By: Bob George/BosSports.net
December 09, 2010

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Tom Brady knows that this is a baseball area.

And it's a good thing. Right now, the Patriots are in the middle of the most significant season in four years. The Patriots have parlayed an offense in transition and a defense that perhaps doesn't know how to use a razor blade into a conference-best 10-2 record, and are in control of their own destiny to earn the top seed in the 2010 AFC playoffs. They just came off a trouncing of the New York Jets on the national stage on Monday night, winning the game in a total demolition of their divisional rival, 45-3.

It was one of the most feel-good Patriot wins in recent memory. Yet all you hear around these parts is Adrian Gonzalez, and now Carl Crawford.

The Red Sox this week pulled off two of the biggest deals in team history. On Sunday, they traded for San Diego first baseman Gonzalez, finally prying him loose from the Padres and all those ex-Theo Epstein minions in that front office. The price was top pitching prospect Casey Kelly and two other minor leaguers. Given Gonzalez's penchant for hitting to the opposite field, and given the right field fences will be moved in nine feet, Gonzalez is salivating over what his hitting numbers might be for the next six years.

The Red Sox will sign Gonzalez to a six-year extension just after the 2011 season begins, to save money on the luxury tax. The total package comes out to about $153 million. It was Mark Teixeira money. Now the Sox have their lefty bopper they didn't get two years ago.

The Sox held a press conference on Monday to introduce Gonzalez to the media. That evening at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots went out and took over first place in the division and the conference by beating blowhard Rex Ryan and his Jets into submission in a huge blowout win. All of New England shouted with joy that day and night, and now all of Patriot Nation is thinking Super Bowl.

But what were they shouting at? The huge Patriot win or the Gonzalez press conference?

Now three days later, you have this. A bombshell announcement into the wee hours of Thursday morning eastern time. Seemingly destined to be a Yankee and most likely to sign with the Angels, Crawford and the Sox agree on a seven-year, $142 million deal to bring the Tampa Bay left fielder to Boston. After years of bedeviling (no pun intended) the Sox while a Devil Ray with his spray hitting and unstoppable base stealing, Crawford now brings his act to the rival Red Sox. Just for good measure, Crawford, like Gonzalez, is a former Gold Glove winner at his position.

That's $296 million for two guys. And these are the Red Sox, who make money like New York and spend it like Oakland.

But that's beside the point. Who's more in the conscious of the New England fan base right now? The Patriots, who are poised for a serious championship run and who face another stiff opponent this Sunday at Chicago, or the Red Sox who have a lineup now that can stand toe to toe with the Yankees and have been installed by some experts as a favorite to make it to the 2011 World Series?

This is a dilemma that Bob Kraft and friends have been fighting all during Kraft's 16-year stewardship of ownership. Here you have arguably the most powerful owner in the league as well as one of the richest, and a team which has become the hallmark NFL franchise since Y2K, yet there have been times where some Patriot front office staffers have had to ask the local papers for more page one coverage. The perception that the Patriots play second fiddle to the Red Sox is perhaps more than just perception.

But why should the Krafts complain? Gillette Stadium is sold out every game and the waitlist for season tickets is measured in terms of years, just like New York (Giants) and Washington, just to name a few. Meanwhile, all you hear coming from the Red Sox is plummeting television ratings on NESN, which has gone completely HD and has spruced up most every aspect of its coverage of the Red Sox, though NESN still cannot touch ComCast SportsNet in terms of quality sports scoreboard and discussion shows. Right now, the Patriots are killing the Red Sox in terms of perception and appreciation.

But the Red Sox remain as relevant as ever, and can still make a bigger media splash than the Patriots, as evidenced by this week.

You cannot argue that the Red Sox will always be more endearing to this area than the Patriots. The Red Sox are 60 years older than the Patriots, which will end most debates about the popularity of the two teams right there. This column has explored the recent championships won by both teams, and concluded that the win by the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series was perhaps the greatest moment in Boston sports history as well as the most significant championship ever. The Patriot win in Super Bowl XXXVI came in second. As great as the region felt over the epic win by the Patriots to provide the first Super Bowl win in history, a win many folks around here never thought they'd see, the World Series win cut deeper into the soul of the region, as families exalted the long-awaited win and prayed for their lost loved ones who did not live to see it happen.

Make no mistake, both teams are on tremendous highs right now. Getting Gonzalez and Crawford was huge for the Red Sox. As long as they don't spend the entire season having to face lefty studs like C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, David Price, Mark Buehrle, Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson, and even up and coming talent like Baltimore's Brian Matusz all the time, the Red Sox will score lots of runs in 2011. The Sox still need to repair their bullpen and find a replacement for Hideki Okajima (among others), but otherwise the Sox now have arguably the best lineup in the American League.

If the Patriots do indeed get the top seed, it usually means a trip to the Super Bowl is coming. In their last five Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots were either the one or two seed. Only in 1985 did the Patriots advance to the Big Show as a Wild Card. With Brady playing lights out and the defense now starting to, in the words of Bill Parcells, "get it", the Patriots can play with anyone in the league and beat anyone in the league. As long as the Patriots continue to take care of league studs like the Bears this weekend, Super thoughts will continue to dance in the heads of Patriot Nation all the way into January and beyond.

In the end, who cares who gets more props, the Patriots or the Red Sox. Let them both garner as much press as they can. If the Sox remain above the fold and the Patriots below the fold, who cares. A Super Bowl win will still get the entire front page and a duck boat parade. Crawford and Gonzalez won't matter if the bullpen can't hold those big leads they provide.

Enjoy the holidays, and may both teams continue to pad your stockings with lots of holiday joy and happiness.

And don't forget those green and white guys either, who have the best record in the eastern conference and are one game out of the best record in the entire league.


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