He’s a 23-year old, record-breaking behemoth. Indisputably the best tight end in the game today. As good a blocker as he is a pass-catcher. Not much of a runner, naturally, but if you were 6’6″ and 265 pounds, you wouldn’t be besting Usain Bolt anytime soon either.
Last week, Gronk made history when he signed the largest contract ever for a player at his position. He’s locked in with the Pats for 6 years and $54 million total, with $18.1 million guaranteed. Where would they be without him? Not in as good a position to win as they are with him.
Just three years into his rookie contract, it was a welcome surprise that the Pats decided to take care of their stud so soon. But despite how great Gronkowski is on the field, pundits immediately jumped on the Pats for extending a player so richly who a) has a surgically repaired back and b) hasn’t quite mastered the art of not acting like a frat boy off the field.
That first concern is legitimate, but it hasn’t exactly slowed him down any so far. In all honesty, if there is to be any problem with Gronk’s back, it likely won’t be something that effects him much over the course of this contract. Once he gets into his late 20s, early 30s, his playing years may start to weigh on the metal rods currently holding his back together. It will probably effect him long after he hangs up his cleats, but no NFL team is going to concern themselves with player health twenty years from now. That’s for the NFLPA to deal with. The NFL is a “win right now” kind of operation, and Gronk helps the Pats beat just about everyone right now. Oh, and his broken ankle from late last year? Hardly an issue. Players break bones all the time and they heal perfectly fine. Reports say Gronk has been out of his walking boot for a few months now and all seems to be well.
Now, to that second issue. The drunk frat boy issue. The “yo soy fiesta” issue. There probably isn’t a more polarizing figure in the NFL in this department than Gronk. The man plays for the most conservative, tight-lipped team in the league and yet no qualms about dancing shirtless in celebration of a Super Bowl loss, indulging in public Twitter flirtations, appearing on a reality dating competition (!), admitting he would take Tim Tebow’s virginity (!!), advertising his “friendship” with porn stars, taking lewd photos with 16-year olds or any of the other shenanigans he’s gotten himself into.
It seems that Gronk’s “work hard, play hard” mentality offends those who believe he should just work hard, play appropriately. He doesn’t deserve this new contract, they say, because he’s, for lack of a better word, “douchey” and disrespectful to the Patriots organization off the field.
Excuse me for respectfully disagreeing.
Admittedly, Gronkowski could probably tone down the extracurricular activities. But by the same token, do any of them effect what he does on the field? In 2011, he had 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, a record for a tight end in a single season. He is an indomitable force in his blocking assignments and there has never been any question of his preparation or effort. He deserves the new contract for that alone.
Now, there is an argument to be made that how a player behaves in his personal life does reflect on his team. But Gronk isn’t getting in any trouble. He’s not getting arrested or waking up in ditches or technically hurting anyone. He’s acting the way 23 year olds the world over behave. Just because the man has a ridiculous ability to play football doesn’t mean he should be held to a higher standard in his personal life does it? Should he have to miss out on the joys of being young, rich and desirable because of his occupation? As long as one doesn’t effect the other, why should he? The Playboy Mansion and porn stars populate the dreams of many. Let him enjoy himself in peace as long as what he does out there doesn’t hurt what he does on the field on Sundays.
Then, it’s just all in good fun.