Years ago when a basketball player named John Stockton, a fiercely competitive point guard for the Utah Jazz was negotiating a three year 15 million dollar contract with the team, he asked for and received a clause that protected his freedom to roughhouse with his children.
Loyal to the Jazz on the basketball court and just as intensely focused on his family off the court, Stockton was one of the most reserved and under spoken athletes ever to lace up a pair of sneakers – and was respectful enough of his employer and to the people who bought tickets to watch he and his Utah Jazz team play to limit his activities to those things that wouldn’t jeopardize his health.
There were some colorful characters on the Jazz back in those day like – well, there was – no, there wasn’t. About as wild as any of them got off of the court was “Hard” Forward Karl Malone being seen tooling around Salt Lake City on his hog on his way for lunch at Subway. Or Dairy Queen.
Growing up and spending much of my adult life in Utah, this was the example that was set for me in terms of how an athlete handles their affairs, and presents perhaps an unrealistic baseline from which to pass judgement, as it were…
…yet from being around the world in the Navy and from living in New England for the past dozen years, I’m not so naive as to expect that any person, athlete or not, would hold themselves to that standard…
That’s why don’t I have a problem with Rob Gronkowski’s “Summer of Gronk, the Sequel” raucous preseason activities, as if my opinion counts for anything.
One would think with such a conservative upbringing and culture that I would be mortified watching him DDT some guy, chugging beers and whooping it up even with his twice broken left forearm securely casted and immobilized – but I’m not.
Because perhaps an even better lesson taught to me by growing up watching the Jazz and how they were so involved with the community is how they held their players to a behavioral standard and were keenly aware of their perception in the media and by other basketball communities around the NBA – yet didn’t care what anyone thought of the way they did things.
And they showed that although their employees should be held to a particular standard, that standard shouldn’t be that of a Boy Scout or as smothering as that of a clergyman, and that fans want their sports heroes to be a bit flamboyant a bit reckless – adds to the mystique, don’t ya know…
…and perhaps the most important thing that they taught me was that when you hire people you try to know what is in their hearts because they are going to be your representatives and you are going to have to trust them to do their best to uphold their standards – so make sure that their entire body of work is something that you can be comfortable with
Hire good people, train them to do their jobs , then let them do it – trusting them to do that job with all of their ability and personality.
That sounds suspiciously like the Patriot Way to me.
Gronkowski is a big goofy kid. “You know Gronk,” as teammate Logan Mankins explained to the media on Monday “he is a big meathead that likes to party and play football. I think that’s what he’s doing.”, but then adds, “Hopefully he doesn’t hurt his arm because then that would be bad.”
In one sentence, Mankins sums up Gronkowski.
“I know we are referring to Gronk and partying and doing wrestling moves and stuff. I think Gronk’s having fun,” continued Mankins, “The headlines might not be what a lot of people want, but at least he’s not getting DUIs or doing things that are against the law. I don’t think he’s hurting anyone.”
Except, that is, the feelings of some fans that have been very critical of the freakishly athletic tight end on social media. Gronk’s response? He was spotted at Universal Studios in Orlando wearing the brightest, loudest lime green t-shirt, the letters blazoned across the front telling everyone how he feels about the criticism. “Sorry for Partying”.
No, he’s not – and just in case anyone still doesn’t get it, let me putit in football terms that you can understand, something said long ago by a Green Bay Packers reciever named Max McGee who knew a little bit about having fun: “When it’s third and ten, you can take the milk drinkers, and I’ll take the whiskey drinkers every time.”
Me too. Why don’t we just cut the kid a break?
And get him a shot of whiskey.