By: Bob George/BosSports.net
August 25, 2012

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Bob Kraft continually complains that the Red Sox get more media coverage than the Patriots despite the Patriots being ostensibly a better on-field product over the years. Sometimes it's sour grapes, but other times, like Friday night, it's justified.

The timing wasn't good for the Patriots. Their "dress rehearsal game" against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday night at Raymond James Stadium didn't portray a defending AFC champion ready to head to another Super Bowl. For the third straight game, the offensive line looked subpar, Tom Brady was hurried and hit all night long and threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown, and only a nice fourth quarter by Ryan Mallett against scrubs made the score close, 30-28 for the Bucs.

Both Bill Belichick and Brady were disgusted with their team's performance, especially the coach, and with good reason. It doesn't completely portend a bad season on the horizon for the Patriots, as last year's 34-10 loss at Detroit for the third preseason game likely didn't tell you they'd wind up in Super Bowl XLVI. But right now, the offensive line still looks decrepit, and long time OL coach Dante Scarnecchia still has work to do, but he's still the guy to do the fixing, and perhaps none finer in the NFL for such a job.

But on a night which is usually a major benchmark for the Patriots, the Boston sports world has been shaken to the core with the earth shattering events at 4 Yawkey Way.

The Red Sox, mired in a woeful sub-.500 season and rife with more issues and gossip fodder than a single episode of All My Children or General Hospital, pulled off one of the biggest trades in MLB history with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a colossal salary dump, or clubhouse cleansing, or both, the Sox dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for 1B James Loney and four minor league prospects, including two blue-chip pitching prospects. The Red Sox will assume only around $12 million of the money owed to those four players, which means that the Dodgers will take on around $260 million in salary. The deal itself is incredibly dizzying in trying to fathom and absorb, but in the end the Red Sox got incredibly lucky and can now begin rebuilding and remaking the roster, as well as the public perception of the team.

The Patriots, meanwhile, continue to do what they do and seemingly not care about what anyone thinks about them. They can withstand things like the strange releasing of DL Jonathan Fanene this week for this new "failure to disclose injury" designation and get only a miniscule amount of scrutiny from the doting public. A poll taken recently by CSSNE showed that the Boston/New England sports public affirms that this area is officially a football area, as the Patriots beat the Red Sox in the classic "which team do you like the most" question.

Now, back come the Red Sox with a vengeance. It won't have one ounce of bearing on whether or not the Patriots will finally find those extra three points to overcome the Giants in February, but it will have a big deal next March when Brady and his wife are chilling in Brazil, hopefully celebrating his fourth Vince in a Hall of Fame career.

How badly did the principals want this deal to go down? Gonzalez is scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Saturday night at the Stadium against the Miami Marlins. Beckett waived his 10-5 rights (ten years in the bigs five with his current team) to veto a deal, and Crawford, who just underwent Tommy John surgery and won't be available to the Dodgers for about nine months, had to veto a limited no-trade clause in his contract which stated that the Dodgers were one of three teams he did not want to be traded to.

The Red Sox rid themselves of a player (Crawford) which the owner, John Henry, once said publicly that he was not in favor of giving a large free agent contract to. They also rid themselves of the figurehead of the "beer and fried chicken" scandal of last year who had become a fan pariah and a general scapegoat of everything wrong with the Red Sox. And Gonzalez had fallen out of favor with his remarks on travel logistics, his aloofness in general, and his dropoff in power since the 2011 Home Run Derby.

What is amazing about this deal is how the Dodgers managed to agree to this, especially with all the salaries they are assuming. The new ownership, including former Atlanta Hawks and Braves owner Stan Kasten and former Laker Magic Johnson, is committed to spending lots of money to make the Dodgers relevant again. They are also trying to cleanse the Dodgers from the stench of the previous ownership, led by Frank McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie. McCourt, who is a former Boston area businessman and was in play to buy the Red Sox in 2002 when Henry and his group prevailed, was an unfit owner as was his ex-wife, and fan disgust over the Dodgers during the McCourt era was far worse than any angst over the Red Sox right now.

The Patriots never have to deal with this sort of thing. Sure, they have CameraGate in their past, but they made it through gracefully and are still the elite organization of the NFL. Kraft almost singlehandedly brought an end to the lockout last year, with his wife Myra succumbing to cancer in the process. The Patriots are looked on with reverence in this area, and despite the team elevating to the level of the Yankees in terms of national dislike, Kraft is one of the most respected owners in the nation in any sport, and works hard to keep the Patriot "brand" (to extrapolate a Red Sox term here) as pristine as possible.

On the other hand, Henry has fallen out of favor with Red Sox fans. He is perceived as being more interested in the Liverpool soccer team of the BPL than he is the Red Sox. The Red Sox have become more of an organization dedicated to self-indulgence, such as the phony sellout streak, the bricks, the advertising, and the "brand". Larry Lucchino recently authored an incredibly embarrassing open letter to the fans, showing how out of touch the ownership really is.

The Patriots have to acknowledge that the Red Sox will never go away. They have to continue to be what they are and do what they do. Every sports fan in this area knows what the Patriots are all about, and for those older fans who remember how bad the Patriots used to be in the early years, what they are today is a source of great pride in this region. The Red Sox, on the other hand, suffered through 86 years of no championships and are built on myths and tall tales as well as baseball. They have a ball park that is a baseball cathedral, and a legacy that has spawned many books and essays over the years. But if the Yankees close out the Sox in Game 4 in 2004, one has to wonder what the Red Sox legacy would look like now.

And diehard Red Sox fans will say the same thing about that field goal Adam Vinatieri made in the snow against Oakland in 2002. But things being what they are, the Patriots have to be much prouder of the last ten years than the Red Sox. How the Red Sox handle this wonderful gift they have been given remains to be seen.


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