During the second half of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski supplied a respectable imitation of a mastodon on a mission. Stomping his way to a career high nine receptions for 168 yards, he helped carry his team to a last-minute — controversial — victory, and validated the Pats’ historic success does not hinge singularly on quarterback Tom Brady.
This conclusion was especially punched home because the week previous the Beantown squad had endured a particularly abysmal defeat at the cleats of long-time rivals the Miami Dolphins. Missing from that skirmish? The aforementioned six-foot-six, two-hundred-sixty-five-pound tight end who’d been issued a one-game suspension for an egregiously late, Week-13 hit on Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White. (He apologized immediately.) Every indication is “Gronk” ‘s no-show hurt his franchise — badly. His roaringly unsportsmanlike behavior arguably cost the Patriots a “W”.
Need I mention, New England fans weren’t exactly giddy over that?
I was thrilled, nevertheless, to see boosters of Brady and Co. remain largely objective about the matter: few excuses offered for Gronkowski’s malefaction.
I questioned a friend of mine, for example, not only a big Patriots’ enthusiast, but also an armchair football expert and sports-radio aficionado, concerning his informed perspective on the matter. It didn’t take him a heartbeat to denounce the Pro-Bowler’s impulsive, low-rent conduct.
“Have you been hearing some fans trying to defend what he did?” I followed up.
Yes, he allowed ruefully. There were some who’ve attempted to rationalize it. (I think “cement-heads” was his exact term of choice.)
My buddy did passionately specify Tre’Davious White should’ve been called for pass interference (the infraction which ostensibly provoked Gronk’s illicit aggression) — but he ventured nary an exculpation for the transparently guilty Patriot.
Whoa. Did you catch that? Follow the math: Patriot’s fan + denunciation of Rob Gronkowski’s thuggery = refreshing fair-mindedness. A commendably evenhanded assessment of both sides; criticism leveled where he felt it was deserved, at each of the parties involved; the big star of his favored football franchise not excluded.
Stepping toward 2018 and beyond, not a few engaged Americans could do worse than adopt such an approach toward evaluating life-issues in general. They’d furthermore do well applying it to political concerns in particular in our growingly vicious, brain-scramblingly partisan culture.
No society, no polity, benefits when its citizens find it increasingly difficult – maybe impossible – to observe, critique and communicate soberly and impartially on public topics; most notably when it disadvantages “their guy” or “their side”.
Lately, this is the scenario playing out for all the populace to see: A member of the political opposition commits violation x – and condemnations from the contrary faction are absolute, guilt ascribed maximum, even metaphysical; recommended reprisals without mercy or restraint.
Predictably, however, someone from “my side” then inconveniently lapses in a comparable way; a few pettifogging differences in details, perhaps, but essentially the same offense. Suddenly? The misbehavior in view isn’t a big deal, after all; it’s a distraction, “dirty politics” at work; ultimately pardonable.
The present, back-and-forth, Democrat-vs.-Republican torrent of sexual harassment recriminations comes to mind.
Or consider widespread reactions to Donald Trump’s administration, incontestably the most contentious of the modern era. Commentator Ben Shapiro breaks things down handily: the season’s sturm und drang has revealed the existence of genuine “Always Trumpers”, unbudging “Never Trumpers” and more reasonable “Sometimes Trumpers”.
Those in the first category have simply resolved they will never express fault with DT for anything. Ever. Discussion closed.
Their polar opposites on the Trump-spectrum won’t yield the guy any credit, even when he proposes a policy or volunteers a sentiment they’d endorse unflinchingly if someone else were its progenitor.
That last group? “Sometimes Trumpers”? They embrace the Yay-Patriots-Boo-Gronk orientation when appraising the White House Occupant. To wit: when the President says/does commendable things, they give him visible thumbs up. When he bungles, it’s thumbs-down time; unhesitatingly.
Shapiro actually features a segment on his podcast illustrating this angle. It’s humorously entitled “Good Trump/Bad Trump”.
Or take Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; by my lights, a figure who’s been in D.C. undeniably too long. Indeed, to latch on to the overused conceit, he’s a “swamp” creature. But he did yeoman’s work pushing the just passed tax reform. As did the once-promising, more and more regularly disappointing, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
All three have earned heartfelt kudos in this latest effort – and voters, conservatives especially, ought to be proffering them eagerly and publicly.
Just as, once in a great while during eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., former-President Barack Obama would do something praiseworthy. Extending George W. Bush’s tax-cuts in 2010, for example – that was the sound move. More of us on the right ought to have unfurled a full-throated “Thank you, Mr. President” on that one.
Conversely, when the current President toys with “populist” but anti-constitutional or injudicious policy options (think: one-trillion dollars of infrastructure spending, ignoring the impending entitlement crisis, etc.) or reverts to adolescent, sordid – yes, unpresidential – name-calling and rhetoric? Or when the aforementioned Congressional bwanas blink before forces of political correctness, big-government propaganda or RINO elitism? Expressions of disapproval – open and vigorous – are not only in order, but vital. Again, from conservatives especially.
Proponents of a candidate, an elected official, — okay, a professional sports figure, too – do them no favors when playing see-hear-speak-no-evil whenever “their guy” is engaging in shenanigans which might destroy him and hurt others; threatening their party, their cause, their country.
“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:5, 6).
Next time Rob Gronkowski, in a fit of competitive pique, is tempted to pounce on a defenseless adversary, perhaps he’ll think better of it owing to his previous suspension, his mates’ ensuing defeat and his many supporters who refused to cut any slack to his puerile outburst. Needless to say, heaps of encouragement when he performs admirably on the gridiron will continue to play their necessary role, as well.
In the same vein, our Republican Chief Executive, GOP leadership, conservative banner-carriers and statesmen need to hear the unvarnished truth from God-and-Country lovers, constitutionalists, “right-wingers”, Christians — both painful truth which might avert them from mounting acts of self-destruction and gladdening truth which underscores: Good job, keep it up, press on.
Therein lie games and championships won; and, more importantly, nations preserved or, if needed, rescued.