Going into this weekend’s Super Bowl, some have wondered whether it will be the last game for New England Patriots stars Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. After asking Gronkowski about Brady’s potential retirement, a few people want the AFC championship to be Gronk’s finale. In assessing the odds of playing next year, Gronk made a sexual reference and targeted it at a female reporter in the presser:
After Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said there is “zero” chance Sunday’s game would be his final game, a reporter asked Gronkowski what number he would say about the chance this is his farewell.
“You guys know my favorite number,” Gronkowski said. “You know what I’m talking about. She knows what number I’m talking about [pointing to a reporter]. Ask her. That’s the answer.”
He then delivered a math problem to a reporter: “I’ll give you a math problem: What’s six times nine plus six plus nine?”
He cracked himself up with that one.
Let’s call this … one of Gronk’s favorite patterns. He makes middle-school jokes about “69” in public on a fairly regular basis, to the extent that YouTube has a ready archive of them. It’s more goofy than offensive, at least most of the time. Yesterday’s joke crossed the line for some, Fox News reported earlier today, because of Gronk’s targeting of a female reporter:
“That one is a crossing the line. I think there has been a pass that’s been given to Rob Gronkowski for a really long time,” New York City radio host Maggie Gray said on WFAN. “I think part of the pass that he gets comes with the fact he is doing this and really doesn’t have anything in his past or in his private life that would indicate he actually has an issue. It just seems like an act.”
Gray’s co-host, former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, also appeared to be offended by the tight end’s comment.
“Workplace etiquette, right?” he said. “He has to understand that this is business time, it’s workplace time, that you can’t go that route. It’s not the time or the place.”
Do athletes and entertainers get a pass in general? They certainly did, but not so much lately. Just ask Morgan Freeman about trotting out old chestnuts as jokes in the #MeToo era, although Freeman was accused of doing more than just wisecracking. It’s not as if Gronk can claim to have grown up in a different era, either. On the other hand, Gronk hasn’t been accused of worse behavior than indulging in giggly adolescent jokes, which may be silly but usually is harmless. That track record does provide some mitigation, even if it still isn’t all that becoming of a man whose thirtieth birthday is approaching.
So yes, it’s not a wise idea to make sex jokes and then aim them at a female reporter or co-worker into it, whether you slog away in the mail room or play tight end in the Super Bowl. Even apart from that, Gronk really needs to get some new material. Gronk’s a little too old for middle-school jokes, and a little too young to be excused as an occasionally embarrassing uncle. But unless he’s doing worse, this warrants an apology to the reporter and a little more discretion in the future. A national conversation — not so much.
Basically, it’s another Super Bowl Rorschach test. If you hate the Pats, it’s another reason to root for the Rams. If you love the Pats, it’s another reason to hate the media. And really, who needs an excuse for either?
Here’s Gronk being Gronk yesterday for 17 minutes. I’d guess we’ll have a few more years of this, as he seems to be having a grand old time.