FOXBOROUGH — Last week you hated Antonio Brown. Mocked him. Total clown. No class. Quitter. Crazy.
Now you love Antonio Brown. You see that he was merely misunderstood. He’s smart. Savvy. A stable genius. And he sure can catch the football. I mean, who’d want to play for the Raiders, anyway?
Welcome to Patriot Nation, where it’s always about the laundry.
Nothing unusual about that. Every fan of big-time sports sees players through the filter of the team logo. The only thing that’s different here is the phony narrative promoted by Patriot ownership (never Bill Belichick, by the way) that this place is somehow different.
Asked to explain The Patriot Way, Bob Kraft in 2013 told The NFL Network, “It’s about trying to collect a lot of good people.’’
Sorry. It’s baloney. Time and again Belichick has taken a chance on players with baggage. Every coach does.
It’s popular to say that things always work out when the malcontents come here. Certainly there was success with Randy Moss and Corey Dillon for a short period after they arrived in Foxborough.
But not all of them work out. Don’t get too full of yourselves believing that Belichick and the Pats have a patent on Nitwit Kryptonite. Remember Chad Ochocinco? Albert Haynesworth? Aaron (gulp) Hernandez?
So maybe Antonio Brown won’t work out. No big deal, really. The Pats certainly didn’t look like they needed him in Sunday’s 33-3 opening-night dismantling of the Steelers. (Good job by snoozy Mike Tomlin ordering a field goal on 4th-ad-one from the goal line down, 20-0.) The AFC East looks worse than ever. New Englnad should go 9-0 before the first hard game.
From a competitive standpoint, acquiring any player is really only about the risk and the risk here is the $9 million signing bonus. The Pats parted with no players and no draft picks. There’s no long-term security for Brown. So other than staining your souls, the only risk to the Pats is the bag of money they swallow if Brown reverts to being the knucklehead that we know he is.
Prior to the game, Freedom Fighter Kraft told Al Michaels that Tom Brady is “a million percent in” on Brown. Agent Drew Rosenhaus told Michaels that Brady has offered to let Brown live in his home.
Julian Edelman said, “We’re happy to have him,’’ and captain Devin McCourty added, “He’s a great player, we’ll see how things work out.’’
None of this softened Belichick, who refused to acknowledge the existence of Brown after the Pats’ big win.
“I’ll talk about the game and players on our team,’’ deadpanned the Hoodie.
Swell. But there’s something about this acquisition that — while perhaps good for the Patriots — pollutes the skies above Gillette Stadium.
Call me old-fashioned. Call me the get-off-my-lawn-guy. Call me Curley Haired Boyfriend if you want. But I hate to see bad behavior rewarded. Even if it’s good for the Patriots. 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.
Think back to the 2008 Red Sox. How did you feel about Manny Ramirez when he got himself dumped to the Dodgers in the middle of the season? Manny knocked over a 64-year-old team employee because he didn’t accommodate Manny’s last-minute ticket request. Manny faked a bunch of hamstring injuries. Manny quit on his team — a team that would make it to the seventh game of the ALCS. Manny made his manager, Terry Francona, question if he wanted to stay on as manager of the team. Francona suffered spontaneous nosebleeds just talking about Manny. So Ramirez got himself shipped to the Dodgers and hit .400 the rest of the year, delivering them to the playoffs.
Any local smug satisfaction when that happened?
Talent was rewarded over character. Just like it is now in the Antonio Brown case.
If I owned the Raiders I would sue Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. I would try to subpoena the phone records. I would seek to prove that there was collusion between the Patriots and Brown. Spygate. Deflategate. And now Antoniogate (no relation to Antonio Gates).
It’s happened here before. LeGarrette Blount quit on the Steelers in 2014. He walked off the field and wound up in the Patriots backfield an hour or two later. Similarly, Brown was released Saturday, after weeks of defiant, weird behavior. And five minutes later he landed with the Patriots.
He quit. And now he is rewarded. Brown’s flight into Rhode Island Sunday was covered as if Air Force One had just landed.
He will be greeted as a hero in Foxborough when he plays his first home game for the Patriots in two weeks.
Knock yourselves out cheering for this guy. He was a jackass in Pittsburgh and a bigger jackass in Oakland. He is antithetical to everything most of us love about sport in the first place. He is a walking, talking promotion for Self Above Team.
The jackass gets rewarded. The fans cheer. Some will buy Antonio Brown Patriot jerseys (anyone accompanying a child wearing an Antonio Brown jersey deserves to be reported to DSS).
It makes me like sports a little bit less.
Anybody with me?
Didn’t think so.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com