Commentary

Just a snapshot of athletes' lives

Updated: October 28, 2011, 4:44 PM ET
By LZ Granderson | ESPN.com

There is a side to this whole BiBi Jones/Rob Gronkowski story that is seedy and risqué and lends itself to a whole multitude of sex jokes.

Correction: There isn't "a" side; that is the only side.

The only side that is honest, anyway.

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski with Bibi Jones
via mobypicturePatriots TE Rob Gronkowski loaned his jersey to BiBi Jones for a picture.

Any other side, any other conversation where soft-shoeing encourages us to refer to Jones as an adult film actress -- as opposed to a porn star -- is either disingenuous or naive.

From all of the John Hughes-type movies where the captain of the football team dates the captain of the cheerleading squad, to the popularity of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders calendar, we all know sex and high profile sports are not two concepts that are foreign to each other.

They are assumed to be one.

I know of a prominent sports agency that holds business meetings with potential clients at the strip club that is walking distance from the office. Agents at another company flat out told me they do not hire women they think are unattractive. Even the prim and proper officials at Wimbledon admitted in 2009 that early in the tournament they purposefully schedule centre court based on players' attractiveness more so than talent. They wanted to draw in more men and that is how they decided to do it. In fact, they went as far as to dub one of the matches "Battle of the Babes."

So to me the best part of the whole Jones/Gronkowski Twitter pics scandal is not the sophomoric did-they-or-didn't-they element but rather Jones' refreshing honesty about how she helps an agent recruit players.

Attractive women are perks for jocks. We all assumed it; she just confirmed it.

"He would just take me to a bar and introduce me after a Diamondbacks game in Arizona," she told Business Insider. "You know, baseball players would come and I'd introduce myself. And then I got to hook up with baseball players and have fun. It was like a dream come true because I love athletes and baseball's my favorite sport."

Jones is a porn star, not a prostitute. She slept with the athletes because she wanted to, not because she was getting paid.

She wasn't being taken advantage of because she said "we both knew what we were doing."

She's just being real -- unlike anyone who felt Gronkowski needed to apologize for taking pictures standing next to her with his shirt off. Some women are attracted to money and power -- hello, Hugh Hefner -- and professional athletes have both.

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
Elsa/Getty ImagesOh, yeah, Rob Gronkowski plays football. He had 10 touchdown receptions last year and has five so far this season with the Patriots.

Men know this, which is why many of us envy athletes' lives.

That's why Jones is even more real than Gronkowski, who, as far as I can tell, basically apologized for enjoying the perk most everyone else with a Y chromosome wishes they had. There certainly wasn't anything in the photos that warranted being called "racy," not when female singers are photographed without underwear.

"I didn't intend anything to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots," Gronkowski said. But from the smirk on his face, you could tell he wasn't really regretting a thing.

The only thing the second-year player needed to apologize for was having such little confidence in his swagger that he rolled around town with his jersey to show people. That move is just a notch below going out late at night with a Bluetooth headset in your ear as if it's a piece of jewelry.

Other than that, I doubt anyone thought less of Gronkowski after seeing the photos.

After last year's Sports Illustrated piece in which former NFL agent Josh Luchs talked about paying college players and partying with beautiful women, we all know what goes on. People who try to characterize Luchs' confession as a one-off, or make University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro out as just a lying jock sniffer, must think the public has a hard time connecting dots.

Other examples tart up recent sports history. Mississippi State had to do damage control last year after it was discovered three recruits went to The Pony during their visit (and given the nature of this topic, I'm sure you know what The Pony is). Stanford football players and recruits dropped $300 at a strip club in 2003. Three New Mexico State football players were suspended in 2006 for taking recruits to a gentlemen's establishment.

And the mother lode was the Colorado Buffaloes' football program, which got caught up in a recruiting scandal in 2004 that involved strippers, escorts, drugs and sex.

If we're being honest, few of these college recruiting scandals are really shocking. Not if you've seen "He Got Game" or an episode of the reality TV show "Basketball Wives."

The underbelly of high profile sports is hiding in plain sight. Not everyone goes there, but a lot of folks like to look and wave their arms whenever it's publicized.

Apology aside, neither Jones nor Gronkowski broke any rules. And if we're being real, their picture is not even tawdry or crude, just another image of what we expect.

LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at lzgranderson@yahoo.com.

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LZ Granderson | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine