Friday, February 03, 2012

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVI – the Soul of the Patriots: Myra Kraft

Robert Kraft made a decision in the summer of 1993 to buy the New England Patriots. Walking on a Cape Cod beach with his wife, the late Myra Kraft, Robert told Myra he was about to spend more than $125 million on an NFL franchise that was ready to leave New England for St. Louis (Kraft paid $172 million for the franchise). Myra told her husband she believed he was making a terrible business decision. Now, 17 years later, the Patriots are worth $1.4 billion. Sunday, the Patriots will try and win their fourth Super Bowl in Indianapolis – the spirit of the late Myra Kraft in each and every member of the New England Patriots.

Myra Kraft passed away on July 20, 2011, recognized as one of America’s leading philanthropists. She was the daughter of the late Worcester philanthropist, Jacob Hiatt, and wife of New England Patriots and New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, she was a graduate of Brandeis University. Kraft was listed by Boston Magazine as one of the 20 Most Powerful Women in Boston. She was President and Director of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and trustee of the Robert K. and Myra H. Kraft Foundation. She served on the boards of directors of the American Repertory Theatre, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Northeastern University, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Brandeis University. She and her husband donated millions of dollars to the Kraft Stadium to promote American football in Jerusalem.

Days after his beloved bride passed away, while following the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva (seven days of mourning), Kraft played a key role in saving the 2011 National Football League season. It was Robert Kraft’s leadership during the most trying moments of his life that forged a new ten-year landmark collective bargaining agreement, just three days after his wife passed away.

"A special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment, allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out," said 295-pound offensive lineman Jeff Saturday, a leader among the players' executive committee, when the CBA was announced. "And without him, this deal does not get done. He is a man who helped us save football and we're so gracious for that; we're gracious for his family and for the opportunity he presented to get this deal done."

NFL Players Association Chief DeMaurice Smith added, "We couldn't have done it without you. We took a day off on Friday to remember a great woman and a great family and I'm thankful for what she meant to the city of Boston. I'm especially thankful for what you mean to the game of football."

If you ask any member of the 2011 New England Patriots – Myra Kraft’s lasting legacy is a key to their success.

"An angel is looking over us," said Patriots’ linebacker Jerod Mayo, minutes after the AFC Championship win.

"You know what we're doing this for?" Mayo asked, with camera flashes from all angles capturing the moment in a Lawrence Eagle-Tribune report. "It's all about Mrs. Kraft."

According to Myra Kraft’s official obituary: “Myra Hiatt Kraft was an active and powerful force in her family's foundation and served on the boards of varied community and charitable organizations.

“She managed the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation and was president of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, which contributed millions of dollars to charities in the United States and Israel.

“In 1995, she became the first woman to chair the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, a position she held until 2002. She served the past two years as chair of the board of directors of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.”

"Myra led by example through her hands-on commitment to bettering the communities we serve," said Michael Durkin, president and CEO of that United Way chapter. "While Myra will be deeply missed, her legacy of kindness to all will remain a beacon of hope in trying times."

“She also served as chairwoman of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and was on the board of directors of the American Repertory Theatre, Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Brandeis University, where she graduated in 1964.”

"With her great heart and magnificent spirit, she lived her life in service to those who needed her help," said Barry Shrage, president of CJP. "Myra loved the land of Israel and the Israeli people and visited as often as she could."

Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence, chosen by a search committee on which she served, said, "She was always reaching out to students, faculty and other trustees and served as a model to all of us in so many ways.”

Robert Kraft worked radio row at Super Bowl XLVI late Wednesday afternoon. One of the last stops he made on his tour of various radio outlets covering this Super Bowl was the NFL Network’s set. Wearing a blazer, jeans and running shoes – one of the sports industries true power brokers looked like he had lost his best friend. As engaging and as charismatic as he always is, Robert Kraft misses his beloved Myra each and every day. The Patriots 2011 season continues to keep the spirit of Myra Kraft alive.

"It keeps her special spirit alive," Kraft said in a recent interview. "She was a pretty competitive person. She liked to win as much as I do. She was a good human being, someone who got it, and I had a great life partner.

"I think what she symbolizes are the random acts of kindness that we all need," said Kraft. "And most of the work she did were things that people wouldn't know about. We'll keep that memory alive."

How much does the memory of Myra Kraft mean to the New England Patriots? When the Patriots clinched the AFC East Division in December, the team, led by lineman Matt Light, presented Robert Kraft with the game ball and a painting of the team with the initials "MHK" over their upraised arms.

A tearful Kraft told the players when he was presented with the painting, "This team has saved me. You're all my family."

The painting has been in the Patriots' locker room for every game since and will be in Indianapolis on Sunday. Brian Fox, of Somerset, Mass., was commissioned by New England Patriots players to create a painting dedicated to Robert Kraft's late wife, Myra.

"Whether you're here for just a few months or 11 years, you realize there is more to this organization and its ownership," Light told the Eagle Tribune. "This was a neat way for us to all come together for Myra, and show the impact she's left on all of us."

Quarterback Tom Brady added this in the Eagle Tribune report: "She's just been a wonderful influence on every guy that has been a part of this team," he said last week. "We wear her initials on our patch on our jersey. It has certainly been a meaningful year for Mr. Kraft and his family. We know how important this season is to him. Hopefully we will represent her well (in Super Bowl XLVI) by wearing that patch."

Sunday in Indianapolis, the soul of the New England Patriots, Myra Hiatt Kraft, will be on the field in spirit with the players and in the owner’s box with her life partner, Robert Kraft.

“I’m a great believer in spirituality, so I’m pretty pleased and excited that we have the privilege of playing in this game at home, Kraft told The Boston Globe. “I really like this team a lot this year. We have a very good locker room. Sometimes, a few of them come through and they touch the patch and say, ‘That one was for mama.’ I hope we keep it going.’’

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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