July 20, 2011
Lockout End Not Important Right Now For Kraft
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
It's almost time to get back to business in the NFL. But for Robert Kraft, business will have to wait a little bit longer.
Of course, everyone is looking forward to the impending return of the NFL. But losing your life partner changes everything. In the case of Myra Kraft, it was more than merely a life partner, but instead a family matriarch, a pillar of a football team and the community, and a caring and generous woman who was revered by many and respected by all.
To the Patriots' owner, first and foremost, it's about saying goodbye to his wife of 48 years, the mother of his four children, and his staunch and reliable partner who was always at his side in the public eye as well as behind the scenes.
Myra passed away on Wednesday of cancer at age 68. Tributes from all across the Patriot family came pouring in all day. In addition to being hailed as the matriarch of the Patriots and the Kraft family, perhaps the most compelling tributes address her charitable concerns. The most eloquent of such tributes came from Bill Belichick, saying that "Myra shined brightest in a much broader arena. In the humanitarian arena, her generosity through philanthropy was admired and appreciated by all."
Myra served on the board of the Community Jewish Philanthropies, and her philanthropic efforts extended into Israel as well as greater Boston. She founded a scholarship foundation called the "Giving Back Scholarship Fund" in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. She was on numerous other boards, including her alma mater, Brandeis University.
She married Bob in 1963 and the couple had four sons. The eldest son, Jonathan, is the president of the Patriots. As a young family, the Krafts were regular season ticket holders at old Schaefer Stadium, and the boys literally grew up with the Patriots. As the years wore on and Bob became wealthy in the paper business, he eventually bought both the stadium (later renamed Sullivan and Foxborough Stadium) and the adjoining raceway.
Perhaps the seminal moment in Patriot history, even more important than the three Super Bowls that would follow, was in January of 1994 when Bob purchased the Patriots from James Busch Orthwein to keep the Patriots in the region and not see them move to St. Louis, Orthwein's hometown. The deal at the time was the most expensive sale in NFL history ($173 million). Myra advised Bob against it, thinking it was "nuts". But Bob bought the team anyway, and the entire Kraft family showed up for the official press conference as Patriot Nation rejoiced over the team staying put.
From then on, the Patriots became a model franchise in all of pro sports, with Kraft at the helm and Myra right there at his side.
It was Bob that got all the props, it was Bob that got to rattle off all those eloquent trophy acceptance speeches, and it was Bob who has risen to the NFL stratosphere. But it was Myra, always there, always supporting, always in the photo shoots and video bytes at her husband's side. What male sports fan wouldn't crave a woman who loved sports and was always right there to support him in that love?
And let's not forget the mother role as well. Four sons, making her the one and only female in the family. The boys all did well, with Jonathan right there under her husband's name in the Patriot masthead, two other boys presidents and CEOs, and the youngest working in her husband's corporation. Not a bad job, mom.
It's interesting to look back at one's life and find so many things they can be remembered for. Most people will remember Myra for her charity. Others will remember her as being a great family matriarch. Most of you reading this article care mostly about the Patriots. So it is her role as the wife of the most powerful owner in the NFL that will be exalted today and beyond, though the other concerns in her life are due all the praise and tributes that come in.
Simply stated, what the Kraft family means to this region cannot be understated. Tom Yawkey owned the Red Sox for 43 years, and his estate chugged on for another 26 years. Though Yawkey was regarded as a kind man and a very player-friendly owner, sometimes to a fault, his regime will be mostly remembered for overpaid players, a perception of racism, and zero World Series wins. Despite all the Celtics world titles, the only owner of exceptional repute in Celtic history is Walter Brown, who died in 1964. The Adams family (Charles, Weston Sr. and Weston Jr.) owned the Bruins from Jump Street until Jeremy Jacobs bought the team in 1975, and he finally got his first Stanley Cup last month.
Boston fans adore John Henry and Tom Werner and the two World Series wins they have helped bring about. Wyc Grousbeck is a youthful and local owner who is climbing his way up the ladder of beloved Boston area owners. But Kraft is the unchallenged king of Boston sports. His Taj Mahal in Foxborough and all the adjunct buildings in the area speaks volumes as to what he has brought the Patriots to over the years.
Now, how much of what Kraft has accomplished has been because of the old maxim "Behind every great man is a great woman"?
Bob knows better than any of us do. But we as outsiders can literally guess.
Simply stated, what Kraft did in 1994 was courageous and a huge gamble at the time. No one could have foreseen in 1994 that the Patriots would become a Fortune 500 darling in due time. Myra was initially opposed to Bob buying the Patriots. But buy them he did, and she immersed herself in the game and its inner workings. She came out of it with a newfound respect for football in general.
Bob's ownership hasn't been perfect. He never should have messed with Bill Parcells. Myra was very vocal when the Patriots drafted substandard character players (see Christian Peter). There are those who aren't that impressed with the CBS Place and some of those other glitzy buildings that sit next to Gillette Stadium. Oh, and whatever became of CmGi?
But Bob pushed on, learned from his mistakes, and built a huge football edifice in Foxborough. And Myra was likely right there, advising him of every mistake, and helping him run the team better. And she was deservedly in the spotlight when it was proper. That incredible shot of the Kraft private box when Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI was priceless, as Myra literally flopped on Bob and Jonathan in their moment of celebration. Moments later, there were the Krafts on the victory stand, with Bob proclaiming that "We are all Patriots!" and Myra right there, holding his arm and beaming with pride.
Tonight, all of Patriot Nation would like to grab hold of Bob's arm and offer him support and sympathy. With the NFL lockout now almost over, Bob cannot enjoy the upcoming season to its fullest extent. He must now prepare for the first season as owner of the Patriots without Myra at his side in the owner's box. Whatever I's that need to be dotted and T's that need to be crossed, they'll have to do it without Bob.
Because he needs time to say goodbye to Myra, above all other things.
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