On the 69th minute, of the 69th hour, of the 69th day, of the 69th week, of the 69th month, of the 69th year, of the 69th decade, of the 69th century, on the 69th planet, from the 69th sun, Rob Gronkowski was born. And we sit here today — potential witnesses, devout Gronkowskians — awaiting the 69th touchdown of his career, which should happen this Sunday.
Rodger Sherman and I talked about what might (and might not) happen when Gronk scores his 69th touchdown.
Shea: Rodger, have you thought at all about what’s going to happen when Rob Gronkowski, the human 69, scores his 69th career touchdown?
Rodger: I have.
Shea: Bang. So have I. And I’ll tell you what: I’m not ready. Matter of fact, I don’t know that anyone is. Because here’s the thing: Gronk is kind of a doofus, right? He’s the Bud Light Messiah or whatever. That’s his whole schtick. But the closer we get to him getting to 69 touchdowns, the more it seems like that’s actually not the case; like he’s been playing us this whole time; like he’s been plotting on something bigger than big.
This is the video of him talking about scoring his next touchdown:
Look at his eyes. There’s a hint of menace in them. There’s a knowing in them. Because he knows what’s coming. And I think I do, too.
The way I see it is: The Patriots are going to line up at their own 31-yard line. Tom Brady is going to be in the shotgun formation. He’s going to look at Gronk and Gronk is going to look at him, and in that instant, they’ll know. The center will hike the ball to Brady, Brady will look off the linebackers, then fire a shot into Gronk’s chest. Gronk will rumbleRumbleRUMBLE all the way to the end zone. The announcer, Troy Aikman, will declare, “That’s a 69-yard touchdown catch and run for Gronkowski,” and the skies will darken and thunder will boom off in the background. “Oh, wow,” Aikman will continue, “it says here that it’s also the 69th touchdown of his career. Wow. His 69th touchdown on a 69-yard pass and catch. Ain’t that something, Joe,” and he’ll look over at Joe Buck and Joe Buck’s head will have rotated 180 degrees like in The Exorcist. Then Gronk will bring the ball up above his head, harness all of his strength and energy, and spike it into the turf with such force that the earth’s lithosphere will crack open. And not just crack open in that particular stadium, either. It’ll crack open in every stadium across the country that he has scored a touchdown and spiked the ball in. His prophecy will have been fulfilled.
And from those 69 cracks will emerge 69 hell demons, each more sex-crazed than the last. Gronk will climb up onto a throne of fire, but the throne of fire will actually be his party cruise. Bill Belichick will drop down into the splits. All of Tom Brady’s atoms will clone themselves to form a separate Tom Brady, and then the original Tom Brady and the Clone Tom Brady will [REDACTED, BUT YOU CAN GUESS].
All in all, I think it’s going to be a pretty interesting Sunday. I just don’t know that I’m ready for it.
Rodger: Do you know what I think is going to happen?
Shea: Paint me a picture.
Rodger: “Patriots fans,” the Gillette Stadium PA belts out. “Rob Gronkowski has now scored SIXTY-NINE CAREER TOUCHDOWNS! CONGRATULATIONS!”
Gronk smiles. Ahh, the sex number. Of all the numbers, 69 is the only one he’s ever liked. The rest have been mean, but 69 has always been there for him. It’s been more than a brother — it’s been a bro.
We expect Gronk to do something crazy here, but in the grand scheme of things, his celebration is relatively tame. Gronk has always known what he wants to do for TD number 69: He just wants to take his shirt off and dance. That’s all he’s ever wanted to do, at any point in time, for the entirety of his life. But of course, that’s illegal. So the referee grabs his flag, and throws it into the air.
As he’s gyrating, Gronk will see the flag flying, and he’ll think, with the smallest corner of his mind: “Man, I wish I didn’t have to get penalized for this Gronking.”
And as Gronk wishes, the flag vanishes. Poof. Gone. The referee looks up in bewilderment. He grabs for another flag, but there is none. Another referee tosses a flag, and again — POOF — it disappears.
Gronk is bewildered. He merely wished for the flag to disappear, and it did. What else could he wish into existence?
Shea: Tell me, Rodger.
Rodger: Gronk stands for a second, pondering his power. He tries to think of the thing he wants most in the world. He points his finger at the referee, and — POOF — the referee is transformed into Kelly, a random blonde girl he briefly grinded with on Tuesday night.
Shea: Gronk definitely leads the league in grinding, of that I’m sure.
Rodger: Kelly’s wearing a zebra-striped bikini, and she does have a flag. “Penalty on Gronk … being too sexy!” Gronk high-fives her, and they make out. Gronk points his finger at the next referee, and — POOF — another cutie. He points his finger at another referee.
