A lot of football fans may suppose the New England Patriots are the New York Jets’ fiercest rivals. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Perhaps some of the younger fans, those either captivated or angered by the Pats recent dominance, assume the two American Football Conference East teams would extend the Gotham-Hub sports enmity. No. Former coach Rex Ryan aside, this pair is short on mutual antipathy.
Two factors blunt much animosity.
Under the aegis of original Patriots’ owner Billy Sullivan, New England for the longest served as chumps. They were the particular punching bag of Al Davis, the late Oakland Raiders’ owner venerated in some precincts and despised everywhere else.
Patsies as they were, New England was to be pitied, not pilloried.
Certainly the Jets winning Super Bowl III, a feat which bestowed immediate legitimacy upon the old American Football League, awarded that franchise outsized credibility. They could’ve lorded it over New England thereby fostering resentment. Instead, the Pats benefited from the long shadow of New York City’s senior team, the Giants. Notably the presence of its legendary owner Wellington Mara.
Today it is hard to conceive of such eminences as Mr. Mara. Our magnates and leaders have become so small.
He was there at the National Football League’s emergence. He helped nurture its development from a parochial pastime into a billion-dollar entertainment behemoth. Wealth did not define Mara. The esteem in which he was held did. That can’t be bought.
Before the AFL was established and Pats arrived, the Giants’ reach of influence penetrated throughout New England. Those football Giants may be the only New York team Bostonians ever supported. Naturally it helped Mr. Mara shared heritage with a good percentage of the faithful in that region. Nothing strengthens tribalism better than an exceptionally successful exemplar.
Given Mr. Mara’s place atop the NFL’s hierarchy, it is not farfetched seeing original Jets’ owner Leon Hess doing little to aggravate any tensions with the Pats at the Giants owner’s behest. A lot visiting New Englander fannies filling Yankee Stadium to watch “their” Giants enriched Mr. Mara. He was not an ingrate as so many current owners are. He was a man disinclined to forget who had buttered his bread.
While no current owner can approach Mr. Mara’s stature, one who deserves enormous respect is Robert Kraft, the Pats’ current big boss man. Bob Kraft’s earned his distinction.
Before becoming an owner, he was a fan of one of the worst managed sports franchises in America. Billy Sullivan ran his Patriots like a badly-run grocery store.
They played in Schaefer Stadium, an open-air tenement demanding condemnation the day its gates opened to the public. Older Pats fans can share stories which if the nouns and accents were changed could be heard as tales from inside Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, the now demolished abysmal concrete tureen where the Eagles aggravated their fans for decades.
Shouldn’t WEEI and WIP, the sports blather stations for Boston and Philadelphia, respectively, offer a contest among their listeners to which one can come up with the most horrible example of watching a contest inside Schaefer or the Vet? Human nature what it is, there must be worse attendee behavior than witnessing “fans” taking shits off the railings or into rest room basins.
C’mon! Let’s hear ‘em! First prize is a week in Cleveland; second, two weeks in Cleveland.
Early on Bob Kraft bought Patriots season tickets. As seasons progressed and his career trajectory rose he upgraded his seats. He watched an often subpar product flail inside a substandard facility. Like countless other suffering New England fans he imagined the changes he’d make if he owned the team.
Unlike multitudes of daydreamers, Bob Kraft eventually conjured the wherewithal to buy “his” team. He improved personnel top-to-bottom and put Schaefer out of its misery by erecting Gillette Stadium, a modern arena designed for fan comfort and pleasure.
One more admirable aspect of the Patriots’ owner – he accumulated his pile honestly. No shady midnight sleight-of-hand transactions, no getting rich on the backs of working people and pensioners. Envy him his wealth, but don’t begrudge him having it accrued it.
Again let’s appreciate that Bob Kraft was a dedicated fan long before he became wealthy. The Patriots are not merely a status symbol to him. They are a passion. What fan can’t relate to that?
So, yes, the Patriots beat my Jets regularly. They also beat plenty of other squads like drums. That is except for those two times the Giants beat them in Super Bowls.
Anyway I’m not jealous of or seethe at New England’s success. I like where Bob Kraft started and what his team has achieved. What fan doesn’t want to be Bob Kraft?
Oh. The Jets arch rival? The Miami Dolphins. Figures. Life amid the South Florida swamps turned all those transplanted New Yorkers into rat bastard turncoats.