View from outside Gillette Stadium where it reads HOME OF THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS. Photo credit - Evan Whitney
Imagine you owned two professional sports teams;lLet's call them Team A and Team B. Imagine your two professional sports teams played in the same venue. Now, you're probably going to post some signage on the outside of the stadium to let the population know who plays there, right? You wouldn't be silly enough to hang a sign that reads, "Home of Team A" and completely omit Team B would you? No, you wouldn't, because you don't want to make Team B's fans feel slighted, right?
The belief that the New England Revolution are "second fiddle" to the New England Patriots is no real secret. Unfortunately, this perception has spread beyond New England. Major League Soccer fans across the country see the Revs as the red-headed stepchild of the Kraft Sports empire. Need proof? Read the comment section here.The detrimental effect this has on the club as a whole has become shockingly evident over the last few years. The Revs became complacent and stale in terms of marketing, growth and play on the field. New standards have been set in expansion markets like Seattle and Philadelphia. The recipe for success from 2002 was no longer applicable and the Revs FO was the last to realize it. There are a host of other reasons that have created this perception in the psyche of Revolution fans, and if you want to hear them, just buy any supporter in New England a beer and clear your schedule for two to three hours.
Where's the hard proof to support this feeling?
I find it difficult explaining to ordinary sports fans the collective anger with the state of the club in comparison to the rest of MLS. Specifically, this was a problem last year during "Fortgate" when friends asked me what it was all about. Saying plainly that Bob Kraft doesn't care about the Revolution or its fans sounds overly emotional, vindictive and ridiculous when said out of context to a non-MLS fan. Good thing a picture speaks a thousand words.
All you really have to show to someone that doesn't get it is a picture of the outside of Gillette Stadium where it says "Home of the New England Patriots." Ask them why they think it doesn't say New England Revolution as well. They went out of their way to construct the Revs their own locker room...but couldn't put some additional lettering on the building? Think of all the meetings Kraft and Co. must have had with designers and architects before and during construction and no one said a thing about the lack of signage indicating it was also home of the Revs. Patriot logos are emblazoned all over Patriot Place in Foxboro, but you'd be hard pressed to find anything Revolution related. A soccer fan could literally come to Foxboro, shop at Patriot Place, eat on the deck at CBS Scene and have no way of knowing the local MLS team plays there. If there is one team in New England that would require signage to make people aware its existence and where they live, it has to be the 17-year old Revolution. I'm not naive and I understand the Patriots are more important, but you shouldn't promote that notion knowing it might slight fans of the team you ignore. Not incorporating them on the stadium's main sign does just that, for all to see.
It's been ten years since the Revs started playing professional soccer at Gillette Stadium and twelve years since they began construction on it. Has anyone in the Kraft organization noticed that they missed a team when hanging the sign? I bet a couple of the over-61,316 fans who came through the gates for MLS Cup 2002 noticed. Sadly, I bet the players and employees notice.
It's absolutely mind boggling to me, almost more than the Vancouver Whitecaps waiving Lee Nguyen. Every game that I walk through those gates and look up I'll be reminded of an ownership group that can't be bothered to give its own product the proper respect it deserves. While in the stadium every time I look up at the south scoreboard I'm reminded again. Show some pride and a hang a side that reads, "Gillette Stadium, Home of the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution."
On the positive, I truly believe the Front Office reorganization has sparked a fresh look and a new approach. This team really has no where to go but up and the eventual SSS will give the sport and team a long overdue adrenaline shot. The Kraft family still appears shockingly ignorant of how they are viewed by their own fans and those around MLS . They will need to delegate more control to the ones within the organization with the knowledge of the league and its fan base. The giant New England scarf hanging from the bridge during the home opener is a step in the right direction.
Why do you think the Revs were originally left off? Does it prove they are an afterthought to the Kraft family? If I inquired, which I have, what do you think they'd give for a reason? If I get a response...look for it here.