When Rob Gronkowski temporarily lost his cool during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game – delivering a dirty elbow to the head of Buffalo corner Tre’Davious White following a pass interference no-call -- it reminded me of an infamous moment in recent Boston sports history: when the Red Sox were playing the Yankees at Fenway in August of 2013, and Ryan Dempster intentionally threw at Alex Rodriguez multiple times.
This was a really random thing to suddenly think about, but that’s what happened as soon as I saw Gronk drop that elbow. In case you forgot about that interesting night at Fenway Park years ago, the Sox were hosting the Yanks in a Sunday Night Baseball matchup late in the 2013 season (they were dominating the AL East that year, en route to winning the World Series), and this was happening during the peak of the A-Rod hatred among baseball fans. Everywhere he went, he was absolutely loathed, which isn’t a strong enough word to describe how much everyone actually despised him. He came up to the plate for his first at-bat of the game, and was showered by boos from the Sox crowd (A-Rod was used to this though, because this was happening to him at every ballpark in America except for Yankee Stadium). Dempster’s first pitch was right at A-Rod’s knees. He was able to dodge it, but the intent was pretty clear.
The next two pitches were a little off the plate on the inside, and then with a 3-0 count, Dempster drilled A-Rod in the shoulder. That was when the benches cleared. And the really interesting part was that every time Dempster made a throw at A-Rod’s body, the crowd at Fenway cheered. They were enjoying it. They were getting some kind of sick pleasure from watching someone try to intentionally hurt Rodriguez.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying A-Rod didn’t deserve all of the hatred he got. I used to be as big of an A-Rod hater as anyone. But I remember seeing this happen, and I just thought man, that really wasn’t necessary. That wasn’t cool. And it wasn’t. I get that everyone hated A-Rod … and I literally mean EVERYONE … but it wasn’t Dempster’s place to take that matter into his own hands. I’m sure getting booed at every visiting stadium in the league got the message across to A-Rod that nobody liked him. Throwing at him only made Dempster look bad, it made the Red Sox organization look bad, and cheering for it made the Red Sox fans at the ballpark that night look a little sadistic.
The move that Gronk pulled in Buffalo on Sunday wasn’t exactly the same kind of situation, given the completely different circumstances surrounding the incident, but it still came back to the same point: it was a dirty move, it was unnecessary, and it just made Gronk look bad.
It happened right after White intercepted a pass from Tom Brady with under five minutes to go (the Pats leading by 20, might I add), and the refs didn’t throw a flag even though it looked like White had been holding Gronk prior to the interception. Frustrated that he once again didn’t get the call, Gronk lost his cool for a moment, and just dropped his elbow right on the head of White. The frustration was understandable, but what exactly did that elbow accomplish?
First of all, the Patriots were leading 23-3 with under five minutes to go, so the game was already wrapped up. There’s really no need to get frustrated by anything when you’re leading by 20 points near the end of the game and you’re just waiting for the clock to hit zero.
Secondly, if you’re upset because the refs didn’t give you a call you thought you deserved, maybe you should actually take that problem up with the refs. It wasn’t White that failed to throw the PI flag. By all means, get in the face of the officials and argue your case. Nobody would blame you for that.
But throwing that elbow? Totally unnecessary, and totally uncool. Bill Belichick wasn’t amused by it, offering an apology to Bills head coach Sean McDermott after the game and referring to Gronk’s actions as “bulls***.” And he’s right. That’s exactly what it was. I’m sure Belichick had a talk with Gronk about the incident, and it probably wasn’t an enjoyable one for Gronk.
Dempster received a five-game suspension and a fine for intentionally throwing at A-Rod, and you can most likely expect Gronk to get some kind of suspension as well. I love Gronk to death. He’s definitely in the top five most exciting Patriots I’ve ever watched, but if he gets suspended for this, he deserves it. This was just a bonehead mistake.