I’ll watch him play, and you will too

Published 5:22 pm Friday, September 13, 2019

Robert Kraft has struck again. And this time, as best I can tell, he’s done it while keeping his clothes on.

You could hear the hub-bub from Boston to Belville as the NFL season was upon us. Receiver Antonio Brown becoming football’s latest whipping boy. Reviled in Pittsburgh before his ‘banishment’ to Oakland (the city where it’s been said, ‘there’s no ‘there’, there.”), he talked himself all the way across the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

You’ve called him a clown, crass, no class, crazy – to paraphrase the Commander-In-Chief, mocking Colin Kaepernick a couple years ago, “Get him the heck outta here.”

Now, suddenly, the New England Patriots – you remember Spy-gate and Deflate-gate – are living up to their owner’s so-called creed.

Released by the Oakland Raiders over the weekend after an ultimatum, he figuratively landed in Foxborough, Massachusetts with the Pats less than an hour past the four o’clock Saturday NFL waiver deadline; and, he literally landed at Boston Logan Airport about 20 hours later. Pro sports’ version of the Island of Misfit Toys.

Well, face it, the guy sure can catch a football.

“We only want to collect the best people,” Kraft once famously said, and he said it holding up and shaking a Super Bowl trophy.

Now, to be fair, it has been hit-and-miss sometimes with those guys. For every Randy Moss there’s a Chad Ochocinco. Sadder still, there’s even an Aaron Hernandez.

I guess I’m a dinosaur, but I hate to see bad behavior rewarded. I hate to see a guy successfully shoot his way out of town (two towns in this case) and get rewarded in a better situation.

With six of those Super Bowl trophies, and poised for a seventh the way they played last Sunday in chewing up the Steelers, who wouldn’t want to play for the Patriots, no matter how much smelly baggage they’re bringing with them?

But this is American pro sports, and you may as well face it: talent trumps character.

Speaking of character, no sooner had he suited up Tuesday for his first practice than Brown’s former trainer accused the receiver of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in a federal lawsuit filed that day in Florida. It’s way too soon to make a judgment on the allegations. There are text messages that, if authentic, are troubling, as Brown’s attorney called the allegations a “money grab” and said any sexual encounters were consensual.

It will be weeks, and more likely, months before there’s any resolution to the lawsuit. Which means the NFL and the Patriots are stuck with this never-ending sideshow, maybe all season.

Alas, this is the same New England, where LeGarrette Blount quit on the Steelers (why is it always Pittsburgh?), he walked off the field and wound up in the Patriots backfield about an hour later. Eventually, wearing red-white-and-blue, he ended up with two Super Bowl rings (Uhm, actually three: he got one with Philadelphia in 2018). But the parallel is that similarly, Brown quit and now he’s been rewarded.

Oh, he’ll get some boos in Miami if he plays this Sunday, but he’ll be greeted like a hero when he plays his first game in Gillette Stadium in another week, despite the controversy.

My Patriot-loving friends have been ringing my cellphone out of my back pocket about this deal, so knock yourselves out cheering for this guy. He was a ‘butthole’ in Pittsburgh and a bigger one in Oakland. While he’s the opposite of everything most of us love about sport in the first place, he’s also a walking, talking promotion for self-above-team.

So, the butthole gets rewarded. The fans cheer. And, some of you are even going to buy Antonio Brown Patriot jerseys. You don’t have to hide it. Hang it right up there below Brady’s and next to Hernandez’.

Deep down, it makes me like sports a little bit less.

Anybody feeling this with me?

I didn’t think so.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.