Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Darkness Before The Dynasty


Anyone who writes a book should be prepared to answer one question about it: “Why?”

Even the simplest book is a lot of work, involving long hours of writing and rewriting, edits and re-edits. You need at least a decent reason for deciding to take that on.

So allow me to ask and answer my own question. Why did I write From Darkness to Dynasty: The First 40 Years of the New England Patriots? Because I've always wanted to read this book — and since the universe was taking its sweet time getting around to it, I wrote it myself. 

These are the stories I grew up on as the youngest of five in a Patriots-first household outside of Boston. Not the ones about the 21st century Patriots, that model sports franchise that has not only dominated on the field for an unprecedented span of years, but has owned the headlines as well. As pro football has taken center stage in American pop culture, the Patriots have dominated the news cycle with scandals, controversies, and celebrity status like no other team.

And yet, for the first four decades of their existence, they were the polar opposite. Laughingstocks on the field and off. A downtrodden, mismanaged, amateurish operation that was perpetually on the brink of ruin. For ten years they didn't have a stadium to call their own. When they finally built one, it was an obsolete dump surrounded by a dirt parking lot that looked like the surface of Mars.

Unlike the current Patriots, the controversies of the early teams were never about trying to gain a competitive advantage and win championships. There were power struggles. Lawsuits. There was the time they drafted a player not knowing he was getting a knee operation, then almost drafted a dead man. When they met with success, it immediately came crashing down around them. Like the time a very successful coach had secretly taken a job to coach elsewhere and was caught using team resources to work for his new employer. Then 18 years later, history repeated itself with another great coach doing the exact same thing. In between, they went to a Super Bowl, only to have a major drug scandal tear the locker room apart the very next day.

And what finally turned the Patriots around were the dual rock-bottoms of a financially ruinous Michael Jackson concert tour and a player sexually harrassing a female reporter. Through a series of bold moves by people of vision, the franchise was saved, competent leaders were brought in and an era of unimaginable success began. But not without dozens of coincidences small (an unconscious player saved a game), large (a franchise quarterback was replaced due to a near-fatal injury) and monumental (9/11), without which the Patriots may never have won a championship.

Now they have four. And counting. Which represents the most remarkable turnaround of any franchise in the history of North American sports. And I'm happy to be the one to tell it. Somebody had to, after all.


Jerry Thornton is co-host of WEEI Sports Radio Network's Dale and Holley with Thornton Show, creator of WEEI.com's Thornography blog, stand up comic, and author of Darkness to Dynasty: The First 40 Years of the New England Patriots. Jerry has worked everywhere from Barstool Sports to HBO's “Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino,” from the parking lots of Foxboro to the comedy clubs of New England. The one man who was right about Deflategate from Minute One, he's written a million pro football pieces and he's rocked them all.

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