Kraft's words to be felt across Boston sports

Kraft's words to be felt across Boston sports
July 9, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Yesterday afternoon, Robert Kraft finally answered the call and addressed the Aaron Hernandez situation with the media*. And while he didn’t say all that much, he said enough to quiet the rumblings from those who were upset with the Patriots’ silence.
 
(*It’s unfortunate that he limited the session to three hand-picked media outlets, but then again, if he opened the doors to everyone, Gillette would have been infiltrated by a fleet of rabid choppers and every desperate local news station this side of Alaska: “Mr. Kraft! Mr. Kraft! Do you suspect that there are any other potential alleged murderers on the roster?!”)
 
Anyway, here was the Kraft Kicker, courtesy of Tom E. Curran.
 
“This is the last thing we want,” Kraft said. “Everything we don’t want has happened. We made a mistake. We’re facing it head on. Obviously it wasn’t the correct decision. It’s sad. Very sad.”
 
And I’d say that Kraft’s words should help push this story out of the headlines (or at least off the front page), after all, now that the team has spoken, how many more ways can we talk about this thing? “Hernandez is bad man!” “The Pats missed the boat!” “Athletes with tattoos are evil!”

We get it. 

But with all the evidence in the case to be released this afternoon, we’re in for at least another week of shock and awe over what exactly happened, and the depths of the double life that Hernandez had been living.
 
But for one second, let’s take a step back, ignore what we didn’t know about the past and focus on what we do know about the future. A new trend that’s set to take shape, not only within the Patriots organization, but every sports team in town. In the words of Mr. Kraft: “You can be sure we’ll be looking at all our procedures and auditing how we do things.”
 
This might be slightly obvious, but my point here is that the days of rolling the dice on troubled athletes are very likely headed for hibernation here in Boston.
 
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Terrence Williams, who was arrested for a gun-related incident back in May, was released by the Celtics shortly after the Hernandez fiasco came to light.
 
In a much broader sense, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Hernandez story played a role in pushing the Bruins to act so drastically on Tyler Seguin. Because they feared Seguin might allegedly kill somebody? Of course not, but if there was ever a time for a team to look at an extremely talented athlete with a less than stellar off the field/ice reputation and decide that it’s just not worth it, that time is now.
 
And on that note, you can be damn sure that the image-obsessed Sox won’t take a chance on questionable character at any point in the near future. They wouldn’t have done so even before Hernandez. Not on Dr. Charles’ watch!
 
Either way, this is one of the inevitable outcomes of a story as bizarre and troubling as Hernandez’s. People, in this case “teams”, have no choice but to play it extra safe, and often can’t help but overreact. What Kraft is going through now is every owner’s worst nightmare, and the Pats were the one franchise — certainly in Boston — that seemed most immune to that kind of thing. But obviously not. And that’s because they got lazy. Kraft can say they were duped by Hernandez, but the team’s guilty regardless. Guilty of being careless, or guilty of being naïve, and neither is a great look. You know that the Celtics, Bruins and Sox have watched this unfold from afar and have been reminded that at the end of the day, while championships come and go, good people and strong values are the one thing that every franchise should be able to hang its hat on.
 
That’s something the Celtics were very clear about when they introduced Brad Stevens in a press conference last Friday:
 
“Listen, we’re investing in a person and I’m investing in a partner,” Danny Ainge said. “I’m investing in him because of his character and integrity.”
 
“We think by having Brad and his family here as a key part of the Celtics going forward, we’re doing everything we can to bring back the championship ways,” Wyc Grousbeck said. “We've been there before and we want to get back there, on and off the court.”
 
And it’s something we’ll no doubt see an extra emphasis on moving forward, across the board.
 
There was a time not so long ago when all that mattered in this city were championships. When every team was in perpetual contention, and did everything they could to push themselves over the top, even if it meant taking a risk on an athlete’s character. But these days, with the Celtics in a rebuild, the Sox and Pats both scrambling off recent PR disasters, and the Bruins clearly not messing around, things are changing. They’ve already changed. While the Pats are currently the only team having to answer these difficult questions, the others guys are sure to do all they can to stay out of the crossfire.
 
Of course, it won’t last forever. Eventually, the Hernandez story really will finally find its way out of the headlines. At that point, people will forget. The natives will grow restless. Championships will once again take precedence and teams will be forced to chance.
 
But for the time being, don’t be surprised if all four franchises keep the dice in their pockets.

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