The big sports headline of the day was the announcement of New England Patriot’s tight end Rob Gronkowski’s retirement.
Football fans always had a love – hate relationship with him.
New England fans loved him. Fans and defenses of other NFL clubs hated him, but it was a respectful hatred.
The gridiron game has lost a great name.
While Gronkowski is not a surname on the same level as Sidebottom or Dangerfield, gridiron players with “ski” on the end of their names evoke recollections of the most famous “ski” of all, Bronko Nagurski, the Canadian-born fullback for the Chicago Bears who won three NFL championships with Chicago in a career that spanned 1930 – 1937, with a short reprise in 1943.
Gronkowski was a match-up nightmare for opposing NFL clubs. He was too fast to be covered by a linebacker. He was too big for safeties and cornerbacks. Most coaches who had to devise a defensive scheme for playing him did so with a sense of resignation, hoping mainly to limit the damage and mayhem Gronkowski brought to the game.
His teammates will remember him fondly for his optimistic presence and his contributions of time and money, where he acknowledged his privilege by helping the less fortunate. Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady weighed in on that aspect, saying, “For as big and physical as he is, he is a gentle, kind man,” Brady said.
The normally taciturn coach of the Pats, Bill Belichick said, “Rob’s impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways. His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten.”
“Gronk,” as he was known, had to battle injuries throughout his career, injuries that cost him large chunks of playing time, but he still managed to establish some marks that should make him a prohibitive chance for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
The Patriots will miss him. The other 31 NFL clubs? Not so much.