Shock, disgust, schadenfreude, anger and pity for the mighty one who has fallen due to his own flawed character. Shock, because I still remember the Bob and Myra Kraft who lived modestly in Newton decades ago, always opening up their home to good liberal causes. Disgust, because of the tawdry nature of the allegations and the repugnant back story. Schadenfreude, because there’s admittedly a touch of pleasure in seeing the self-absorbed high and the mighty taken down by their own stupidity and weakness. And, simultaneously, compassion for the depths to which he has sunk when he seemed to have everything. Everything, that is, except for his beloved late wife, the grounded individual who was clearly his moral compass.
So now he has gone from spygate to deflategate to fellategate, and, at best, he’ll be a laugh line on late night shows. At worst, he’ll be the spoiled billionaire owner of the epic New England Patriots, one of the National Football League’s most influential owners, whose life knew no boundaries and who squandered the reservoir of his philanthropically-generated good will by allegedly paying for sex at a cheesy Jupiter, FL spa allegedly run by a prostitution ring engaged in human trafficking. What was he thinking? With what was he thinking? What did he know about the spa or even care? Was he arrogant or just hell-bent on self-destruction?
Many die-hard Pats fans, focused on six Super Bowl wins and the team’s greatest-of-all-time quarterback, may like to think this recent episode doesn’t matter. That it doesn’t matter that Kraft has developed a lust for celebrity, for women younger than his kids, for adoration by crowds. But a die-hard fan like New York Times Magazine writer Mark Leibovich, author of Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, has described Kraft as a “familiar and smaller-then-life figure,” “easily offended” while needing recognition. Many of Kraft’s comments, wrote Leibovich before this episode, are “self-satisfied and unbearable.”
Despite all the evidence, however, I want to believe in the part of Kraft who told Leibovich, “Since I put dirt on my wife’s casket, I really realized what’s important. The things we worry about are paper clips.” Well, this episode is more than paper clips.
If I were advising him, I’d tell him to make a public apology for embarrassing his team, its fans, his family, friends and community. I’d tell he to make it a teachable moment about how buying sex may seem like a victimless crime but is often the retail storefront for the evils of human trafficking. And I’d urge him to take one of the seven billion dollars of his net worth and devote it to organizations working their hearts out to end human trafficking and violence against women. There are many of them around the world.
And I’d do it before the charges against him are adjudicated, before the NFL imposes (meaningless) fines or other punishment for violating the League’s stated code of behavior. He should do while there’s a small opportunity for seemingly authentic contrition. He should do it to indicate that he really does realize what is important.