By: Bob George/
March 21, 2004

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Last in a series of positional analysis of the 2003 New England Patriots. Today: ownership.

Sometime in November, Arlo Guthrie and his buddy will have dinner with Alice and Ray and a dog named Fasha.

They will sit down and give thanks, and they hopefully will know what to do with the garbage this time. Being somewhere out near Tanglewood, amidst the rural beauty of Berkshire County, in a town where Norman Rockwell once called home, it's a fair, albeit unfortunate, chance that Alice and friends are rabid Red Sox fans (Dan Duquette is from nearby Dalton, you know) and have little connection with football. But it just so happens that this gang loves football, having grown up Giant fans in the 1960s and eventually becoming huge Patriot fans when the team moved to Foxborough and felt that they were more in Patriot country than Giant country.

Anyway, Alice offers the blessing, and the good people begin to pass the platters around the dinner table. Turkey, dressing, gravy, peas, cranberry sauce, maybe some squash or sweet potatoes, and plenty of rolls with butter. Lots to be thankful for, with a delicious New England Thanksgiving meal right at the top of everyone's list. Alice also invited the recently widowed Officer Obie over for dinner, and everyone agrees that it's a lot better for him to dine with you than to arrest you for littering.

Ray is the first to speak after everyone serves themselves. "Boy, you know, here it is November, and I still can't get over that Super Bowl back in February!"

"Me neither!", Obie chimes in. "Was bad enough that the Sox blew another season, Pedro signed with the Yanks and Nomar with the Dodgers. Makes me real happy that ah'm a Patriot fan!"

"Damn right!", declares Arlo. "Far as ah'm concerned, the Patriots are the best team in this area! Makes you wonder why anyone would want to go to Fenway ever again!"

"Bite your tongue!", Alice shouts. "Fenway is sacred! I first went there when I was seven years old. Ray and I spent our second wedding anniversary at a Red Sox game. But I will say that the Patriots are definitely the best team around. I'd much rather watch a Patriots game than watch Lee and Lenox try and kill each other every year!"

Ray then says, "You know, I think we ought to raise our glasses to the Patriots. They won their second Super Bowl in three years. I stopped watching the Celtics and Bruins years ago. All the Red Sox do is choke and lose players they should be keeping. But the Patriots are the class of the NFL. And they're the class of New England. I think they deserve a sentiment from us all!"

"You know who we should be giving thanks to?", says Arlo's friend. "How about that owner, Mister Kraft? Boy, he sure can dance good, can't he?"

"Great idea!", says Obie. "Let me go first." He raises his glass. "Here's to Bob Kraft, who hired the best coach in the business, Bill…Bell…Bella…whatever, all I know is that he's the best coach in the league. Kraft traded something like a first round draft pick for this guy. And he's won two Super Bowls. Kraft really turned the team around when he brought him in…dadgummit, what's his name?"

"Belichick", says Alice.

"Yeah, Bellachuck. Here's to Bob Kraft and Bellachuck! Go Patriots!"

It's Arlo's friend's turn. "I want to salute Kraft for building that new stadium. Never been there, but it looks great on the tube. Don't know why they left out three or four sections. But that stadium's a beauty. Someday I want to go down there and throw snow in the air. I want to hear AC/DC, U2 and all those tunes they blare over the speakers. They didn't lose a game there all season long. I hated that old dump they used to play in. This place rocks. Here's to you, Mister Kraft, for building that new stadium. By the way, how do I get season tickets?"

Arlo advised his friend of the years he'd have to wait for season tickets, then took his turn. "All ah want to say is that the Patriots are the model organization of the NFL. The Patriots have perfected the art of winning while keeping in line with the salary cap. The reason they are Super Bowl champs once again is because the Patriots foster a team first attitude and don't overpay for top players. Ah salute you, Mister Kraft, and ah wish you'd tell that Ty Law to keep his darned mouth shut!"

"He's gonna wind up just like Milloy, you wait and see!", declared Ray. "You know, before I met Alice, my dad and I used to go to Yankee Stadium and see the Giants. Never thought I'd ever root for another team. I used to cheer for players like Sam Huff, Rosey Grier and Y.A. Tittle. I became a Patriot fan when Chuck Fairbanks led the Patriots to the playoffs in '76. But I never really accepted the Patriots as a true quality team, until Bob Kraft bought the Patriots and made them what they are today. The Patriots are a class organization, and they have Kraft to thank for that. I could never go back to being a Giant fan now. I'm proud of the Patriots, and I'm proud of Mister Kraft and that family of his!"

Alice spoke last. She took a deep breath, composed herself, and poured out her thoughts slowly and carefully. She was now on her fourth glass of wine, having drank the first three while preparing the holiday meal. She was thus unusually eloquent and introspective.

"What scares me is when I hear stories of the Patriots nearly moving to St. Louis. Back about ten years ago, I recall Ray and I talking about how great it was that the Patriots were getting themselves a real football coach, Bill Parcells. But after his first year, the Patriot owner wanted to move the team to St. Louis because their team moved to Arizona. Then Mr. Kraft, who owned the stadium at the time, stepped up and bought the team, and kept them right here in Massachusetts. Ray and I felt so relieved that the team wouldn't be moving, that they would stay put. Ray was excited that Parcells was going to stay as coach right here, but I felt deeper feelings towards the Patriots that I didn't tell him about until many years later.

"For so many years, the NFL has been the class league in all of pro sports. It just seems that the NFL defines America better than baseball does, and that the Super Bowl is practically a national holiday. And, for so many years, the Patriots were always the brunt of cruel and nasty jokes. Everyone laughed at the Patriots. They were called Patsies and treated as second-class citizens. In the highest profile league in America, the Patriots were at the bottom of the barrel, a New England embarrassment most of the time.

"And then they finally make it to a Super Bowl, but they get crushed by the Bears and then crushed by a huge drug scandal. Then some poor girl named Lisa Olson gets mistreated by some pervert Patriot players, and the CEO of Remington comes away with his professional reputation forever tarnished. It seemed that the Patriots would always be associated with negative things, and that in a league which usually featured anything Cowboy, Raider, Dolphin or 49er, the Patriots would forever languish in obscurity, shame and oblivion.

"But then Mister Kraft came along and changed everything. Now we are a proud franchise, twice champions, and the model for all sports to follow. It was Mister Kraft that made us what we are, and what we hope to be in the future. It was he who kept us in the region, who brought in the right people to do the job, and who nurtured the "team first" concept. We are the best team in the NFL right now, and it is thanks to Mister Kraft for doing what he did.

"So, I raise my glass on this Thanksgiving to Mister Kraft. Thanks to you, sir, for making us all champions."

The four men stood there, mouths open like codfishes. After about fifteen seconds, they finally thought to draw the glasses to their mouths and drink in the holiday spirit. Arlo was so mesmerized that he privately decided to write another paean to Alice. After thinking it over, he may write one about Mister Kraft first.

The five then delved into their Thanksgiving fare, breaking off into conversations about the townsfolk, the weather, and how the Sox managed to blow it again this year.

This concludes our positional analysis series for 2003.