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Dan Shaughnessy

Gronk answers all questions but the big one

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / February 1, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - Rob Gronkowski was in the stands in Glendale, Ariz., when the Patriots lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl four years ago. He was wearing University of Arizona garb and nobody paid attention to him, other than people sitting behind the 6-foot-6-inch, 265-pound tight end - folks who no doubt had trouble seeing the field.

Gronk doesn’t blend in anymore. He’s all the rage here at Super Bowl XLVI. He has his own Nation, a clothing line, and a billboard. He’s inspired poets and bards. Super Bowl halftime isn’t long enough to play the entire catalog of new songs written about Gronk.

New England’s Sub Zero No. 87 was the brightest of Patriot stars at yesterday’s Super Bowl Media festival.

Seated at station No. 1 facing a couple of dozen tripods and scores of reporters, Gronkowski was polite, funny, bilingual, cooperative, and downright Gronk-olicious for the full hour of inanity. He modeled a goofy tricornered red Patriot cap, explained that he got Bs in high school Spanish, and successfully named three Kardashian sisters (Kim, Khloe, Kourtney).

The only thing he didn’t answer was the question about his high left ankle sprain, a serious injury suffered in the AFC Championship Game against Baltimore. After sustaining the injury in the third quarter, Gronk came back for some late-game snaps against the Ravens. He hasn’t practiced in 10 days and arrived in Indianapolis wearing a protective boot on his left foot.

The boot was gone yesterday, but Gronk wouldn’t put a percentage on his chances of playing - or playing well - against the Giants. When a reporter asked him to describe the pain of a high ankle sprain, he thought for a moment, rubbed his frying-pan-hands together, and said, “Let me give you one.’’

No thanks.

On a team with Tom Brady, Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker, and Vince Wilfork, Gronk has emerged as a media go-to guy. He looks like the inflated bodybuilder who says “I pick things up and put them down’’ in Planet Fitness commercials, but Gronk might soon be auditioning to play “The Most Interesting Man in the World.’’

In a moment that went viral on the web, Gronk was interviewed by ESPN Deportes’ John Sutcliffe after winning the AFC Championship. New England’s all-world tight end unleashed some broken Spanish (“repeat-o’’ was a good one) and when asked how he planned to celebrate, wound up saying, “Yo soy fiesta.’’

Which translates, of course, to “I am party.’’

“I wasn’t really trying to say that, but that’s just how it came out and it worked out well,’’ Gronk said yesterday.

It’s an instant classic. Just as the New Frontier had John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner,’’ (’’I am a Berliner,’’ or “I am a jelly doughnut’’, whichever you prefer), Gronk Nation has “Yo soy fiesta.’’ It’s on T-shirts, and there’s a “Yo soy fiesta’’ billboard off Route 495.

“Just a little shout-out to my Spanish fans,’’ Gronk said. “Trying to go abroad now.’’

Gronk was asked about his ankle approximately 25 times in yesterday’s session, but in true Patriot fashion, he gave up nothing. He kept saying that his status was “day to day.’’

Day to day.

Over and over.

And over and over.

Asking a Patriot about an injury is a fool’s errand. There’s no competitive advantage in updates, so the Patriots deliver minimal news. If not for Gronk’s father blabbing to a Buffalo news outlet last week, we would not even know that Gronk has a dreaded high ankle sprain.

It’s hard to imagine that Gronk won’t play Sunday, but he’s saying little that can be interpreted.

“Whatever the training staff asks me to do, that’s all I’m doing,’’ he said. “I want to be out there with the team, obviously. I want to help the team, obviously. Tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll see what happens tomorrow

“I’m anxious, obviously, to get out there. We’re making positive strides every day.’’

Remember that Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens didn’t practice before Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, then caught nine passes for 122 yards against the Patriots.

When Gronk wasn’t being asked about his ankle, he obliged the clowns, jokers, supermodels, action heroes, and little kids with inquiring minds.

With a little prompting, Gronk named almost the entire cast of “Jersey Shore,’’ telling us Vinnie is his favorite character. He said he watched Ochocinco on “Dancing With the Stars’’ and would consider participating if asked.

When stunning entertainment reporter Maria Menounos told Gronk of a bet she made - she pledged to wear a Giants bikini on the air if New York wins - Gronk said, “At least there’s a positive if we lose.’’

He explained his love of the movie “Hardball,’’ which inspired him to say, “We’re going to the ’ship’’ (also available on T-shirts made by Modell’s).

Gronk told us he had no rooting interest in the Patriots or Giants when he watched Super Bowl XLII with his brother and parents when he was a freshman at the University of Arizona. Steelers linebacker Brett Keisel, of “Fear the Beard’’ fame, got Gronk to deliver a plug for Head & Shoulders shampoo. A soldier with a camera got Gronk to look into his lens and thank our troops serving overseas (“God bless America and thank you guys for everything you guys do’’). Teammate Jerod Mayo interviewed Gronk for “Pariots All Access’’ and asked for Gronk’s reaction to Brandon Spikes’s travel day pink suit.

“The guy has class, he’s a pimp, and he knows how to roll,’’ answered Gronk.

He said Brad Pitt should play Bill Belichick in the movie version of the Patriot story. He said he knows how to spell “Belichick’’ but preferred not to make an attempt in front of the cameras. When a German reporter asked him how Sebastian Vollmer got his nickname “Sea Bass,’’ Gronk said, “I don’t know why we call him that.’’

Hmmm. That made me wonder if Gronk was messing with us.

Throughout the entertaining hour, Gronk sprinkled a couple of “mucho buenos’’ into his answers.

“We’ll see what happens on Sunday,’’ he said. “Maybe I’ll pull some Spanish off.’’

Hasta luego, senor Gronk.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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