"Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power. In this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesnít see the difference." - Rep. Frank Underwood [D-S.C.]
Call it the "F.U. Power Principle."
President Frank Underwood [aka Kevin Spacey] took an unconventional route to the White House. His fictional saga returns to computer screens, smart phones, and tablets on Friday when the third season of "House of Cards" becomes available on Netflix.
Underwood's journey to the Oval Office included [SPOILER ALERT] some nasty stuff. For instance, reporter Zoe Barnes - played by the real-life Kate Mara - ended up on the wrong side of the tracks.
Mara is unique in that two of her great-grandfathers - Tim Mara and Art Rooney - founded NFL teams. Mara's Giants would upend the Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Rooney's Steelers and the Patriots have eliminated each other in the postseason several times.
That, my friends, is as good as any other link we can make between Underwood's fake world of politics, power, and intrigue, and the real-world might that New England's current NFL teams wields inside the league and outside in the real world.
The House of Kraft has plenty of "F.U." power these days at its disposal. Theirs is no house of cards. It's built upon billions of dollars, an incredibly popular football team, and a growing base of influence.
President Underwood's ability - thanks to the writers of "House of Cards" - to sum up much of what makes power unique is simple and succinct. Most powerful people share some of Underwood's personal traits and characteristics. Thankfully, none of the people we're discussing in this column followed his path to achieve their goals.
Students of history, reality, and "House of Cards" know that power is the most-potent, most-durable, and most-important commodity any one person or organization can possess.
The New England Patriots and the House of Kraft have fame. They have money. And most importantly, they have power.
The have more power than ever today thanks to many factors, including the demise of Deflategate and Super Bowl XLIX.
First, the fame. The Patriots were the first NFL team to crack the 1 million-followers mark on Twitter during this past season. The team's official Twitter account boasts 1.27 million followers. Even more impressive when it comes to social engagement, the Patriots have 6.262 million followers on Facebook.
The Patriots carry a Klout score of 97. Klout is one of several meters that measure "social media influence." Its scale ranges from 1 to 100. When it comes to "buzz," the Patriots rank with the likes of Britney Spears [96.8] and ahead of the Yankees [94.4] and the Red Sox .
In 2015, this means "fame" as much as anything.
Fame carries no intrinsic value. It is worthless unless leveraged into something else. It has a very short shelf-life. Viral stars can be entirely missed if you take a day away from Twitter or You Tube.
The Patriots reap much of their fame, and revenue, from good, old-fashioned broadcast and cable television.
Super Bowl XLIX was the most-watched TV program in U.S. history. It drew an average viewership of 114.4 million - not including those who watched the game at sports bars, large parties, and other gatherings. The measured audience peaked at 120.8 million in the fourth quarter when Tom Brady was his best and Pete Carroll was at his worst.
The millions who watch the Patriots and the rest of the NFL on TV mean billions of dollars. According to the most-recent figures available, each NFL team pocketed $187.7 million in TV revenue during the 2013 season.
Add to that the money made on ticket sales, luxury suites, the team's cut from officially licensed merchandise, Gillette Stadium concession sales, local radio rights, and all those other revenue streams flowing throughout One Patriot Place.
Forbes estimated the worth of the Patriots, which includes the team-owned stadium, at $2.6 billion in August of 2014. That was before that fourth Lombardi Trophy. The team's overall annual revenue then, according to Forbes, was $428 million. And as we noted just last week, the House of Kraft has been judicious, shrewd, and frugal when it comes to spending against the salary cap.
The appearance of fame and money is easy to manufacture. Money can be equally volatile. One bad day on Wall Street can erase millions off the books of any publicly-traded firm. Companies with little or no tangible hard assets [see Instragram] can fetch $1 billion if another firm [see Facebook] sees it at a potential threat. Trading in hard commodities like oil, gold, wheat, and even frozen concentrated orange juice, is not for the faint of heart.
[Whatever happened to Wilson, anyway?]
Cash remains king.
The Patriots' power dominates the NFL landscape. The scandal known as Deflategate, which once threatened to topple the House of Kraft, has given it a level of invincibility among its NFL peers. That will be its lasting legacy.
