The Fall of the House of Conscience


“my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder – there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters – and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the ‘House of Usher .’ “

The ending of Edgar Allen Poe’s greatest prose finds the death of two siblings, mad from anxiety and hypochondria, their senses heightened by such as to foster torment – mad from what they believe their lives to be, mad because they are compelled to be mad, their family history suggesting no other recourse.

Jun 11, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick answers questions during a press conference before minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Self-fulfilling prophesy is a common theme in Poe’s works, and apparently with some of the more volatile of the sometimes cold New England sports media – using the New England Patriots’ recent string of personnel hiccups to justify their beliefs that the so-called Patriot Way is dead or, according to many journalists, never existed at all…

…claiming that the “gullible” public had been fleeced by an illusion of integrity created by Robert Kraft and fostered by success unmatched in the decade and a half that Kraft has had Bill Belichick in charge of his personnel – their eyes veiled by the allure and lustre of three shiny trophies – these scribes choosing to narrate the fall of the house of Kraft as if fulfilling their own dark desires to see a macabre end to their own means.

In The Fall of the House of Usher, the protagonist tells the story of trying to comfort an old friend, a friend whom he had not seen in decades, a friend who had become mentally ill through the anxiety that comes with being repressed by things beyond his control.

A friend who asked him to help entomb his sister after she fell into a cataleptic state – knowing full well that she was still alive, witnessing like-episodes in the past – the sister, now quite unhinged and murderous from being buried alive, appears in the friend’s bedroom doorway and exacts her revenge upon her brother, given the strength of panic, she strangles him in a rage…

…the narrator escaping the terrifying scene just in time, riding away from the house as quickly as a horse could pull his carriage, a flash of light beckoning him to look back to the house, which splits in two and disappears into the stale water of a pond that surrounded the house.

There are no heroes in Poe’s classic tale, nor in the filthy drama currently unfolding in an affluent neighborhood just south of Gillette Stadium – only a short list of ne’er do wells and a litany of victims not unlike what you will find every single time that you open those monuments to human ugliness called newspapers…

…yet many fans and Boston area journalists are distancing themselves from the New England Patriots in the wake of the Hernandez saga, and while the homicide investigation is ongoing, both fans and writers alike are preparing their lists of indiscretions, fulfilling their own prophesy of being users and fixers and plagiarists.

The Patriot Way is in itself a self-fulfilling prophesy, a set of standards and clichés conceived by the media to explain how a franchise that had been downtrodden and the doormat of the NFL for many years suddenly became the organization to which all other organizations were compared…

…a set of coattails created for fans and journalists to ride as far as the good times last, and then a springboard from which to jump as far overboard as they can when they perceive the ship is about to sink.

A standard that the Kraft family embraced, though not in so many words – as you will seldom hear anyone in the organization use them – an impromptu and unofficial mission statement that they never tried to do anything but culture and to edify, doing the best that they could to uphold a standard that they knew could never be reached, given the ambiguity of human nature – because they really had no choice.

Because in the end, football is a business and, not unlike any other business, the boss will sermonize to their charges that, as an employee, they represent the company, their family and their core values.  Nobody wants to hire lazy people.  Nobody wants to hire selfish people who have only their own best interest in mind.

Nobody wants to hire someone who may or may not eventually have something to do with the death of another human being, yet it happens every single day in this country – but you seldom open your newspaper to read the type of derogatory swill that the New England media is laying on the Patriots in the light of the Patriots’ summer of misery.

In the history of business, there are many corporations in many different fields that have hired people that have ended up committing crimes, that have ended up being fired for incompetence or can not escape their painful past – yet these corporations are not viewed to have strayed from their mission statement.

The United States Postal Service has endured many strange and violent periods, yet the mantra “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” still resonates – and we still get our mail.

Print publications are not immune to hiring people who have had brushes with the law – nor have journalists always followed the canons of ethics like truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability – yet our newspapers are still at the front door every morning.

The New England Patriots are in the business of winning football games.  They hire people talented in their field of endeavor, many college graduates, but with the same unfamiliarity as any other person.  Some businesses take on employees with troubled pasts or with a history of injury in hopes that the past will be left behind and a change in venue will help the person be all they can be.

Taking chances are part of business.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose – and sometimes you take a series of hard knocks that can be construed into a losing streak, but there still has been an excellent brand of football on our television sets every Sunday, and will continue to be.

Winners never give up – and that is the true meaning of the recently emasculated credo.

The Patriots may have just been doing the same things as everyone else in the Kraft era, as suggested by more than one writer, but also have doing it consistently better and for longer than any other team in the league.

Why?  Because the Patriots Way does exist.

The Patriots Way doesn’t mean perfection.  The Patriots way means doing your best, striving to realize the zenith of their profession – along the way affording opportunity to players who may have lost their way – if it doesn’t work, then it didn’t work.  Not every idea does, but every once in a while a gem emerges as a result of the given opportunity that no other team could absorb without falling apart…

…their want and desire to be better than everyone else a creed that has existed in human nature since the beginning of time, and is essential to the success of any business endeavor – the Patriot Way is strong and it will survive, because to people with souls and consciences it means so much more than something created to be destroyed.

It is at times like these that I wonder why I ever dreamed of being a sports writer, as it seems that people who do actually make it in the world of journalism tend to lose their passion and integrity along the way – but then I stop and think that if someone were to give me the opportunity that I could be different, that there would be no way that I could ever lose my passion for the game and for my teams but, just like any other human, I would be prone to putting my soul up for sale to achieve my goals…

…so I understand how writers corrupt their sense of objectivity, but will never understand how people can ride the coattails of whatever entity took them where they were going, then criticize the manner in which the people wearing the coattails got them to their destination.

The Patriot Way bandwagon is being abandoned like rats fleeing a sinking ship – the Patriots’ ship is not sinking, but the perception of the Patriot Way being dead has droves of fickle fans and media criticizing and scrutinizing their every move – which is curious, because since the Patriot Way is a product of people who can’t stand upon their skill and merit alone, they are only criticizing themselves…

…so on second thought, please continue.  You are quite good at it.

“Never create anything, it will be misinterpreted, it will chain you and follow you for the rest of your life.”

Dr. Hunter S, Thompson