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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Even With Jermaine Jones, the Revolution Find Themselves Second-Rate Citizens in Foxborough

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AP Photo

The New England Revolution’s acquisition of Jermaine Jones is a coup for local soccer fans. In fact, it’s such a big deal that somebody even asked Patriots head coach Bill Belichick what he thought about his team’s little brother signing one the sport’s most recognizable names, and whether there was a “competitive nature” between Robert Kraft’s football and soccer teams. He was ecstatic.

“We’re all under the same roof,” Belichick said at his mid-day press conference on Tuesday. “ We’re just trying to go out there and win football games. I don’t know anything about soccer; I don’t even know what the rules are. I’m just trying to coach the Patriots and win football games, that’s all.”

The question must have really gotten under Belichick’s skin. Comparing the Revolution and their hundreds of fans to the power of the New England Patriots, one of the most successful teams in the world’s most powerful league? He had to do something to put the local MLS entry back in its place, the storage closet beneath Skipjack’s, the one that always smells like fish.

Less than an hour after he left the podium, the printed copies of the Revolution’s press releases about Jones still warm, reports leaked that the Patriots had traded six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick. And just like that, the Revs were once again suddenly story No. 2 in the Patriot Empire. The way it always has been; the way it will always be.

But still, jeez, Tuesday’s events had to be a kick to the groin of Revs fans, who, yes, do exist. They are indeed a dedicated, passionate fan base, one that has had to endure its owners’ ignorance since the beginning of their existence in 1995. It’s not like the Revolution haven’t been a success. The team has reached the MLS finals four times, and has employed some of the league’s top stars over the years, from Alexi Lalas to Jay Heaps to Taylor Twellman, and now, Jones. If you haven’t attended a Revs game at Gillette Stadium, it’s one of the more underrated sporting events in the area, even if it does feel as if the few thousand on hand have been swallowed by a sea of empty seats, inhabited only by the reminder of what’s really important at Gillette Stadium.

Boston Magazine went so far as to call the Krafts “The Worst Owners in the League” in a scathing criticism last April. For sure, if Sunday Patriot games are a star-studded affair in Foxborough, Revolution games are like the county fair. And the Ferris wheel is busted.

Bob and Jonathan Kraft seemed to wake up a bit this year in terms of realizing they couldn’t ignore the soccer team anymore. Revs fans were fed up with constantly playing second fiddle to the Big Boy Pats, and it showed in the team’s attendance, which was fourth-worst in the 19-team MLS last season. Jonathan Kraft went on the offensive, again arguing that the team really needs a soccer-specific stadium to sustain long-term growth and success, but with the Krafts either unwilling or unable to grease the right political wheels, such a dream on the Boston waterfront, regrettably, isn’t in the immediate future.

“We’re working hard at doing it, but there aren’t tracks of land just sitting there. We’re a developed, older, more mature city and it’s harder to make these things happen,” Jonathan Kraft told 98.5 The Sports Hub in June. “That being said, we are working hard on it. Unfortunately, I don’t think this was something Mayor Menino saw the value in, and it didn’t get a lot of attention.”

We’ve been here before, and know how it ends; with empty threats of building at Adrien’s Landing and eventually high-tailing it back to Foxborough.

Yes, an urban stadium setting would be nice for the franchise, but more than anything, Revs fans had become despondent over the product they were watching. The Revolution currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference with 30 points, and little In the way of promise, which is why the Jones news came as such a pleasant shock on Sunday. Jones, of course, was the player who became a national headline when he scored with seconds ticking away against Portugal, which the U.S. tied, 2-2, in the opening round of World Cup play earlier this summer. He was assigned to New England over Chicago, the two teams that had claimed his MLS rights in a blind draw Finally. A big deal for Revs fans. Halle-freaking-lujah.

Over the next 18 months in New England, Jones will make $4.3 million, which, come to think of it, is only a little less than the Krafts saved in dealing Mankins’ $6.25 million salary to Tampa. I know Belichick admitted the teams were under the same roof, but had no idea they were also under the same books.

Yes, yes, the Patriots and the Revolution separate entities, just like the Red Sox and Liverpool, but at some point one hand undoubtedly feeds the other, unless you think the sprawling retail center of Patriot Place was built on good fortune and handshakes. It’s no matter really, just a convenient twist when it comes to a pair of franchises that choose to spend money in interesting ways. It’s just that by know you figured the rent that Cupcake Charlie’s was bringing in could have at least bought another wide receiver for poor Tom Brady.

Ah, we feel you, Revs fans. Your moment in the sun and big brother comes along and kicks in the sand castle you so meticulously had created. It’s just that there’s never going to be a scene where the bully falls and the nerds rise to power. The Revolution will always be second-rate to their owners, but they are right about one thing; the general sports population won’t take them seriously without a home to call their own.

And no more asking Belichick about soccer, OK? You never know who’ll go next.

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