Robert Kraft eyes perfection

Ahead of the Super Bowl, Patriots' owner Robert Kraft speaks to the Jerusalem Post .

kraft 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
kraft 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Robert Kraft is a busy man at the best of times. At 65 years old he is still the acting chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, a holding company which runs numerous businesses including a paper manufacturing plant, a real estate development company, and of course the New England Patriots, by far the most successful NFL team of the past decade. But this time of the year is often even more demanding than usual for Kraft. It is Super Bowl week, and on Sunday the Pats will play in their fourth NFL championship game in seven years. Following a stunning 16-0 regular season, the Patriots are aiming to make history and beat the New York Giants to achieve a perfect winning season, a feat that has only been reached once before in the 88 year history of the NFL. This week Kraft has been bombarded with requests for his time, for interviews and of course for the all-elusive Super Bowl tickets. "It's overwhelming. I have more relatives and friends than I ever knew I had, you wouldn't believe," he jokes. "But it's a high class problem to have." Speaking by telephone from Phoenix, Arizona, where the team has been practicing this week, Kraft sounds calm but is clearly extremely excited for this weekend's game. A fan of the team since he was a child, it has been one of Kraft's lifelong dreams to see the Patriots turned into one of the greatest NFL organization in history and repeat the achievement of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. "We hope we can do it. We just have to close the order," Kraft says. "Anyone who is a competitor at heart strives for perfection in whatever they do but it's rarely achieved." When Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994 for a then-record $172 million it was far from a winning team, having only reached the playoffs six times in 33 years. The franchise has since been totally turned around and won the Super Bowl in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Kraft has been intrinsically involved in the development of the team, including the acquisition of quarterback Tom Brady who the the owner says is "like a son to me". When he begins talking about the upcoming game Kraft waxes philosophical, explaining his team ethos. "The NFL is 90-odd years old - that is 150 percent of Israel's life. We will be attempting to achieve perfection and win a fourth championship in seven years and you can only do that by truly building a sense of team and having people who are very talented subjugate their egos for what is good for the whole," Kraft says. "Football is the ultimate team sport and you have to balance a lot of egos in a lot of situations. It's a business in the media spotlight which brings an extra kind of pressure and you have to manage that differently in then end its about getting everyone to be on the same page." Although the Giants have been on an impressive run in the playoffs, winning all three of their games on the road, the Pats are a formidable outfit and are clearly the favorites. From Brady controlling the plays to wide receiver Randy Moss, the team from just outside Boston has been virtually impossible to beat this season, and Kraft is focussed only on the win. "I don't ever go into any game thinking were not going to win," he states. "Since I have owned the team I feel that every time we take the field we're going to win." Regarding the Giants, he adds: "Our opposition is probably the hottest team in the NFL having won three playoff games on the road and is probably playing the best football of anyone in the NFL. It's going to be a tough game." As is usually the case with a successful football team, the quarterback has become the focus of the Pats, especially in this extra-special season. Brady has outdone even himself, breaking a plethora of passing records, most notably the single-season all-time touchdown mark with 50 TD passes. Kraft is an owner who likes to be involved and says he has a special relationship with Brady, who was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. "Brady is like a son to me," Kraft explains. "We have very close relationship. I think both of us can talk to one another about anything. Before the game before we played against Dallas he kissed me on the field. This was symbolic of our relationship." "We are able to discuss anything with one another but more importantly I have great trust and confidence in him and we are very happy to have on my team. He's the number one player in the team. He's an amazing person." The son of an Orthodox Jew, Kraft has a longstanding love of Israel and its people. He personally sponsored the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem and visits the country at least once a year to attend board meetings of Carmel Container Systems, a company he owns based in Caesarea. He also loves to bring groups of people with him to Israel, to showcase what he sees as the positive aspects of the country which are not given enough coverage. In recent years he has brought Patriots players to the country, including Brady himself who visited in 2006. This year he plans to bring two more players to Israel although he would not name them. "There are a lot of players on our team who believe in spirituality and understand how special the Holy Land is," Kraft says. "In March hopefully we will have a couple of players who will come with their wives. Every year my wife and I bring a group of Christian and Jews to enjoy the country." Kraft is not ashamed of showing how he endeavors to do PR for Israel. "It is hard for people in America who have never been there, even people who are Jewish, but especially non-Jews, to understand what Israel is about," he says. "The way its represented in the media is sometimes so far from what the truth is. It is such a rich place in terms of history. It's the cradle of all the western religions. So much history has happened." As an example of the effect he has had on people, he adds that "when Tom Brady speaks about [Israel] he speaks with great affection." Football in Israel is constantly expanding and late last year the country's first tackle football league - the Israel Football League - launched. Although he admits he isn't overly familiar with its workings, Kraft is eager to find out more about the IFL, even more so when he hears about the high number of Israelis playing. "I think it's great. I would only enjoy supporting it if Israeli players continue to be involved," he says.