When Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged last week with two counts of soliciting sex, it sent shock waves across the country. Here was one of the most prominent people in professional sports apparently using prostitutes and playing a role in human trafficking.
But given some of the shady things Kraft’s organization has done over the years, why was it so surprising? And, more broadly, given that someone in the sports world makes headlines almost daily for acting badly, why are we ever surprised when there’s objectionable behavior?
Allow me to offer a suggestion that will spare you a lot of pain: Always assume the worst.
Assume that everyone involved in professional sports is a vile, debauched degenerate who craves fame, fortune and/or sex, no matter the cost to others. Assume that everyone is doing the bidding of a Dark Lord intent on destroying all that is good in this world, including cheap seats and the idea of every team trying its best to win.
Assume that, and you’ll never be disappointed.
Your feelings of betrayal will be dulled the next time a 77-year-old man who you thought was a pillar of the community is cruising Florida strip malls in search of Asian hookers.
As many people as there are who hate the Patriots for their winning (six Super Bowls), their cheating (Spygate and Deflategate), their coach (grim Bill Belichick) and their quarterback (too-perfect Tom Brady), there are just as many people who love them. The latter are the fans who refuse to believe that the team they root for is anything but fun.
The evidence, however, is overwhelming that this is not an upstanding organization. Please don’t take that as a shot solely at the Patriots. I assume that every team is like this and that New England, perhaps because of excessive hubris, happens to get caught a lot. Tomorrow it will be somebody else.
I don’t ever feel duped. I assume whatever happens is business as usual and go on my merry way. Some of you find that hard to do because you’ve attached qualities to your heroes that probably aren’t there.
Stop doing that. Assume the worst.
Let me give you some “for examples’’ to get you started.
When an athlete says he broke his foot while falling down a flight of stairs at his home, assume he was injured when the trapeze he was sharing with a teammate’s wife couldn’t withstand the aerial enthusiasm.
When a team owner says that the racist and Islamophobic emails his father received and sent do not match the noble person he knows, assume that somebody at the family dinner table has said, “Tell us the one again where a Muslim, a Hindu and a Buddhist walk into a bar, Dad.’’
When the athlete who tests positive for a banned drug says he didn’t know what was in the supplements he was taking, assume he has been stacking steroids like poker chips since the age of 7, likely at his father’s insistence.
When an athlete claims he knows nothing about the accusations of violence made against him by a wife/girlfriend/somebody he met in the snacks aisle at a 7-Eleven last night, assume he absolutely does. Especially when, months later, he acknowledges that he did indeed mistreat her and that he’s in therapy so that he can keep playing baseball become a better person.
When an athlete says he doesn’t know where the gun came from, assume it came from the room in his house with the sign over the door that says, “My Gun Arsenal.’’
When an owner declares that being suspicious of his franchise’s expansionism is being against “community ice rinks and farmer’s markets,’’ assume he takes you for a complete idiot.
When a general manager tells fans that he has a plan, assume that he’s thinking: “Your guess is as good as mine. Actually, there’s a decent chance your guess is better than mine.’’
When a team’s executive vice president of operations stays in a job for centuries despite a poor track record, assume he has incriminating photos of his owner lounging at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida.
I think you get the idea: If you assume the worst, you can’t get hurt.
Many famous people are not who you think they are, and the only question is why you continue to convince yourself otherwise. Why isn’t it enough that the wide receiver has hands built to catch footballs flying at a high rate of speed? Why isn’t it enough that the owner hired the right people to build a successful team? Why do you want to believe they’re saints? Because they have nice smiles?
Assume the worst, folks. When the fall comes for some of your idols, you won’t be nursing broken bones. Encasing your heart in steel is a much safer strategy than worshipping people for qualities you’re not even sure they have.
Enjoy your newfound peace.