky Dent, Kobe Bryant and any and all Mannings as the biggest villain in Boston sports history. It was Goodell who acted as judge, jury and executioner in the matter of Tom Brady and Deflategate, ultimately forcing Our Tom to sit out the first four games of the 2016 season. Pats fans didn’t care about the fine, and got over the loss of draft picks. But the Brady suspension will never, ever be forgotten, even after the Pats got the last laugh via a history-making, Brady-led comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Goodell remains the bad guy.
And yet Kraft is perceived around here as a Goodell good ol’ boy. Because he is. Yes, there was some tough talk just as Deflategate was heating up, but as campaigns go it lasted about as long as “Chris Christie for President.”
This is where we are now. According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, it is none other than Robert Kraft who is trying to…