It’s good to be Gronk. That’s both a fact and the title of his book, of course. Business is booming for Rob Gronkowski’s bro brand.
Everyone’s favorite fun-loving, football-spiking Patriots tight end is on the cover of GQ with the headline “Gronk up your Life,” managing to turn his name into a convivial verb. He is on the cover of EA Sports “Madden NFL ’17” video game, the 21st-century Wheaties box for NFL players. He popped up on the late-night talk show circuit, appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Thursday.
His ship has come in, and it’s the high-seas high jinks cruise he lent his name to in February.
Gronkowski, who turned 27 on Saturday, has become the NFL’s answer to a Kardashian. He is everywhere, despite not having played a football game in almost four months.
Gronk is no (tackling) dummy. He has brilliantly managed to parlay his frat boy persona and Bunyan-esque football exploits into a lifestyle brand synonymous with joie de vivre. Perceive him as a mindless, touchdown-scoring cog in Bill Belichick’s football machine, but Gronkowski is a shrewd businessman.
Gronkowski is the anti-Patriot. He is the guy who puts the unbridled joy in the team’s seemingly joyless pursuit of excellence. He is the rare Patriot who grasps that playing football for the team is a job, not some sort of celestial higher calling that requires him to sublimate his personality and take a vow of vapidity. He understands that being committed to the team and maximizing your earning potential are not mutually exclusive ideas.
None of these qualities should make Gronkowski a revolutionary, but by Fort Foxborough standards he is a free-market free thinker.
Gronkowski wasn’t afraid to tweet out in March that he might be a bit underpaid as one of the league’s premier offensive players, after the Patriots picked up the $6 million option bonus that triggered the final four seasons of an eight-year extension he signed in 2012.
The Patriots will pay Gronkowski base salaries of $2.25 million, $4.25 million, $8 million, and $9 million over the next four seasons. He has another $1 million in workout bonuses and a total of $2.5 million in per game roster bonuses he can earn over that time, too.
The Patriots were proactive in rewarding Gronk with the lucrative extension, worth up to $55.2 million, after his record-setting 2011 season when they didn’t have to be.
But Gronk is simply doing business as business is done in the NFL. Teams change the terms and compensation of a player’s contract all the time when it favors them.
Why can’t a player do the same?
In the NFL, a player’s pay can decline for no other reason than the team says so.
All Gronkowski has to do is look at teammate Danny Amendola, who has taken pay cuts in two consecutive offseasons.
Amendola finished second to Gronkowski last year on the Patriots in receptions. His reward was reducing his base salary for 2016 from $5 million to $1.25 million and chopping his per game roster bonus total in half to $250,000.
Gronk was a retail and consumer sciences major at the University of Arizona. I know, I know, most of you thought he majored in keg stands, weightlifting, and sorority parties.
He knows his worth, and he knows how to sell himself; just check out his Twitter page, which features rampant product plugs.
Gronkowski also is familiar with supply and demand. He knows that there is no other player like him in the league, and that his cult-of-personality product is in demand, on and off the field.
Gronkowski also appreciates that you have to protect your investment. In this case, he is the investment.
That’s why he made it amicably clear last season that he won’t be rushed back into action from injuries that could endanger Gronk Inc.
The Patriots like revealing injury information about as much as a driver likes returning to his or her car to find a bright orange parking ticket taunting them.
Yet, after Gronkowski took a shot to the right knee against Denver that had hearts stopping across New England, the Patriots issued a joint statement with the Gronkowski family announcing it was a bone bruise/knee sprain and that there was no timetable for his return.
This simply is not the way the folks at the Pentagon, err, Patriots handle injuries. They want opponents completely in the dark.
But it was the way Gronkowski and his clan wanted it, after there were rumblings in 2013 that he wasn’t returning fast enough from offseason surgeries on his twice-broken forearm and back.
The redwood of a tight end ended up missing only one game with the knee. It wasn’t significant, but the underlying message from the unusual statement was: Gronkowski was going to do what was in his best interest, not just what was in the best interest of the team.
Teams weigh injuries in games. Players weigh them in the years they’ll shave off their careers.
The fleeting nature of an NFL career and the brief window for earning potential that goes with it demands that players cash in when they can, wherever they can, because teams will discard you like a disposable razor when it suits them.
Loyalty in the NFL is laughable.
You don’t need an MBA from Harvard Business School to realize that seizing the moment and the market is vital. That’s what Gronkowski is doing.
He is producing — or bro-ducing — as much money as he can, while he can.
Tom Brady might take the field to a Jay Z song, but Gronkowski is channeling the rapper’s ethos.
To paraphrase Jay Z, Gronk isn’t a businessman; he is a business, man.
There is nothing wrong with that.