With speculation around retirement swirling, Rob Gronkowski took to the streets of Boston for what may be the last Super Bowl championship parade of his nine-year career. And for a player who once celebrated the NFL title by pounding beers, catching bottles of Fireball from the crowd, and spiking his empties into the street, Tuesday’s party was a measured, mature event for the 29-year-old tight end.
For approximately 55 minutes.
So how does a more experienced, veteran Gronk approach his third tour of the Commonwealth with the Lombardi Trophy?
First, some wine tasting
Gronkowski’s day started off with a little casual wine sipping, the perfect complement for a balmy 55-degree day in Boston (even the weather believed in the Patriots).
Looks like Gronk is holding ... a bottle of wine? @wbz pic.twitter.com/9VGRGoAGFM— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) February 5, 2019
But that sun and mild weather wasn’t enough to entire Gronk to up his hydration or even bust off his shirt and flex to the crowd. This allowed offensive lineman David Andrews to win the “which Patriots player will Adam Levine the parade first” prop bet. Gronk, being the consummate teammate, wasn’t willing to allow his fellow starter to feel alone.
And there goes Gronk's shirt. https://t.co/gOIypPlWA1 #PatriotsParade pic.twitter.com/M5OiqIyoFt— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) February 5, 2019
This defied the expectations of his own quarterback, Tom Brady, who expected the tight end to have stripped down before the duck boats could even stall out for the first time.
Brady on @MutCallahan says he told Gronk, "If you or Julian's shirt isn't off by the second block, I'll be disappointed."— WEEI (@WEEI) February 5, 2019
Then, he declined beer, a little mature discretion
Gronkowski waved, danced, and soaked in the adoration of a New England crowd that still rolled one million people deep for the city’s 12th championship parade since 2002.
And when fans lofted cans of beer from the crowded streets, Gronkowski showed off the soft hands that led him to six Super Bowl receptions ... AND THEN TOSSED THE BEER BACK TO THE CROWD!
Gronk is catching beers from the crowd AND THROWING THEM BACK. our little guy's all grown up pic.twitter.com/Eg28Jp7HbP— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) February 5, 2019
Was this the sign a mature, thoughtful Gronkowski was taking questions about his future seriously? Was it an indication the wear and tear of nine NFL seasons and the media speculation had taken its toll on the All-Pro? Would this be the moment the world knew Gronkowski had left the gridiron behind? Nope.
OK, now the stripping begins
Because in the time it took to write those paragraphs and embed that tweet, Gronk went from shirtless to wearing a police vest.
We’re an hour in and Gronk is wearing just a police vest. Very on schedule. pic.twitter.com/LCFPvfEMeP— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 5, 2019
And with the clock pushing noon, Gronkowski left his bottle of merlot behind and adhered to the old rhyme “wine in the morning, your day won’t be boring. Beer after noon, you’ll be wearing a police vest and screaming the lyrics to ‘Jump Around’ soon.”
GRONK DOING GRONK THINGS pic.twitter.com/KMWzUCBDEi— Joseph LaMonica (@Joeycanfly1) February 5, 2019
And now, full blown Party Gronk
Gronkowski’s redistribution of beer and discipline to wait until 11:45 a.m. to break out “Party Gronk” was the only real twist in what’s been a pretty standard championship parade so far. We’ve seen players dance, Bill Belichick smile (kinda), and Bud Light shed all alliance to Philadelphia and try to pretend:
a) they didn’t try to make “Philly Philly” a thing after Super Bowl 52, and
b) they didn’t have their mascot murdered fewer than 48 hours earlier.
how quickly we forget "Philly Philly," Bud Light pic.twitter.com/3yOMnZ2QZW— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) February 5, 2019
Gronkowski didn’t forget his endorsement obligations, however. Here you go, Pats fans; enjoy your Tide Pods. Please don’t eat them.
Find someone who looks at you the way Gronk looks at Tide Pods. pic.twitter.com/NhxM7fT3tw— Marc Weber (@MarcWeberSports) February 5, 2019
Congratulations on your perfect, responsible parade in amazing February weather, Boston. I’m sure everyone in America is happy for you.
Will this be it for Gronk?
Tough to say. Gronkowski struggled with injuries through one of the least productive seasons of his career. He’s only 29 years old, but he’s suffered through as many serious surgeries as anyone in the league. That led him to consider leaving the game behind in 2018, and now he’ll face a serious crossroad in 2019 as well.
The Patriots’ win at Super Bowl 53 gives him the chance to go out on top. But maybe the lure of another shirtless, wine-sipping, beer-chugging parade to Copley Square will be too much to keep him from the gridiron this fall.