Rob Gronkowski, Matt Light Shouldn’t Be Criticized for Partying Hours After Patriots’ Super Bowl Loss

Rob Gronkowski, Matt Light Shouldn't Be Criticized for Partying Hours After Patriots' Super Bowl LossLosing a big game is like dealing with a death. Not in the literal sense, but players should be given some leeway when it comes to coping with a crushing defeat.

For that reason, among others, any criticism of Rob Gronkowski and Matt Light going out and partying it up in Indianapolis following Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants needs to stop.

OK, maybe the death comparison is a little strong. But you get the point.

As much as football — or any other sport — is a business, and as little as losing a big game truly means in the grand scheme of life, there’s still an emotional element. It’s a huge element for fans, and an even bigger element for the athletes involved. To immediately criticize Gronkowski and Light, or to instantly say the loss didn’t hit them hard, would entail jumping to conclusions; conclusions that someone who’s not around them on a day-to-day basis simply can’t make.

Perhaps them going out and enjoying themselves was a way to put the Patriots’ loss in the rearview mirror, but perhaps they just simply thought, “hey, let’s enjoy our last night in Indy.” Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps. Does it really matter?

The Patriots lost. For the players in that locker room, it sucked. But it happened. Unless you’ve got a flux capacitor at your disposal, no one’s going back in time and changing anything.

Surely, Gronkowski and Light aren’t the first athletes to manage to have a good time following a big loss. And they certainly won’t be the last.

Given the way in which New England fell and the way in which some of the team’s other players responded, their antics are a bit surprising, but saying they’re guilty of any wrongdoing isn’t justified.

Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel wrote a captivating piece following Sunday’s game about Tom Brady’s actions upon returning to the locker room. The Patriots quarterback was described as being in a “postgame daze of disappointment.” Some might consider his response admirable and evidence of Brady’s passion, while others may say he took the loss too hard. But at the end of the day, it was Brady’s emotions.

Not mine. Not yours. Not Gronkowski’s. Not Light’s.

To regard Brady’s response as more “appropriate” because he elected to display much more disappointment in his mannerisms — in addition to keeping his shirt on and not tearing up the dance floor — would be every bit as inappropriate. Who’s to say there’s a right and wrong way to handle losses?

And even if Gronkowski and Light’s partying wasn’t some sort of coping mechanism for what had happened just hours prior, then so be it. People too often forget that athletes are still employed citizens in this country. They’re in the public eye, so their every move is inherently scrutinized, but why can’t there be times when we just sit back and say, “hey, they’re just enjoying their time off.”

Most people would kill to play a professional sport for a living, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t still a job to go out there, practice, study the playbook, study film, deal with the media, make public appearances, etc. When players get some free time — which the Patriots haven’t had a lot of given their extended season — they should be allowed to let their hair down a bit.

It’s one thing if there’s a direct correlation between a player’s off-the-field behavior and his on-field production, or if a player is causing harm to others or his organization with his antics. But in situations such as this, when neither Gronkowski nor Light harmed anyone, it’s flabbergasting that some people get up in arms.

Gronkowski, especially, has been labeled as a party animal this season. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But what isn’t debatable is that he’s one hell of a tight end. That’s something that’s evident on the field, a place much more important than any dance floor.

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