When Robert Kraft bought the New England Patriots, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a column on him. Kraft thought the column was so good that he framed it and hung it on a wall inside his office.
Shaughnessy then gave Kraft a cold, hard truth.
“I said, ‘Bob, I want you to remember, there might be a day where you don’t feel this good. Please remember, it’s nothing personal,’” Shaughnessy recalled on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “It’s hard. It’s hard to be criticized. In this case, it’s hard to see sanctions go against them and to see all the work they’ve done really get tainted. And it’s tainted. I’m sorry.”
Shaughnessy, of course, is referring to Deflategate and the Ted Wells Report that led to arguably the stiffest organizational punishment in league history. New England fans, by and large, aren’t taking it very well.
“There’s Planet Patriot and then there’s reality,” Shaughnessy said. “Everybody there is still living in Planet Patriot: ‘They didn’t do anything wrong, they were framed, it’s a witch hunt and this is going to get overturned.’”
Yes, this saga apparently hasn’t forced many Patriots fans to question who they cheer for and why. In fact, it’s been just the opposite.
“It is definitely an emboldening mechanism here,” Shaughnessy said. “That’s what we’re seeing. People are (digging in) more than ever. Sides have been chosen. It’s a really interesting place to do what we do, which is write columns and give opinion on this. You worked in the market. You know. The Patriots – they’ve cornered the market in Boston. Most people who cover them either work for them or they’re afraid of them. People are generally on board. So anything that’s remotely critical or neutral or in any way agrees with any of this is not being taken in a good way.”
Shaughnessy said New England has become like a college town in that fans are insistent that their guys would never do anything bad. But here’s a question: If Kraft truly believed that the Patriots didn’t commit any wrongdoing, why would he say he’d accept the league’s punishment before it came down?
“I think they thought it wasn’t going to be that bad,” Shaughnessy said. “The league really delivered a message. They spanked them hard. It was a pretty harsh penalty given the alleged grievance here. And once they saw that, they hit the roof. They have until Thursday (to appeal the punishment).”
A punishment that, interestingly enough, doesn’t include Bill Belichick – at least not directly.
“I think he’s done a good job skating on this one,” Shaughnessy said. “But when you take away draft picks and fine the organization $1 million, which is unprecedented, the draft picks definitely hurt Bill and hit him where it hurts.”
Plus there are now even more questions about his legacy and reputation.
“He’s a great historian of football and really cares about this stuff,” Shaughnessy said. “That’s why you do it. You win four championships and you want to be thought of with (Don) Shula and (Vince) Lombardi and whatnot. This has got to hurt because I think that most football people believe this team’s on the up and up because they’re better, smarter. But there’s a lot of people that are jealous and been getting their butts beaten and they want to see this team wave the flag of scandal. You hate to arm those people with the weapon, and that’s been done now.”