This is the digital version of GRONK’D, the sports fantast article in No Boundaries magazine, released fall 2021, depicting Buffalo in 2051. Our authors were given a 12 page report compiled by area professors, researchers and non profit leaders about the city we might have by then, if we get to work now. Those authors then let their imaginations run wild. The entire production was presented by West Side Promise Neighborhood. This article is presented by Burchfield Penney Art Center and Winter Jewelry. (All references to GRONK are satirical. If he gets mad… well we wouldn’t be surprised.)

Please support Rise. Order a physical copy to be delivered to you today!

 

GRONK’D

Written by Jillian Benedict
Illustrated by Renee Helda

MAY 2051

“Come celebrate with the third—I don’t know—maybe fourth best city I’ve ever been in and the team I’ve beaten too many times to count.”

Sigh. Whoever let that man near a microphone should be banished forever. But here we are, another day, another nightmare for the PR team behind Buffalo Bills owner, Rob Gronkowski.

I turned off WGR, the only station left on AM radio these days, trying not to let his idiocy ruin this day. Because we’ve been waiting to celebrate our Bills since they brought home their fifth Lombardi Trophy this past February. And despite that ass-clown being the owner I still bleed red, white, and blue.

It wasn’t always like this. Things were going great for the once abysmal Bills. Our parents often talked about “the draught like no other” and how we finally took the league by storm.

Our first Super Bowl win in 2023 was “luck” as many “reported.” Our second in 2024 was supposedly even luckier.

But now? Now everyone’s on the bandwagon. I guess I mean everyone except for our joker of an owner.

You see, not much has changed from Gronk. He’s still a teenaged boy at his first frat party most days.

Like Donald Trump’s push to purchase the Bills decades ago, we all laughed (albeit a bit nervously) as Gronk threw his hat into the ring to take over ownership. Yet, here we are, two years and 1,039,794,754 stupid comments later, still listening to his BS.

I tune him out,something us fans have learned to do,because this day is about the players and the city of Buffalo.

 

Today is about a tradition that started 29 years ago when the FC Buffalo Women’s Soccer team brought Buffalo its first major sports championship in decades. What began as a great idea from star player Kelsey Araujo did exactly what you would expect from Buffalo, snowballed into something incredible. Along each of the green parkways that replaced our urban highways, a tree is planted for each player on a championship team.

As the Bills and Sabres started to win consistently in the coming years, our once blue-collar city turned green.

I parked my bike outside Hamburg West Metro Station and just caught the train. Fifteen minutes later, I joined the thousands gathered outside the East Ferry Street Station, lining both sides of Humboldt Parkway and found my friends. As the fire trucks pull up with the team, we’re excited to see Aaron Jones, Jr., our league-leading wide receiver, step out in front of us. He seems just as excited as we are—taking pictures, giving out hugs and fist bumps.

Local officials, including Mayor Helen Maung, stop at every player, shaking hands and unveiling the tree’s plaque commemorating the player and the date. Even after seeing this done a dozen or more times between the Bills, Sabres and FC Buffalo, it still brings a tear to my eye.

That tear of happiness is soon replaced by the feeling of embarrassment and anger.

The players gather on stage to receive their championship rings from the commissioner. As the ring is about to be revealed, trash blows in.

Our fearless leader, Mr. Gronkowski, is back at it. He drunkenly walks on stage and grabs the microphone.

“Just so you know, the ring you get today will never compare to the ones I have. And just know I still have more than all of you. You are lucky you have me to help you get something decent.”

If you could hear eye rolls, it would’ve been a deafening thunder.

The rage I feel inside is nothing compared to the look on our players’ faces. Although, as fans, we feel the red-hot heat of hatred of our owner, thus far, the players have remained professional and diplomatic.

That was about to end today.

Just as you could feel the excitement throughout the city, so too could you feel the resentment. It’s gone on too long. What should’ve been a day of celebration for our city—the city of Buffalo—the city that raised the Gronkowskis—was just too much.

This celebration was now turning into a mutiny, and I was here for it.

