Rob Gronkowski is not a Buffalo guy

The second half of yesterday's Bills-Patriots game was only the second ugliest thing viewers witnessed on Sunday.

In the late stages of the game with Buffalo down by three scores and New England well on their way to yet another win, Tre'Davious White was locked onto Rob Gronkowski well beyond what the rules allow. His holding went uncalled, and allowed him to pick off Tom Brady's attempted pass to Gronkowski. White made the catch and went out of bounds, stopping the play. After getting up from his fall, however, Gronkowski took exception to the tugging and jostling by dropping all 265 pounds of himself onto White's head, sending him to the locker room early and into concussion protocol:




There were multiple penalties called during the ensuing fray, with Gronkowski earning an offsetting unnecessary roughness penalty but no ejection, while Buffalo's Jerry Hughes got 15 yards for yelling at an official after the cheap shot. However, the Bills still maintained possession, beginning their drive with a first-and-25 from their own 26 yard line.

The incident was unwarranted, unnecessary, and unprofessional. After the game, Gronkowski apoligized and added this:

"I don't believe in shots like that. I'm not in the business of that. It was a lot of frustration. I was just really frustrated. At that moment, it happened naturally through emotions and frustration."

It was a classless display from one of the game's premier athletes. Willingly or not, for better or worse, he is one of the most popular players in the league, and has been for years. His size, talent, and personality are magnets for media and fans alike. And as anyone who has heard his name knows, Gronkowski was born and raised in Western New York for the first 17 years of his life. But make no mistake about it; Rob Gronkowski is not a Buffalo guy.

--- Why not? ---

While there has been an understanding of what a Buffalo Gal is for nearly 175 years, there is no definition of a true "Buffalo guy." Perhaps a paraphrasing of Justice Potter Stewart is most apt when trying to sort that out:

"Perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the player involved in this case is not that."

Gronkowski may have been born in Amherst and gone to Williamsville North but when you see him, you don't think of him as a "Buffalo guy."

For his senior year, he moved to suburban Pittsburgh in order to prepare himself for college ball at Arizona. And since being drafted (not his fault) by the team Bills fans have more disdain for than any other, he's become one of the most painful reminders and perpetrators of New England's continual dominance over Buffalo. In 12 career games versus the Bills, the tight end has 11 touchdowns, nearly 1,000 receiving yards, and 10 wins.

Beyond what he's done on the field, Gronkowski hasn't done much for his hometown either. That's not to say he isn't charitable or that he doesn't help worthwhile causes, because he certainly has. He just hasn't done anything meaningful in the community where he was brought up. The only thing I've ever heard Gronkowski did for someone in the area was giving his cleats from the 2012 Celebrity Home Run Derby to one of the volunteer catchers working the event.

Rob Gronkowski's cleats from this Celebrity Home Run Derby appearance in 2012 were given to the man behind the plate in this picture after the event had concluded.

Looking back, that Home Run Derby was a microcosm of Buffalo's relationship with Gronkowski. He was introduced to a mixed crowd, receiving some cheers but an equal number of boos. As Western New Yorkers, we want to take pride in everything we can claim as our own. But a homegrown kid who creates havoc and heartache for the local football team twice a year puts us in a dilemma. And nothing proved that more than his showing at Coca-Cola Field that night. By the time his first round was done and he had become the only participant to clear not only the short fence installed just past the infield boundary but the 325-foot fence in left field as well, he had managed to turn several of those jeers into cheers by night's end. It's not that the fans didn't want to root for him, they just needed him to give them a reason to.

It's not often an athlete from Buffalo (in any sense) makes it to the big-time. We've had plenty here and there, but it's not like we're pumping out talent on a daily basis like Philadelphia or Chicago or Detroit. People like Jenn Suhr or Steve Mesler have won Olympic gold, and players like James Starks and Brooks Orpik have won championships, but it's safe to say that only one has ever had the starpower to rival that of Gronkowski - Patrick Kane.

Like Gronkowski, Buffalo's feelings towards Kane – the Chicago Blackhawks three-time Stanley Cup-winning forward – are mixed. After his sophomore season in the NHL, Kane was involved in an incident where he was accused of robbing and assaulting a cab driver downtown. He was then the focus of rape allegations before the hazy and questionable charges were ultimately dropped after a lack of evidence. 

But unlike Gronkowski, Kane hasn't had difficulty giving back to his hometown. Just three days before the debacle with the cab driver, he and Tim Kennedy – another South Buffalo native who was playing for the Buffalo Sabres at the time – attended a press conference in which Mayor Byron Brown announced $200,000 worth of improvements for rinks at Cazenovia Park facilities.

It's a small thing for an otherworldly athlete to give back to the place he started, not just the places he ended up. If Gronkowski wanted to be claimed by us Buffalonians, he would do something to make us want to. I'm not saying he should demand a trade and leave New England and maybe the AFC altogether. Just to spend some time recognizing a region that for some reason always wants to recognize him. Besides, if you're looking for a tall, athletic guy who loves 69 jokes and who loves Buffalo unconditionally despite moving away twice, just @ me instead.

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