ATLANTA — It’s understandable you might welcome the idea of embracing Robert Kraft and his remarkable success as the owner of the Patriots the way you’d look forward to a root canal or being audited by the IRS.
Sports fans grow to hate teams that win all the time — especially when their teams don’t (hello, Jets fans).
But for whatever disdain you may have generated for Kraft — whose Patriots defeated the Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in their 10th Super Bowl since he bought the team 25 years ago — if you’re being honest with yourself, you can’t help but respect what he’s built.
And to know his background as a rabid Patriots fan dating back to his youth, you might find yourself respecting Kraft even more.
Kraft, whose current net worth according Forbes is $6.6 billion, used to be one of those Patriots season-ticket holders clad in red, white and blue, freezing his tukus off on those aluminum-bench seats in the ’70s at the old Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Kraft was first a Pats season-ticket holder in 1971. They went 6-8 that season. They were 3-11 in 1972, 5-9 in ’73, 7-7 in ’74 and 3-11 in ’75. You get the picture. They stunk. But Kraft’s passion for his team never wavered. As he sat and watched the losing, he always thought about one day owning the team and changing the course of the franchise.
“I always dreamed big,’’ Kraft told The Post before Sunday’s game. “I started dreaming about it when I got the seats in ’71. And by the late ’70s, I thought if I could own the team …”
By 1994, Kraft, whose money comes from his paper manufacturing business, realized his dream when he bought the team for $172 million. According to Forbes, the Patriots are currently worth $3.7 billion.
“I told my wife [Myra, who died in 2011] I would pay $115 million and maybe go to $120 million, and I paid [$172 million], the highest price ever paid for any franchise [at the time],” Kraft said. “She went bonkers. It worked out. Life is about following your dreams and your passions.”
Kraft’s dreams came true, yet he never sounds like someone who has taken it for granted because his mind frequently wanders to those frigid Foxborough Sundays on those aluminum benches.
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Kraft, while he surely hit the lottery by having Bill Belichick coaching his team and Tom Brady quarterbacking it for the past two decades, deserves some credit, too. He, after all, is the one who recruited Belichick to come to New England, luring him away from the Jets.
When teams are not having success and fans are seeking someone to blame, you often hear: “It all starts at the top, with ownership.” Jets fans, as an example, have been frustrated and angry with the Johnson family. and they’ve directed their ire at them as the team has continued to lose.
So if we’re going to blame owners for their teams’ perennial losing, then we must credit owners such as Kraft who have presided over such extraordinary winning — a 279-121 record in the regular season and 33-14 in the playoffs. Kraft’s Patriots are now 6-4 in Super Bowls after Sunday night.
Kraft understands his team is not embraced, and he’s just fine with it.
“For us to get to the point in less than two decades where people are rooting against us because we’ve won, that’s a high-class problem, and I hope we keep it going for quite awhile,” he said. “I’m actually honored by it.”