It started with a quick comment from our star safety, “I’m done with this f&*#$ing guy,” and traveled with nods of solidarity up and down the rows of players.

Now there was a new energy, a new excitement, a new goal to achieve, and that was to get this M-Fer out of Buffalo.


AUGUST 2051

It’s the dawning of a new day. It’s been three months since the city decided we were done with Gronk. Three long months of preparing to be on the world stage. And boy, were we ready to make our presence be known.

At, sigh, The House of Gronk, (because what else would you expect an owner of a team he thinks he’s better than to do? Buy the stadium naming rights along with buying the team. His reasoning? “I owned you every time I stepped on this field to play, so now I’ve just made it official.”) each of us passed a knowing glance to each other on the train. This is it. An underground movement was in the final stages of going public.

The players, staff, trainers, and group of volunteers behind the mutiny met in the field house. Yes, right under the nose of our astute owner. Maybe if he hadn’t killed so many brain cells . . .

The lawyers were ready with paperwork. Financial support was secured. The plans were finalized with an offer all too good for someone like Gronk to turn down. After all, critical thinking was never his strong point. Now, we wait until the opening ceremony of the Pan-Am Expo. I don’t think anyone in the city slept that night. Well, maybe Gronk. But he was passed out.

SEPTEMBER 2051

The sun was shining, the water was glistening, and the Outer Harbor was littered with boats, people and dignitaries. There was so much to see and so much to do.

The evening ceremony was about to begin. I found my place in the crowd, nervously looking around. You could tell Buffalo residents apart from the many visitors because of the excited yet nervous look in their eyes.

The President of the United States took the stage after an introduction from Mayor Maung. After her speech, it was our time to shine. The Mayor stepped up to the microphone again to bring up our dearest Bills owner.

With cameras rolling, Gronk stepped off his yacht that had moored behind the main stage, with someone following closely behind.

“This is such a massive event, I had to bring my best buddy. You guys remember him, right?”

Lo and behold. The devil himself is here. Stepping into the light. Tom f&#%ing Brady.

Of course, Tom looks just as one would expect from someone who sold his soul to the devil back in 2001. A very “Death Becomes Her” vibe. He smirks and does that laugh that sounds like practiced it in the mirror.

The two of them take the stage like they are going on the Arsenio Hall Show, whooping it up. Gronk fist pumping and catcalling at anyone he could see. He may have believed the Expo was just for him.

He stepped up to the microphone and welcomed guests to “his” city. Before he even got through his first sentence, he was interrupted.

“Boo! Boo!” Chanted a group of people from the crowd. “You suck, Gronk!”

This was it. The wheels were in motion.

“I suck? I suck?! What the hell do you know? You guys are trash,” he quipped back.

“You’re a has-been!” yelled someone from the group. And just like we knew he would, Gronk was taking the bait.

“I can still beat the sh*t out of you and all your friends,” Gronk yelled, as camera crews hustled to find the censor button.

Bingo. There it was. We didn’t even have to try.

“You wanna bet?” Yelled a man named Cam, a normally nice, decent guy who had honed his acting skills for this very moment.

“You have nothing I want,” yelled Gronk. “Go back to your trailer.”

Just then, Cam held up a pair of keys. “I have a 2021 Porsche that I’m willing to bet you.”

He’s all about the material things and even though he can afford his own Porsche, Gronk’s manhood was at stake.

“OK, buddy, what’s your bet?”

Someone else yells from the crowd, “I bet you can’t beat him at a 40.”

“Him? That guy right there? You think he can beat me at a 40? Like that’s even fair. I will destroy him.”

“Put your money where your mouth is!” Yells another “seed” in the crowd.

“Money? You got it, pal.” Gronk takes off his button-down shirt to reveal a t-shirt with the sleeves already ripped off,like he was waiting for someone to challenge him to an arm wrestle.

The crowd is loud and rowdy. Those in on the plan are going bananas and their adrenaline is contagious. Soon, visitors and locals alike are in a frenzy.

Gronk thinks we’re celebrating him. He always does. He thinks we’re all here to watch him destroy Cam. But little does Gronk know that Cam is really a plant. A former Olympian dressed in baggy clothes to hide his physique.

