On Gronkowski and Dancing

By now you’ve certainly heard, watched, read, and thought about the video Rob Gronkowski on Sunday night after the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants and developed your opinion on the subject accordingly. But I’m in football withdrawal, don’t have much else to write about, and find myself in the odd position of agreeing with a talking head studio host, Rodney Harrison, who I normally ignore while disagreeing with one of my favorite writers, Drew Magary, whose philosophies on sports, food, and life I almost always find to be spot on. So I feel like I need to chime in.

In case you’ve been on vacation in Algeria for the last week, here is the video of Gronkowski dancing (poorly, though I’m not one to judge…) on Sunday night:

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, former Patriot and current NBC studio analyst Rodney Harrison, who hadn’t seen the video but accurately discerned what had happened, was not pleased:

“When we lost the Super Bowl, any of my Super Bowl losses, I was so devastated the last thing I ever wanted to do was party, let alone dance or take off your shirt,” he added. “It’s just immaturity. It’s not right. He made a mistake and I’m sure he feels absolutely stupid about it at this point. There’s a time and place for everything.”

“The leadership has to step up and someone has to pull [Gronkowski] to the side and say, ‘Look young man, this is inappropriate, this is not the time nor the place. You need to grow up,'” Harrison said. “And that’s what it comes down to. I like this kid. I think he’s a good kid, works hard, is unselfish. But he made a mistake …

 “There’s a certain way of representing yourself and your family and that’s not the right way.”

Deadspin’s Drew Magary responds to Harrison:

There’s no wrong way for a football player to act after a season-ending loss. Some guys go home and sulk. Some guys head right to the gym. Some guys accept that they did their best and go out and celebrate the fact that they came so far. I hate that people like Harrison, who tolerates no variation of any sort, represent the completely dated and pathetic viewpoints of the NFL media. Fuck him. I hope Gronk and Light spend the next month stripping for drag queens.

As I mentioned in the introduction, it’s very odd that I agree with Harrison and disagree with Magary–99% of the time that they are at odds, I will be with Drew. But this is the 1%.

There is a lot that is just too much to ask of professional athletes. It’s too much to ask for them to be role models–they are flawed men with preternatural talents in running and jumping, not beacons of society. It’s too much to ask them to remain loyal to their team when free agency comes around–management treats them like commodities so it would be disingenuous to expect them not to capitalize on their fair market value.

The one thing that is not too much to ask is that they care. That they want to win and hate to lose.

I don’t doubt that Gronkowski did everything he could to prepare for the Super Bowl on a high ankle sprain. If I suffered that injury, I probably wouldn’t be walking without crutches two weeks later, let alone running and cutting on a football field while opponents take physical shots at me every chance they get. But in dancing around gleefully just hours after losing a game that was soul-crushing for the Patriots fan base and (hopefully) his teammates, Gronkowski demonstrated that losing the Super Bowl was not something bad enough to ruin his night.

Former Patriots assistant and current ESPN analyst Eric Mangini also disagreed with Harrison:

“I don’t think he was celebrating the loss. What they were celebrating was the accomplishment of getting there,” Mangini said on “SportsCenter.” “It’s the last time they’re going to be together. There’s going to be so much change with free agency and the draft. This is the last time this group of men are going to be together, and they have their families. Did he take it too far, was there alcohol? I don’t know any of those things. But I don’t think it was a celebration or him not caring about the fact they lost. It was more the event of being together in that moment.”

Let’s take this a little bit at a time. OF COURSE Gronkowski took it too far with alcohol. You don’t dance like that on a sprained ankle unless you’ve been taking shots all night. That’s science.

If the teammates wanted to drink their sorrows away and savor their last moments together until next season, or, in some cases, forever, Light, Gronkowski, and the rest of the Patriots who wanted to imbibe should have done it in privacy or should have held their alcohol better in public. There’s a difference between drinking to suppress pain and drinking to have a good time and this was assuredly the latter. Rob Gronkowski can go almost anywhere on any night, get hammered, and end up in bed with a pretty girl. After a playoff loss and especially after a Super Bowl loss is the one night a year where I would begrudge him for that.

Whether or not we should care so much about the outcomes of football games (we probably shouldn’t) isn’t the point. We do. If we didn’t, Gronkowski would be working at a bar, in construction, or at a gym. Given that he looks like a Greek God, he still probably wouldn’t have too much of a problem getting laid but it wouldn’t be quite as easy.

Because we do care, there are tens of thousands of people who paid $65-250 for the right to wear a shirt with Gronkowski’s name and number on it. And they were all devastated while Gronkowski was drinking, dancing around, and trying to get laid. On Sunday night, he owed his Patriots teammates and fans better than that.

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5 Responses to On Gronkowski and Dancing

  1. wkryjak says:

    As a Patriots fan, a broken-hearted, disappointed, Patriots fan, I have no issue with what Gronk did. Gronk was one player who played hard all season and could never be called out for taking it easy on a play. He was integral to the Patriots success this season, and if he wants to go out and have some drinks and dance around he can go for it. He’s a young guy. Everyone reacts differently to these situations. Some people break up with a girlfriend and sulk, others go sleep with someone else. In the words of The Immortal One “it is what is is,” and I’m pretty sure he went golfing a few days later too. When you get this far the offseason is short – enjoy it while it lasts.

  2. aattarw says:

    Sorry, but I disagree, and Pats fans getting all butthurt about it is stupid, like most of what Pats fans do. At that point, there’s nothing Gronkowski could have done about the game so there’s no sense in excoriating him for trying to enjoy himself. Would Gronkowski being sadder have changed the outcome? No, so I don’t see why anyone should feel cheated. In a lot of ways Gronkowski is the perfect modern athlete, he’s big, dumb, totally unfiltered, and by the time he’s done I hope he wrecks all the bullshit mores about “doing it the right way.” It’s clear that the guy works hard (no matter how naturally talented you are you don;t get that ripped without serious gym time) and when he’s healthy he plays at all-time great levels, that’s really all you can ask for from anyone. Gronkowski’s job is to play football, if the partying affects his on field performance, then it becomes something for fans to be upset about. If it doesn’t, then just leave it alone.

  3. I’m sure he’s neither the first nor last to do this. Technology makes these situations more visible. As much as I understand why he shouldn’t be doing it, on the other hand I agree with Mangini. At least we wasn’t killing, robbing and stealing many others. He’s clearly just trying to stay positive. Like a death in the family, it’s better to celebrate life than sulk on the death.

  4. Solid Steve says:

    He is a young guy. Everyone deals with loss and disappointment in their own fashion. While some NEPats fans are cycling through Kubler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief, others are dancing off their frustration. As a Bears fan, do I expect our team to refrain from having fun and live an ascetic lifestyle during the offseason. Heck no. I’m a passionate fan but I still recognize that players are just people like you and me.
    (No comment on his “dancing”, except that I don’t think he’ll be contacted by “Dancing with the Stars” producers any time soon.)

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