Tom Brady, Fandom and Priorities

September 9, 2015

If you are a sports nut you probably came across an ESPN Boston poll in which 20% of the respondents stated that the judicial decision to throw out the four game suspension of Tom Brady was ” The Best Day of My Life” or as Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy mused, as better than their engagement or wedding, the birth of their child or years of friendship with their “bestie.” Whoa! Now that’s a statistic to ponder for a bit.

The whole Deflategate was a childish sideline to punish the Patriots for cheating (which still may be justified) instead of concentrating on concussion compensation, spousal abuse, performing enhancing drugs and general criminal behavior. But when 20%. of the fans equate the decision to ” Free Brady” with the signature events in most people’s lives that says something about how screwed up football aficionados have become in these parts. Boston was recently named the “best” sports town in America and perhaps this poll gives credence to that status- “best” perhaps meaning misplaced priorities.

The Patriots season starts tomorrow and if the team, the coach and the owner aren’t embroiled in another distracting scandal, the Pats should be headed to the Superbowl again. But as they move toward another championship it would be nice, or more to the point, mature, if the fandom recognized the obvious – football is a game played by men who make a lot of money and really don’t care too much about the adoring fans. Patriots football is not war, anti-terrorism, resettling thousands of sad people or police being executed; no, it is a game.

Changing the sporting habits of the ” Get a Lifers” in the stands and in front of the flat screen television is not in the cards – wives have given in to Sunday afternoons with the boys in their man caves sucking down beers and family time whenever a game is on has become Patriots time. It used to be the phrase most remembered by families on Sunday was, ” The family that prays together, stays together.” That wise proclamation has now been replaced by ” The family that worships the Patriots, rarely talk to each other.” If we could only get our priorities straight.

Watergate and Deflategate

May 12, 2015

This blog entry won’t be long since just about everyone in New England has offered their opinion on Tom Brady, the Patriots and the National Football League. What I will say is that one of the lasting lessons of the political crisis of the Nixon administration, commonly called Watergate, is that often the cover-up is more damning than the crime.

Breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee to steal documents was indeed a crime and low level crooks got arrested and did time. But the Watergate crisis occurred because President Nixon engaged in a cover-up by not releasing documents related to the case, told his underlings to engage in all sorts of legal and political maneuvers to stop the special prosecutor, and likely destroyed a Oval Office recording device that probably held incriminating conversations.

Nixon stonewalled, held fast to his arrogance of power, saw his tormentors as enemies, and in the end brought himself disgrace as he resigned from office.

That was 1974, but Deflategate has many similarities to Watergate – an unwillingness to cooperate with authorities, a refusal to hand over phone texts, outright lies to the press, the prosecutor, the public, and a view that the Patriots are somehow above reproach and deserve to be treated in a special manner.

Sure the PSI of the football is to most fans insignificant ( that really had no impact on the outcome of the game) and Tom Brady is the best quarterback in football ( and a football god in these parts). But when faced with allegations of actions that gave the Patriots a competitive edge during a championship game, what did the all-American hero do? He engaged in a modern day cover-up filled with lies, half truths; he refused to cooperate with the NFL; and  he revealed an arrogant attitude born from the view that he and the Patriots were above the rules. Luckily for Tom Brady, he only got a four game suspension, the team lost two draft picks and owner Bob Kraft, a billionaire, has to pay a million dollar fine. Remember for his cover-up Nixon lost the presidency.

Patriots-Packers – Packers-Patriots

November 20, 2014

It’s funny how the experiences of your childhood never leave you even at a later stage in life. I was born and raised in Wisconsin and lived and breathed the Green Bay Packers. There is an old saying in the Badger state that fall is the season for deer hunting and watching the Packers.

Well I am now here in the Bay State for nearly fifty years and root for the Boston teams, but I just can’t get those Wisconsin temas out of my head. Our daughter Laura is headed to Lambeau Field in Green Bay next weekend to cheer on the Patriots in front of 70,000 friendly but rabid Packer fans. She is a brave Patriots fan and I am sure will survive the catcalls of the home town folks as she yells for Brady and the Bunch.

She will be sitting with my godson who got the tickets and of course is one of those rabid Packer fans; he even has a piece of the frozen tundra from the famous Ice Bowl of the 1960s in his basement Packer shrine.

