Beyond the Boxscore

Rob Gronkowski, the fake: Patriot's contrived idiot act promoted over thinking stars like Arian Foster

Rob Gronkowski, the fake: Patriot's contrived idiot act promoted over thinking stars like Arian Foster

Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski is redefining the tight end position.
Rob Gronkowski shirtless
But The Gronk is probably better known for his shirtless party pics.
Arian Foster Chris Myers celebrate
Arian Foster (shown celebrating here with center Chris Myers) just dominates playoff games with a better back story. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Owen Daniels Dolphins
Owen Daniels played a huge role in the Texans' first round playoff win. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski shirtless
Arian Foster Chris Myers celebrate
Owen Daniels Dolphins

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski isn't celebrated because he scores touchdowns at such a prolific rate. No, that's not even the half of it with The Gronk.

And he knows it.

This second round draft pick out of Arizona (for reference, the Texans took Kareem Jackson 22 picks before the New England Patriots grabbed their tight end that year) has made himself one of the NFL's more recognizable figures by the force of his controlled craziness.

"I think he knew that was going to be his persona in the NFL coming out of college," says Houston Texans linebacker Brooks Reed, who played with Gronkowski at Arizona.

More power to him . . . if Gronk's persona wasn't so dumb. Rob Gronkowski has made himself appealing by appealing to frat boys, party boys and dimwits.

He's not a player. He's a cartoon character, all exaggeration and tale tales.

 Rob Gronkowski is about as much of a real rebel as your average middle manager. 

Where's the harm in that?, you ask. After all, even overgrown frat boys — and it's not like there are not a ton of them — need someone to root for too.

The problem is that The Gronk's dumb persona overshadows many thinking man players in the NFL.

Guys like Texans running back Arian Foster.

As the Texans prepare to take on the Patriots for a berth in the AFC Championship Game, in Sunday's marquee late TV window, it's clear that Gronkowski and Foster are the two most unique weapons on the field. Whichever one is able to exert his will on the game is liable to see his team run off with a win.

But the buildup's been about The Big Fool more than The Big Compelling.

The return of The Gronk (the Patriots blew the Texans out without their mismatch-creating, touchdown machine in early December) is an important story. But like everything Gronkowski does, it's blown up bigger than it deserves, powered by thoughts of big spikes and big parties.

This is the way of The Gronk. This is the guy who unleashes one of those over-the-top, WWE-worthy spikes every time he scores a touchdown (and he's racked up 38 in only 43 career games). This is a guy who parties shirtless at the club the night he hobbles through a Super Bowl loss. This is the guy who makes sure a Sports Illustrated writer tags along on a day when he can go full Gronk and be paid a crazy money personal appearance fee for attending a college girl's birthday party.

 "I went nights without food, you think an article can get under my skin?" 

Gronk can tell you how to have a good time. Arian Foster can tell you what it's like to grow up without enough food.

It went largely unnoticed, but Houston's tailback (who has 50 touchdowns in 51 career games himself) touched on his childhood struggles this week. The ones he so poignantly talked about when he signed his first big money NFL deal. It came up as he was peppered with questions on Twitter about the Patriots being overwhelming favorites and the mocking the Texans have received in the Boston and national media.

"I went nights without food, you think an article can get under my skin?" Foster tweeted.

The contrast couldn't be more stark. The Patriots' "character" is a hard-partying, media-manipulating savant. The Texans' "character" is a man who knows coming from nothing isn't all about your NFL Draft position.

And which man do you think is more embraced and understood in today's NFL?

It's The Gronk, of course, the cult of idiocy. I'd call Gronkowski a real-life version of Kenny Powers, but Powers is more self aware — and genuinely hilarious.

Gronk wants everyone to think he's this wild, cutting edge character, but in truth he meekly tows the Patriots line. When Bill Belichick's people tell his people that The Summer of Gronk is over, the tight end stops and runs back, in lockstep.

He's not Joe Namath tearfully announcing he's quitting football when NFL Commissioner Pete Rozell orders Broadway Joe to sell his interest in a bar frequented by gamblers.

Rob Gronkowski is about as much of a real rebel as your average middle manager.

Arian Foster, on the other hand, tweets a photo of his injured hamstring in his second full season as a starter, decides to become a vegan (temporarily) right before the start of what's expected to be a Super Bowl season, references a book about hallucinogenic rain forest plants before the playoff game with Cincinnati — and then burns the Bengals for 174 total yards. 

Who's the better rebel now?