The Patriots' rivals are now scrambling for cover and redemption in this mess.
State Run Media apologists in Indianapolis continue to reach new levels of embarrassment.
One can numerically quantify money and fame. Power is far more abstract. And, as President Underwood has noted, it is also vastly undervalued. Another reason why it can be far more effective than internet virility, or hard currency.
The exact amount power possessed by the Patriots remains a great unknown to those without access to the Unholy See of NFL on Park Avenue. Roger Goodell, who is no longer qualified to the run the MBTA since nearly all the trains were back running on Monday, is waiting for his designated toady, Ted Wells, to complete the Deflategate investigation.
The over/under on that remains April 15, 2086. The Wells Report will solve nothing. Robert Kraft, meanwhile, will likely get his apology sooner than most people expect.
Away from the inner sanctum of NFL headquarters, the power possessed by the Patriots isn't nearly as subdued. They own their stadium. They are free to build around it without any real outside restrictions. They are, without question, the most popular pro team in New England. They are, without question, the most successful pro team in New England in this century.
They have Tom Brady.
Their coach has created the standard against which his Boston counterparts are measured.
Example: "Claude Julien/Brad Stevens/John Farrell/Terry Francona/Doc Rivers is no Bill Belichick."
The Patriots got Boston to host a Duck Boat parade on the heels of one of the 43 blizzards that buried the city this winter. Not even Mother Nature was going to mess with the House of Kraft on that day. The snow stopped long enough for the Duck Boats to roll, Brady and his son to kiss the Lombardi Trophy, Julian Edelman to diss Richard Sherman, and Gronk to shot-gun beers and Fireball.
The House of Kraft is a primary force behind the increasingly unpopular push for Boston to host the 2024 Olympics. The plan, as of now, includes soccer and rugby at Gillette Stadium. Without the might and money of the House of Kraft, its NFL ties, and the NFL's partner network NBC, Boston would not be assembling its bid to host the 2024 Games.
There are many things that could derail Boston's Olympic bid, not the least of which are the trains that were literally derailed all month due to the snow and MBTA's incompetence.
But it takes an immense amount of power to make something happen.
To move a project like this Olympic bid forward.
It would be unwise to ignore the sovereignty and clout of my boss. The beneficent John W. Henry owns the parent company of this column, among other things. With one simple wave of his hand, Henry could have me disappear forever from this digital space. [Although my contract doesn't expire until April.] He's largely responsible for the employment of hundreds of others.
That is real power, at least as far as I'm concerned.
Henry supports Boston's Olympic bid but is not officially involved with it. Henry's Fenway Sports Group owns the Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, Fenway Park, Anfield, most of NESN, and half of Roush Fenway Racing.
The Red Sox have plenty of money. Things are getting just a tad desperate on Yawkey Way. The team is set to drop $63 million, including $31.5 million in luxury taxes, on a 19-year-old Cuban infielder. Pablo Sandoval just needs to hit his weight to win the batting title. And the pitching staff doesn't have one ace, it has five. Which, of course, means it needs Cole Hamels to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
The Red Sox do not carry the throw-weight of their NFL counterparts in these parts. At least not in early 2015. Therein lies the difference here.
Forbes most-recently listed the value of the Red Sox at $1.5 billion. A princely sum, but not nearly what the Patriots would command. Major League Baseball is fumbling about, trying to find ways to shorten its games and possibly its season. Major League Soccer caught up with Major League Baseball in terms of popularity among those 12-17 years old in a 2014 ESPN poll.
The NFL appears to be trying to screw things up at every turn - see Deflategate - but continues to grow in terms of fans, viewers, and revenue.
Its most-recent game was its best and most-watched ever.
All the NFL has to do is show up each September and success is indefinitely guaranteed.
In addition to polishing their fourth Lombardi Trophy, the House of Kraft is actively working to bring the 2024 Olympics to the Bay State, get their soccer team a new venue closer to Boston, and work behind the scenes to get the commuter rail extended directly to One Patriot Place in Foxborough.
All whether you like it or not.
Power, as President Underwood knows, waits for no one.
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