“I bet you $100,000  that I will destroy you,” Gronk says into the mic before dramatically dropping it, looking around for cheers.

Ugh. Not what we were going for. We have to step it up. Time for Plan B.

I see Brett pushing his way to get in front. Come on, Brett! We need you!

He’s finally close enough to plant the idea, “Bet him the Bills, Gronk! You’re the man!”

The crowd roars as the stakes suddenly rise astronomically.

We’ve got him. You can see it in his eyes, like he’s some kind of genius who just thought of this “brilliant” idea on his own. He tells his brethren to grab the mic again. The crowd is so loud. This is it.

Gronk grabs the mic out of one of his minion’s hands. “Hang on, hang on. What do I get when I win? Just a car?”

The crowd silences. I think I may throw up.

“Brady’s approval!” someone yells out.

Gronk stands up straight with a twinkle in his eye and turns to his best pal, Tom. “Do you think I can take this guy?”

It feels weird, but now we’re really cheering for Gronk. “You’ve got this!” and “It’s not even close!” ring out.

Brady winks at him. Maybe it was too much tequila, ut it was all Gronk needed.

“I know I can beat your ass. And I’m so sure, I will—in front of the world—bet you the Bills.”

Hook, line, and sinker.

Gronk flexed hard into every camera pointing at him. Visitors gasped. His team of minions sprang into action, trying to talk him out of it.

Thankfully Gronk didn’t realize how prepared the city was to host a 40-meter race. The seas of people parted almost instantly. A large tape measure was brought out to mark the distance. A member of the security team brought up a starting pistol.

Dignitaries and Expo-goers stood there, mouths agape. The President looked around nervously, smiling, but wondering what the hell was happening. Buffalonians, Bills players in the crowd and fans of the game prayed.

Cam and Gronk took their spots in the middle of the Expo. With all eyes on him, Gronk ate it up. His confidence was frightening, to be honest. Cam was cool and calm. Probably the only one there who was.

Our mutiny movement’s lawyer came up to reiterate the terms of the bet. Gronk gave an energetic “Hell yes” when asked if he was sure he wanted to do this. Our lawyer “just happened” to have a blank piece of paper with him where he hastily wrote down the details. Gronk signed. Cam signed. Brady signed as a witness.

You could hear a collective gasp from the crowd as the runners lined up.

“Runners take your mark. Get set.” A single pistol shot rang out. And off Gronk and Cam went.

It was the longest 40-meter race I have ever seen. Yet it was over in seconds.

I couldn’t see the finish line where I was standing. I could only see what was projected on the big screens around the event and I still couldn’t tell what happened.

A silence hung over the Outer Harbor, even as tens of thousands of people remained.

Finally, like they were in the boxing ring, a security guard walked over, grabbed one of Cam’s hands and one of Gronk’s and raised Cam’s.

“The new owner of the Buffalo Bills, ladies and gentlemen!” He shouted.

The crowd lost its mind.

Gronk lost his mind, too. Shouting for the unofficial official to look again, Gronk realized the deal was sealed as he watched the replay on the big screen. He had lost by an entire stride.

Cameras flashed, strangers hugged, and minions forced Gronk and TB12 out of the public’s view.

The night had just begun, but the celebration lasted just as long as it did for our Super Bowl wins. Finally, the bone-head was out and our team of financial sponsors, led by Cam, was in. Gronk got hustled. The Bills took the stage. The lawyers got the paperwork. The partying went on.

There’s a rumor that on very calm nights, you can still hear Gronk’s sobs coming from the windows of his boat, echoing across the shores of Lake Erie.

As the Pan-Am Expo ended, I watched the closing footage. Sure, there had been some groundbreaking exhibits, but the shot heard round the world was the “Gronk’d 2051” attraction. A hustle like no other.

The highlight reel ran and I couldn’t be prouder of my city; the views, the attendance, the camaraderie. As the segment came to a close, and I reached to turn it off, I smiled as I heard the announcer sign off with, “Only in Buffalo.”