Does anyone know when Matt Damon arrives?
Sure, I get what you’re thinking. Mark Wahlberg is actually a bigger star. But he doesn’t have an Oscar now, does he? And when it comes to poaching Boston icons, we ain’t fooling around with just a few pretty faces.
Apparently, we want it all.
The Super Bowls. The supermodels. The footnotes on the Hall of Fame busts, and the lead story on TMZ. We want glory, we want attention, we want athletes who count the president on their Friends-and-Family plan.
That’s right. Gronk and Brady. Tanned and together, again.
It’s nuts, I know. Just a few weeks ago, we thought the Buccaneers signing Tom Brady as a free agent was as good as it gets. When your offseason begins with the greatest player of all time — hey, we can be just as parochial as Boston — it’s hard to write a bigger headline.
And yet, the Bucs pulled it off. Although not quite official, Tampa Bay has apparently traded for Rob Gronkowski and lured him out of retirement. And suddenly, we’re in Twitter paradise. Two legends. Two of the best to ever play their positions. Two red carpet hunks.
All for the cost of a fourth-round pick. Well, a fourth-round pick and about $60 million in salaries. But that’s not our money, at least not until ticket prices go up again.
Consider this a do-over, exactly 10 years after screwing it up the first time. Back in 2010, the Bucs were looking for receiving help for quarterback Josh Freeman. Head coach Raheem Morris was so enamored with Arrelious Benn, the Bucs gave up a fifth-round pick to move from No. 42 to No. 39 in the second round to grab the Illinois receiver. Benn started a grand total of 24 games in his NFL career.
And with that No. 42 pick, the Patriots selected … tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Of course, there’s a reason Gronkowski was available all these years later. Just like there was a reason Brady did not stay in New England.
Both players are arriving at the very tail end of their careers. (Think Thomas Edison and Henry Ford retiring next door to each other in southwest Florida.) You can’t exactly describe these acquisitions as foolproof decisions from a competitive standpoint.
Gronkowski’s body has some miles on it, and they weren’t all smooth driving. He’s broken his arm, had back surgery, tore his ACL and MCL on the same play, had a hamstring issue, had back surgery again, had at least one concussion and some ankle issues.
His numbers in 2018 were some of the lowest per-game averages of his career. Combine that with all the aches and pains, and it’s the sort of thing that can lead a man to announce his retirement while still in his 20s.
Gronkowski, soon to turn 31, missed about 20 percent of New England’s regular-season games during his career, and he hasn’t played a full 16-game schedule since he was 22. To assume he will be on the field for every game in Tampa Bay is hardly realistic.
But that’s not why the Bucs acquired him, is it? You don’t go down this road without envisioning a Super Bowl bash at the end of it. That’s what Brady is here for. That’s what Gronkowski is here for. The Bucs are not channeling Dorian Gray just to make the playoffs. This is a success only if the Bucs are the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.
So how do you feel about Tampa Bay’s chances?
The experts in Las Vegas have already started shortening the Super Bowl odds for the Bucs. To be fair, all that proves is that they expect people to start dropping bets on Tampa Bay. But I suppose that’s the point, if you’re the Glazers and just approved these expenditures.
For the first time in a very long while, the Bucs are hot. They’re interesting. They’ve made you more hopeful than wishful.
Barring a coronavirus disruption, Tampa Bay will have the undivided attention of the sporting universe come September.
So I suppose we don’t even need Matt Damon hanging out at the Riverwalk.
Ben Affleck will probably do.