After a sufficient cooling off period I can finally write about Rob Gronkowski’s malicious late hit on Tre’Davious White after he intercepted a pass from Tom Brady on Sunday at New Era Field. Like many fans, I had to see it again to believe what really happened.
There was no mistaking intent to injure on this play.
Some fans in New England claim Bills fans are just angry about the last 17 years of annihilation on the field and are taking it out on our native frat-boy. Ray Rice got two games for beating up his (now) wife. I guess it should be expected that endangering the life of a player with a merciless hit to the head would only merit a one game suspension. It is the NFL, after all.
Let me make this perfectly clear for those who choose to believe this was no big deal. The sport of professional football is already suffering from a public relations nightmare with respect to more than just kneeling during the national anthem.
Scientific data is leading us rapidly to a place where we must question the rules of the game with respect to risk of developing CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy – from hits that occur while the game is going on.
Make no mistake, the hit Gronkowski laid on White was more than just a fraction ‘late’ – Gronk purposefully physically inflicted more force with his elbow to the back of White’s head while he lay prone and defenseless on the ground.
So, in a league already locked in battle with the scientific community on the data showing the overwhelming evidence of CTE found in the brains of NFL players, was a one game suspension for that hit even close to appropriate?
The message was sent, but exactly what message was received?
It’s incredibly insulting to think anyone would consider the domination by the Patriots have had over the Bills has anything to do with my personal outrage on this matter. I can’t speak for other fans, but I sure as heck can babble for myself.
Studying the effect of traumatic brain injuries was a significant part of my graduate school experience. My mentor in rehabilitation counseling held a doctorate of Special Education. We studied the effect of traumatic brain injuries in children and other populations.
It’s why the topic of CTE is one I feel passionately about and emotionally struggle with supporting the sport. The data today clearly shows the risk of CTE is so high in the NFL that millions of dollars are spent trying to research the best helmets, protection, and anything that might reduce the impact of hits to the head. But that’s all done for hits that occur during the course of the game.
Apparently the NFL doesn’t take this data very seriously if a one-game suspension is deemed appropriate for injuring a defenseless player’s brain after the play was dead.
Any Patriots fans who defended Gronk but shuddered at Pittsburgh Steelers’ LB Ryan Shazier’s gruesome injury during their Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals are hypocrites from my perspective. Football is a dangerous sport when playing by the rules.
When a player is excused for doing the unthinkable and causes a brain injury after a play was already dead because he was “frustrated”, it challenges human decency. Furthermore, Tom Brady’s weak excuse for Gronkowski’s actions only underscore his personal hypocrisy – he who looks for the flag at the first sniff of an opponent in his face.
All of this underscores a sad observation of the times. We as a society seem to be stuck in a mode of mean-spiritedness lately. Bad behavior is not only tolerated but excused and in some cases encouraged. Grumpiness begets grumpiness and it’s more contagious than the flu it seems.
As the holiday season approaches, it might be a good time to take a deep breath, chill out and reconnect with each other in a more kind-hearted manner. It’s hard enough to be a fan of Buffalo sports. Let the reason for the season set in, and let’s go about our business of showing the world why we are the best darn fan base in the universe.
Editor’s babble: This was hard to write. I love football, but suspect like many, there are struggles with some aspects of the sport. For me, it’s CTE that keeps me up at night. Thanks for reading. It’s a privilege to write for our FAMbase. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.