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Kraft, Mara helped make Super Bowl XLVI actually happen

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank wishes his team was playing in Sunday's Super Bowl, but from his view the meeting of the New York Giants and New England Patriots is one of destiny.

"In the Jewish faith, we have a term, 'Bashert,' that means, 'It was meant to be,'" Blank said this week. "This was 'Bashert.' This was meant to be because [Giants owner] John Mara and [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft had such huge roles in us having a season."

Mara and especially Kraft were viewed as catalysts in building trust with players after months of a contentious labor lockout threatened the season.

While bridging peace that eventually ended with a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, Kraft also was dealing with the failing health of his wife, Myra, who died as the labor pact was being finalized.

"I'm not necessarily happy to be playing Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, I'll tell you that. But I'm very happy for Bob," Mara said. "He put his heart and soul into those negotiations during a very difficult time for him and his family. The success they've had is well deserved."

The photo of Kraft burying himself into a hug from Colts center Jeff Saturday after a deal was struck emblazoned humanity into a months-long battle that put the season -- and Kraft and Mara's shot at this Super Bowl -- in jeopardy. It made us all realize that for all the talk that there was about millionaires and billionaires during the negotiations, these people also had real issues.

Now, just days away from playing for another Super Bowl championship, Kraft seems poised to tie a bow on his trying journey. Although there really isn't a storybook ending to this because Kraft is still hurting.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft's emotional hug with Colts center Jeff Saturday inserted humanity into the lockout.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft's emotional hug with Colts center Jeff Saturday inserted humanity into the lockout. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

"The team saved me," Kraft said this week. "I never understood what the word heartbroken meant. It's hard for anyone to relate to it. My wife was 19 and I was 20 when she proposed to me. We had five kids right away. Then they left and we became best pals for 25 years. She was 98 pounds, read four books a week and was healthy. I thought she would outlive me for 30 years. This horrible cancer came and it's wrecked my life. Having this team has been a savior for me."

That is moving.

Patriots players have worn an "MHK" patch on their jerseys all season and have played in Myra Hiatt Kraft's honor. She was around for players, coaches and staffers, so the sting was felt when she died -- and well after. As mundane as the Patriots can be when it comes to most things, they tend to break out of their programmed personas when it comes to Myra Kraft.

Said quarterback Tom Brady: "She is a woman who has been smiling down on us over the course of this season. I think Mr. Kraft and his family have had a challenging six months. Mr. Kraft said the other day that he is a very spiritual person, and hopefully we can go out and get a win for him. I think it would make this year very special for him and special for his family."

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork expressed similar feelings: "For her not to be here physically with us, I think everybody thinks of every moment that she was around. This year is dedicated to her, and hopefully we can finish it off with a good outcome for her and for the Kraft family."

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While Mara's role in getting the NFL season to this point and his importance to the Giants is no less significant than Kraft's, the Pats owner has almost outshone his team leading up to Super Bowl XLVI. The loss of Myra, of course, has been the focal point, but Kraft also is a different type of owner.

Most of the men cutting the checks in NFL fall into two categories: barely seen and aloof, or very visible and hands-on. Kraft is a blend of both. The wealth and power are evident, but so is his genuine character. That's why people want to work with him and it's why he was the one who could get owners and players to look past their agendas during the lockout. He could look people in the eye and they knew he wasn't running a con.

"He'll work his way through," Blank said of Kraft. "He's wrapped himself around four pillars in life that he lives by: Family, the memory of his wife, his franchise and philanthropy.

"He's given the perfect example for the rest of us."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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