“Gronk,” the head linesman begs. “I’ll never call a penalty on you again. Please don’t transform me into a sexy lady. I have a fami — ”
Too late. The referee is now a sexy lady.
Shea: I’m excited for all of this, if only because I would like to see how Roger Goodell handles having to tell that referee’s family that the referee has been Gronked. I wonder how long he would go without mentioning it all.
Rodger: I’m not done yet.
Shea: My bad. Please keep painting.
Rodger: Gronk has always been good at catching things, and now the world is literally in his hands. Within five minutes, the stadium is on a tropical island, the sideline coolers are filled with Bud Light Lime-A-Ritas, and nearly everybody in attendance has been transformed into a hot babe. But Gronk realizes something is missing. Party Rock is not in the house. So he walks up to Tom Brady — his longtime teammate, the man whose passes have made him millions.
“You’ve been like a brother to me,” Gronk says. “But you haven’t been a bro.”
Poof. Brady is now Redfoo, one of the two members of LMFAO.
Shea: Oh shit. Not Brady.
Rodger: “I killed Tom Brady for you, Redfoo,” Gronk says. “But I had to. Your verses party rock even harder than Sky Blu’s verses. Don’t make me regret this.”
For years, Gronk, Redfoo, and the babes live out Rob’s dream life. Every one of Gronk’s wishes is instantly fulfilled, his every command accepted.
One day, Gronk suggests a game of beach football. Redfoo will play QB, the cast of the 2002 Playboy Playmates calendar (minus September) will play the opposition. On the first play, Redfoo throws to Gronk. A Playmate tries to tackle him, but it’s no use. Gronk picks her up and carries her into the end zone for a touchdown. He lets her down and spikes the ball.
“Patriots fans,” the Gillette Stadium PA belts out. “Rob Gronkowski has now scored SEVENTY CAREER TOUCHDOWNS! CONGRATULATIONS!”
Gronk gets goosebumps. Not from emotion, but from the crisp fall Foxborough air. The refs are back. The babes are gone. So is everything else he wished into existence. Gronk frantically flails his finger all around him, trying to transform anything he can into more elements of his fantasy, but it’s useless. The magic is gone.
Shea: Oh no.
Rodger: Gronk stumbles to the sideline, shaken. What happened to his fantasy? Was everything just a dream? His teammates are yelling at him: The Patriots have the ball, and he’s needed on the field. But the yelling is even more dire in the huddle. The Patriots are yelling at the tiny man in the no. 12 jersey. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH TOM?!” they scream at the bewildered man whose hair ripples out from under his helmet.
Redfoo locks eyes with Gronk. He has never played football before. They both know how this happened. And neither of them knows how to solve it.
Shea: Wait. So Gronk is magic for all of the time between his 69th and 70th touchdowns?
Rodger: As long as Gronk is at 69 touchdowns, he can do whatever he wants. But he has no idea that when the clock strikes midnight, he turns back into a jacked, stupid pumpkin.
Shea: That’s a great twist. I like that. What else changes in our world during the time between Gronk’s 69th touchdown and his 70th touchdown? Does Obama issue an emergency order that the national speed limit defaults to 69 miles per hour? Do hours move from 60 minutes in length to 69 minutes in length? Do people stop saying “24–7” and start saying “69–69”?
Rodger: At first, the world would cower in fear of the Gronk God. We would want to be on his good side. We would build up a strategic supply of neon tank-tops and those doofy sunglasses without actual lenses in them. But then we would realize all he wanted to do was party like an idiot, and we’d ignore him.
Shea: I think there’s more to Gronk than that, though. Don’t you?
Shea: How about this, though: How about it was all a diversion? I went to school with this guy named Barry and Barry was super fucking smart and all of us were dumb, so he just played dumb to fit in. What if that’s Gronk? What if he’s actually a nerd? What if he laughs when anyone says “69” only because he hears other people laugh? What if Gronk wears turtlenecks and shit off the field? Did you ever think of that, Rodger? Maybe Gronk doesn’t want to 69 your body. Maybe he wants to 69 your brain. Maybe Gronk scores his 69th touchdown, and then Gronk does a 69 with a copy of The Sound and the Fury, or he 69s an essay on 18th-century libertarianism, or he 69s that movie Interstellar.
Rodger: Maybe you’re right, Shea. Maybe I’ve been unfair to Gronk. Maybe his “meat booze sex doofus” persona is just a front to be loved. And maybe he’s tired of it.
Gronk is going to score his 69th touchdown and he’ll be done. He’ll shake Bill Belichick’s hand — as he’s pretended to be an idiot for popularity’s sake all these years, he’s secretly admired the Hoodie’s ability to get through life as an erudite, obsessive asshole — and he’ll vanish. He’ll be on Mars, like Doctor Manhattan. Just him and his football.
Shea: I already miss him.