The Pats Stand Pat
Patriots owner Bob Kraft turned his back on the most lucrative stadium deal in NFL history last week, opting instead for one of the worst. Kraft's agreement with Connecticut called for a $374 million stadium and gave the owner just about everything but eternal life, but he exercised an escape clause to keep the club in Foxboro, Mass.
After Kraft's announcement Connecticut governor John Rowland threatened legal action and pledged his allegiance to the New York Jets. But Kraft, 57, was hailed as a hero in his home state, and that may have been worth more to him than the estimated $1 billion over 30 years in taxpayer-funded goodies Rowland had offered. "His heart was never in it," a source close to Kraft says. "He knows he never should have been down there in the first place."
Massachusetts officials, pressured by the state's business leaders and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, agreed to give Kraft $70 million in infrastructure improvements if he builds a privately funded $250 million stadium. Such an offer would be laughed at by most owners, but Kraft apparently feared being known as a Massachusetts Modell, a money-grubber with no sense of history or civic duty. A longtime season-ticket holder who was lauded as a savior when he bought the Patriots for $160 million in 1994, he spoke then of crying as a child when the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee. He loved being loved by Pats fans and had learned one thing since signing his pact with Rowland: that love wouldn't make the 100-mile trip from Boston to Hartford.
In the end Kraft refused to be the guy who moved the Patriots out of Massachusetts. He may yet become that guy—Bay State pols have pulled the rug out from under him before—but don't bet on it. The man's price has been set at more than $1 billion, and it may be going up. On Friday in the Palm restaurant and on Sunday at the Bruins' playoff game, local hero Kraft basked in the ovations he got from his fellow Bostonians.
New Find on Everest
A Riddle on Top Of the World
Armed with aerial photos, a metal detector and global-positioning satellite gear, American alpinist Eric Simonson and 15 others set off from Katmandu in March to attack Mount Everest from the Tibetan side, hoping to solve one of mountaineering's great mysteries: Did British adventurers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine reach Everest's 29,028-foot summit in 1924, nearly 30 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norkay?
On Sunday, on a windswept terrace 27,000 feet above sea level, Simonson's team made a discovery he called "beyond our wildest dreams." Four climbers found the frozen body of Mallory, which had lain on the rocky upper reaches of Everest's North Ridge for 75 years. The body, identified by laundry labels sewn into its clothes, "was in reasonably good condition for having been exposed to the elements for so long," Simonson told SI by E-mail on Monday from his camp at 21,300 feet, after his team had photographed and buried Mallory's remains. As for clues to whether Mallory or Irvine had summitted, Simonson said, "We're analyzing the evidence. We'll have an updated theory at the end of the expedition."
Mallory, an expert climber, and the less skilled Irvine were last seen alive by a member of their expedition on June 8, 1924, at an altitude of more than 28,000 feet, heading toward Everest's summit. Then a snow squall struck and they were never heard from again. Simonson says he and his team will keep searching for Irvine's body and will attempt a free ascent of the Second Step, a 150-foot precipice above 28,000 feet that would have been Mallory and Irvine's chief obstacle. "The three Chinese climbers who made the first successful ascent of the North Ridge in 1960 had a terrible time there," Simonson told SI. "The leader had to remove his boots to climb it and in the process lost his fingers and toes to frostbite."
Did Mallory, using primitive oxygen equipment during a blinding snowstorm, reach the summit? Simonson doubts it. "I think he ran out of oxygen and died," he says. "If we find credible evidence that he climbed the Second Step, then I would reconsider." Still better would be a photograph of Mallory and Irvine at the top of the world. Simonson and his team are searching for a camera the two carried. The film inside, preserved like its owner in Everest's permanent deep freeze, might force the world's tallest peak to yield an answer to an age-old question.