By Jason Keidel
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On a day given to gratitude, I planned to make a ponderous list of sporting monoliths for which we’re thankful. And, in a sense, I still am.
I’m grateful that we’re so passionate about sports that we make a bonfire out of a flare.
Two cases in point…
Young man makes mistake in college. How unique. Yet it becomes a raging, national symposium on sportsmanship and nobility in America.
A kid named Jack Taylor, still in the shadow of his pubescence, scored 138 points for Grinnell, that Division III juggernaut near Des Moines, during a 75-point blowout victory. And now the world wants his head on the proverbial platter, soaked in stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Mike Francesa and I are often simpatico on such matters, but it says here his rancorous reaction to the young man’s scoring binge is entirely misguided. Mike and his like are pounding their fists in indignity that someone, or some school, would make a mockery of Dr. Naismith’s game, feeding a gunner the ball during a laugher. It was and is overkill and rancid sportsmanship.
Lost on the media and the masses is that Griffin Lentsch scored 89 points for the same school just a year ago. So if you care to hate the player, hate the game instead. And if his opposition were so offended by the scoring brutality, just stop him. By the way, it seems as though everyone is offended except the people who played or coached in the contest.
And the final, immutable truth is that two months from now, when he fades from the final, annual montages honoring the best plays of the year, no one will know who Jack Taylor is. Amazing how quickly we forget flashes in the pan.
In the meantime, let the kid bathe in the ephemeral fame, the tweets from Kobe, Kevin, Carmelo and LeBron, Maybe even Mr. Obama, a rabid basketball devotee, will hang some nouveau medal around his thin neck. Let the talk shows on TV and radio chat him up. I love that we lament the instant stardom of undeserving performers by making them more famous. “I don’t want this kid to get famous for doing something infamous!” they say, then make him even more so by talking about him for the next three hours, devoting an entire show to his stupidity by acting just as stupidly. We need to stop bein so self-righeous. If you ask any college kid if he’d like to drop 138 points in a game, he would say, “where do I sign?” So would I. So would you.
Then we have Rob Gronkowski, who was injured during an extra point at the end of a Patriots blowout.
The masses and media jackals – all of whom gifted backseat drivers – are exasperated that Bill Belichick didn’t remove his star tight end from a meaningless play. As wrong as Mike Francesa was about the college kid who hemorrhaged points, he was flawless on this matter.
No one says a thing about leaving a star player in a game – particularly an extra point – for countless days, plays, and years until he gets hurt. In my 35 years of watching, talking, and texting football I have yet to hear anyone shriek in shock about the personnel in PATs, punt coverage, or any special teams play. And that’s because there’s never a season-threatening injury on them.
You’re more likely to hit the Powerball than break your forearm – who breaks their forearms, anyway? – on an innocuous snap from scrimmage. When was the last time you saw a blocked extra point? Not sure I recall one over the last decade. When was the last time you even saw a missed extra point?
Rob Gronkowski could also hurt himself pruning his garden, hauling his garbage to the curb, or guzzling beer at one of the myriad parties he’s paid to attend around Boston.
The narrative stretches beyond any game or specific sport. You can’t play, coach, or live worried that something could possibly happen maybe sometime in the future. Living ambiguously does far more harm than help. Rob Gronkowski, who is the corporeal credo of live hard, play hard, knows this. So should you.
Would you have left either player in the game? Let us know your decision.