I certainly will be watchiang the game, which is likely to be a tune-up for the playoffs and perhaps the Super Bowl. But my problem is that nagging childhood support for the green and gold. In my head will be a little voice that cries out for the Packers, while in my heart will be a little throbbing in support for the Patriots. Which way to go is the question?

I kind of hope for a Patriot blow-out, which will for a time silence the Packer in me, but if the score is close or controversial than I know I will be torn apart inside as I try to take a side and justify my tortured fandom.

Of course, what happens on next Sunday in Green Bay, the little town that could, is only a game and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But the issue is not so much the game but how I watch the game and how I think about the victors and the defeated. You just can’t get rid of childhood memories that easily. Here’s to the Patriots, or maybe the Packers.

National Felony League

June 25, 2013

Awhile back some wiseguy columnist ( not me ) changed the name of the National Football League to the National Felony League to reflect the fact that far too many of the players in professional football were either past criminals, pending criminals or criminals in waiting. These felons may have been excellent athletes and star players, but their off field bad boy behavior was troubling or should be troubling even to diehard fans.

Up here in New England Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan Kraft boasted about the Patriot Way, an organizational commitment to hire and keep players who had character and followed the straight and narrow both on the field and especially off the field. With players like Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi and Matt Light, it was easy to boast about the Patriot Way.

But somewhere along the way, the Patriot Way broke down. I personally think it was when Myra Kraft got sick and eventually went to her eternal reward that her role as a moral compass for her husband, son and for the team ended the Patriot Way.

This is admittedly a simplistic answer to the demise of the Patriot Way, since coach Belichick along with the Krafts decided to follow the rest of the league and take a chance on felons or bad boys with serious character issues. I guess this could be called the Ray Lewis model. Players like Donte Stallworth, Albert Haynesworth, Nick Kazsur, Brandon Spikes among others tarnished the name of the Patriots as character was replaced by athletic reputation or athletic experience. All of sudden we read about players beating up women, drinking to excess, carrying unregistered guns, flaunting their homophobia or being just plain stupid.

Now there is Aaron Hernandez to add to the failure of the Patriot Way. Hernandez is of course innocent until proven guilty and he may be just an innocent bystander. But there is enough suspicious activity surrounding this murder case that the Patriots have another bad boy problem, and that doesn’t even include the lawsuit from Florida alleging that Hernandez shot a guy in the eye outside a strip club. Whatever happened to a quiet dinner with a wife or girl friend?

Professional sports has been fixated on steroid use for so long that it has lost sight of the problem of off field behavior that ruins the image of the team and the league. Certainly there are far more good guys playing the game than bad apples, but there are too many of these felons or near felons around. Maybe the Krafts and the other owners need to have a priest or minister around the team to give these ethically challenged players some lessons in following the right path. God I wish Myra Kraft were still alive.

O The Injustice!

September 26, 2012

No matter where you end up in life, you rarely lose those connections of your youth. In my case it is Wisconsin and the Green Bay Packers. So when I saw that bogus call by the replacement refs in the final seconds of the game, I started yelling at my flat screen.

I continued my rant when I heard of the NFL’s final decision to uphold the bogus call, and joined Aaron Rodgers in wondering why a multi-billion dollar enterprise can’t settle a basically petty dispute with the real referees.

But it gets a little more complicated because as a newly minted New England Patriots fan and the father of a daughter who gives new meaning to the term Patriots fanatic, I was equally upset when the Baltimore Ravens took away a Patriots victory in a highly suspect field goal that was called good by again the replacement refs.

So to make a long story short, my life as a Packer and Patriots fan is filled with a mix of anger, sadness and anger ( and let me add anger to the mix). Labor disputes that drag on for weeks and weeks always create inconvenience, name-calling and huge voids in services that are taken for granted.

The real refs want more money and pensions, but who doesn’t. The NFL is trying to hold the line on costs and views the refs as incidental employees who are not important to the show. Boy were they wrong. This dispute will end, perhaps in the next 24-48 hours, but the losses by the Packers and Patriots are on the books and who knows may come to haunt both teams down the road.

I really don’t have sympathy for the replacement referees, since they certainly must have known what they were getting into, but of course saw the dollar signs. Now as a result of their incompetence, they will go down in NFL history as labor scabs, petty opportunists and lousy football officials. Not much of a legacy for a few extra bucks.

As for the Packers and the Patriots, I am on my knees praying to the football God that the Super Bowl has these two teams fighting it out on neutral ground with real officials.