Obnoxious Boston Fan

'Legend of Gronk' Needs to Grow On Field - Not Just Off It

If Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski isn't ready for Week 1 against the Dolphins, he can always join the cast on "Dancing With The Stars" as a fallback.

As pieces of the internet witnessed Wednesday, or here in The OBF Column first late Tuesday night, Gronk was dancing up a storm at the Beyonce-Jay Z concert at Gillette Stadium. He mingled with teammates Chandler Jones and Aaron Dobson, spent quality time with Charles Barkley, posed with fans, danced with team owner Bob Kraft and, when prompted, had plenty of fun dancing with himself.

A true Patriots idol.

Gronk's offseason recovery tour from his ACL surgery also included a stop at the JLo concert in Connecticut last week a few days following the Patriots mandatory minicamp.

Continue Reading Below

He's on the floor at every opportunity.

Gronkowski's reputation is two-fold in New England - touchdown machine and party machine.

The Gronkowski touchdown machine only reached the end zone only four times last season and missed nine games with various injuries. His absence was perhaps most-notable in the AFC title game when Tom Brady was forced to throw to the likes of Matthew Mulligan, Michael Hoomanawanui and Austin Collie.

The image of Gronk as a party machine never has an off week. The "Legend of Gronk" demands that he keep himself in the public eye, both in person and via social media/commercial endorsements.

Gronk is everywhere, or at least he was Tuesday night.

Given the number of times he pops up on TMZ or in the daily Twitter roundup, it's heartening that he has not turned up in the police blotter. He has not been accused of anything untoward beyond downing multiple beers or dancing to endanger.

He's not facing multiple murder charges, has not been arrested for domestic abuse nor has he been on trial for DUI manslaughter. That is the criminality framework provided by his NFL brethren. In the real world, his goofy antics are mere big kid's stuff.

Word of Gronk's presence at Tuesday's concert seeped out via social media even before the show. It was internet gold.

Mary Gaffney, a Patriots fan from Leicester, and her friends were tailgating before the show and happened to be parked near Gronk's group Tuesday. "We were all staring, debating on going over," she told The OBF Column Wednesday. "He saw us standing there and waved us over to take a picture. He was really nice. After we took the picture we went back to our car and let him be."

Gaffney and her pals got the personal Gronk Touch long enough for the above photo, posted by Mary Brown on Twitter. The Gronk Touch can be, from what has been written about Gronkowski, intoxicating on its own.

Many Patriots fans, like Gaffney, enjoy watching Gronk's antics whenever he offers himself for our offseason amusement. They will care much more about the Gronk Touchdown than the Gronk Touch once the Patriots begin playing.

The "Big, Bad Bruins" of the early 1970s were legendary for their nightly, post-game exploits. If there was Twitter back then, Derek Sanderson might be more popular than Johnny Football. Even without social media, Sanderson still has far better stories to tell.

Sanderson also won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins, lost pretty much every dime he ever made playing hockey, had 10 hip surgeries, and overcame substance addiction.

Sanderson's partying and youthful indiscretions found historic perspective.

Nearly every move Gronk makes, on and off the field, is documented and shared. On its own, there's nothing inherently wrong with his fun-loving lifestyle. He's a 25-year-old, athletic, good-looking, single male who has all the trappings and wealth of celebrity. He plays the most-popular sport in America for the most-popular team in New England - at least as long as the Red Sox remain in fourth place.

Given his history of injury and the fact that he's coming back off ACL surgery, clips of Gronkowski dancing the other night could be heartwarming or gut-wrenching for the Patriots and their fans.

Gronk can, no doubt, move on his feet.

But should he be moving on his feet like this, even with the season three months away?

He's gotten a hall pass from the masses to do as he pleases for at least three weeks since training camp doesn't begin until July 24.

Fame is the most fleeting commodity in sports. Gronk's antics won't be much fun to watch if he somehow reinjures himself, is unable to return to the Patriots for Week 1, cannot be productive, or play consistently. Many of us were 25 once. Who wouldn't love to trade to places with Gronk in any of those photos Tweeted the other night? He looked like he was having a blast. Nearly anyone in Gronk's size-16 shoes would do the same.

Gronk continues to raise the stakes upon himself. Every Tweet, every video, every dance move, every spilt beer becomes another bullet for potential critics after each dropped pass, missed route or the next injury.

One can only imagine how they register in Bill Belichick's universe.

It's foolish to judge Gronk's off-season fun now because there's no way to tell if it will have any impact on his play. That's all that matters from the perspective of the Patriots or their fans. He's only 25. If he was showcasing like this in public at age 30 or 35, the physical toll would be much more lasting and the public eye would be much less forgiving.

"Do your job" in Foxborough and you can do pretty much whatever else you want.

Gronk keep scoring. Gronk keep spiking. Gronk keep dancing, drinking and having fun.

It's only fun until someone gets hurt or stops bailing out Brady on 3rd-and-8.

From all accounts and reports, Gronkowski has a deep support system which starts with his family. If someone wanted to "get close to him" and help him with the potential downside to all this, it would have happened already. If anything, the Legend of Gronk off the field may be someday as financially lucrative as the Legend of Gronk on the field.

The long-term damage to Gronkowski may be doing to himself as a partier or as a football player is something he'll likely end up having to deal with on his own. And that healing process will take place far away from any cheering crowds, smartphone cameras or Twitter feeds.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address
. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.

More from this blog on: Patriots