It’s Finally Settled In…

So it’s Monday,( Editor’s note: Joey wrote this yesterday and forgot to schedule it.) and after an entire weekend of college basketball chaos, I’m a little sluggish. After four days of nothing but streaming games and overheating my iPhone with bracket app updates, I’ve lost two years off my life; after watching Duke absolutely STEAL that game against UCF last night, I’ve lost $600…

Most Mondays, that news would be enough to steal the show, however, something else significant occurred last night that managed to redirect my attention. Yes, Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement via Instagram and, although it wasn’t shocking, there are some things you can’t emotionally prepare for.

Unlike other athletes like David Ortiz or Nomar Garciaparra that have retired over the years, Gronk was the first athlete to do so at such a young age. It was like putting down a dog that you knew had early onset arthritis—he lived a long happy life and, although he brought you the best years of your life, it would be selfish to ask for more. He also possessed the most off-the-field likability of anyone in recent memory that bullied his way through the Boston sports car wash.

Now, before I go any further, don’t expect me to go into this deep, in-depth analytical breakdown of what Gronk did here in New England. There are thousands of websites on this Internet of ours (like ours) that will undoubtably flood your news feeds with deep, touching tributes to the same guy I’ve watched dominate over the last decade; however, as someone who considers themself a fan above all else, it’s hard to put this type of stuff into words.

Ever since Gronk was drafted in 2010, it was evident he was going to be an interesting project. From his well documented history of back issues, to when him and his brothers spent 20 minutes chest bumping each other on stage following his selection in the second round, it was tough to look at the lumbering 6’6″ 265 lb. tight end from Arizona State with anything less than curious eyes.

In other words, Gronkowski wasn’t your prototypical Patriots player from a personality standpoint. Conventionally, the Pats bring in low flair, high motor guys who agree to play three sides of the ball for lint and pocket change; this guy was a first-round talent from one of the most notorious party schools on the planet. Not to mention, all it took were a few post-draft interviews to realize he wasn’t necessarily Copernicus on the microphone. All of this led me into thinking his tenure in New England would be short-lived, but as I type this 9 years later, I can’t express how thankful I am it wasn’t.

As I said, I’m not going to dive too much into detail, but I often like to separate the all-time debate into two tiers: “The Greatest of All Time” and “The Best To Ever Do It.” For example, Jerry Rice is the greatest of all time while Randy Moss is the best to ever do it; furthermore, Jack Nicklaus is the greatest of all time while Tiger Woods is the best to ever do it.

In this particular situation, the two subjects under review are Gronk and Tony Gonzales. If we’re debating the best to ever do it, we’re having an erroneous discussion. Gronkowski is the most dominant tight end to ever lace up a pair of cleats. If we’re looking at on-field production objectively, that’s just a fact. He’s a guy that, when he played, was unquestionably the best at his position every year he lined up. That said, “when he played” is something you can’t gloss over. Tony played 17, Gronk played 8. I’ll let you guys argue but it is what it is…

When it’s all said and done, the most endearing aspect of Gronk was, well, he was Gronk.

Regardless of his injury history or his post Super Bowl dancing or his porn star flings, he ALWAYS showed up to play. Yet again, he was like a dog in that sense—incredibly fun, incredibly obedient, and incredibly loyal. The best way I’d put it was that all you needed to do was pack him a sandwich, milk carton, and perhaps a pudding cup and send him to the field. He took care of the rest.

So yeah, here’s to one of the best decade runs in my sports fandom. I hope to God it’s not a complete goodbye—there are rumors he may return late season in some capacity like Clemens did for the Astros—but I’m just holding my breath at this point. If it is goodbye, I can hit the pillow at night knowing his last catch in a Patriots uniform was low-key his most important. Yo soy fiesta, indeed…

P.S. Tom’s eventual retirement is going to hurt like HELL…

– Joey Boats (@joey_boats)

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