For years, we in New York have been trained to disdain.
Whenever the name Robert Kraft is mentioned, the response of any Jets or Giants fan (well, mostly Jets fans) generally is rooted in derision.
Kraft is the owner of the big, bad, perennial-winner Patriots, who are despised in these parts for the six Lombardi trophies they’ve hoisted in perceived arrogance and for the way they’ve treated the Jets (like bullies treat 98-pound weaklings) for the past two decades.
Today, however, everyone associated with New York, Jets fans or otherwise, should salute the 78-year-old Kraft, who delivered a deed so special in this frightening and uncertain time of the coronavirus crisis that it should never be forgotten.
Not the next time the Jets and Patriots play each other, whenever the NFL season starts up.
Kraft and his son, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, partnered with the state of Massachusetts to purchase 1.4 million N95 masks for his home state. He purchased another 300,000 protective masks for New York State.
“I personally have a deep affection for all the citizens of New York City,’’ Kraft, who attended Columbia University and played running back and safety on the school’s freshman and lightweight football teams, told Bruce Beck from WNBC-TV Thursday. “I just thought it might be cool if the owner of the New England Patriots is doing whatever he can to help Jets and Giants. This is a gift of ours, these 300,000 masks and the transportation, to the people of New York.’’
New York versus Boston be damned.
Kraft, whose team jet made a trip to China to purchase and pick up the masks, consulted with both Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker, a Republican, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, about his plans.
Baker gave Kraft his blessing and Cuomo gave thanks with New York in the throes of a dangerous shortage of protective masks.
Republicans versus Democrats be damned.
Kraft’s jet, adorned with the Patriots logo on it, arrived to Logan Airport in Boston on Thursday. The 300,000 masks are believed to be arriving to New York City by Friday.
“This transcends politics and brings everyone together,’’ Kraft said. “We’re all one, we’re all together and we’ve got to make sure to take care of the people who take care of us. I believe in the power of will. We can do it, but we have to do it by all pulling together. We are going through something unique and difficult, but we shall overcome.’’
Together. As Jets fans, Patriots fans, Giants fans, everyone.
Since Kraft purchased the Patriots in 1994, New England has compiled a 291-125 record, made the playoffs in 21 of 26 seasons, made it to 10 Super Bowls and won six of them.
It’s human nature for everyone to hate the teams that win all the time, especially in the case of the Jets, who’ve been beaten down by the Patriots year after year with a scant few exceptions.
Not long into Kraft’s ownership of the Patriots, a “Border War’’ began between the Patriots and Jets.
There was Bill Parcells fleeing New England for the Jets after the 1996 season, preferring to buy his own groceries instead of worrying about Kraft meddling in his football business, and taking much of his New England staff with him.
There was Kraft orchestrating the stealing of Bill Belichick from the Jets when Belichick was supposed to become the Jets head coach.
There was Spygate, for which the Patriots were ratted out by former Patriots assistant coach and then-Jets head coach Eric Mangini, and were fined severely in draft picks and money.
A lot has happened over the years between Kraft and the Jets. None of it friendly.
Today, though, rivalries be damned. No more Border War. Everyone is playing for the same team now.
Emotions of jealousy must be replaced by those of genuine gratitude toward a man we’ve become so accustomed to view as the enemy.
Today, until further notice — and maybe forever — Robert Kraft is family.
New York family.
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