The most talked about ankle in Indianapolis this week belongs to Patriots tight end and Telemundo superstar Rob Gronkowski. After suffering a high ankle sprain in the AFC championship, courtesy of that guy Bernard Pollard, Gronk is officially listed as a “game time decision” for Super Bowl XVLI,which in Belichickian terms means “he’ll play because we’re injecting his ankle with Toradol and he won’t be able to feel anything below his waist”. My buddy Chip sent me a text this past week asking what’s the deal with Boston athletes and injuries to their lower extremities. This got me thinking, besides Gronkowski, what other sports stars from Beantown have had to overcome significant leg injuries at crucial points in their team’s season?
Thinking beyond sports, you can trace the roots of landscape altering Boston leg injuries all the way back to the Boston Massacre in 1770. If you look closely at Paul Revere’s famous engraving you can clearly see several New England “Patriots” strewn about the cobblestone streets outside of the Custom House with blood flowing from their faces, abdomen, and lower limb areas. Some historians have said that this Revere engraving was nothing more than a piece of propaganda intended to inspire colonists to revolt against their British masters. And while the Boston Massacre is typically considered one of the key moments leading up to the Revolutionary War, I choose to think of it as nothing more than an early instance of DNP – gunshot wound.
Perhaps the most famous ankle injury in the history of Boston belongs to Curt Schilling. His bloody sock from Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees will forever commemorate arguably the greatest comeback in sports history. I was in the building for this monumental occasion but didn’t know about his sutures popping until I got home later that evening and ESPN was beginning what would turn into nearly a decade straight of all Red Sox all the time. Sportcenter anchors like John Buccigross and Steve Berthiaume might as well work for NESN. The only thing that can possibly distract Bristol from their love affair with the Nation is Tim Tebow. I mean, Miguel Cabrera should show up to Spring Training drunk and riding a unicorn and all Baseball Tonight would be talking about is whether or not Mike Aviles is going to be the Red Sox fulltime right fielder. Thank god for Scott Van Pelt whose Maryland roots reminds us all that there are in fact other baseball teams besides the Red Sox and Yankees.
Back to Schilling for a second, some people still wonder if his bloody sock was all just an enormous ruse, not to be confused with rouge, an aging bombastic pitchers final chance at back page relevancy. Take Orioles broadcaster, and Maine native Gary Thorne, who went on the record and openly questioned the entire thing. So, what was that on his stirrup anyway: blood or one of the 57 varieties? If the Hall of Fame begins offering Shilling’s sock as a condiment in their cafeteria then I think we’ll have our answer.
Then there was Paul Pierce doing his best Nancy Kerrigan impression during Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Only this time Jeff Gillooly and his police baton were no where to be found. Skeptics would later wonder why The Truth would require the services of a wheelchair for an “injury” that would only kept him out of action for less than a quarters worth of game action. Was it scripted? Did Vince McMahon suddenly hijack the NBA offices in NYC and hog tie Commissioner Stern to his private bathroom stall? Did Tonya Harding pay Kendrick Perkins to injure his teammate much like she brokered the deal in Detroit with her ex-husband? To be completely fair to Kerrigan, a native of Woburn, Mass, the hematoma on her shin lasted much longer than any of the damage to Pierce’s sprained knee ligaments. Fans have since forgiven their captain as he would go on to lead the Celtics to their first NBA Championship in 22 years.
And while other famous Boston sports figures like Tommy Heinsohn and Booby Orr have probably experienced their fair share of high and low ankle injuries, it’s time to bring the focus back to Rob Gronkowski and Super Bowl XLVI. I like New England for two main reasons: 1) most of my friends, including my contrarian wife who thinks Eli Manning is a “super” nice guy, are picking the Giants to win and 2) now that Tim Tebow is out of the playoffs, God is clearly on Tom Brady’s side.
If Gronk plays it opens up the rest of the underneath for Wes Welker and Super Bowl XLVI MVP Aaron Hernandez. If Gronk doesn’t play then the Patriots will have to rely a bit more on their underrated running game (LAWFIRM!!!) and perhaps a few big plays down the field to either Deion Branch or (gulp) Chad Ochocinco. If Ochocinco ends up being the difference in this game you may find me Monday morning curled up in a fetal position next to my refrigerator.
Final Score: Patriots 34 Giants 31
MVP: Aaron Hernandez
Enjoy the game everybody!!!