INDIANAPOLIS — In this new, instantaneous, "reality" world we live in, sudden, overwhelming fame without a morsel of talent often is the rule rather than the exception (see the "Jersey Shore" cast).
Enter Rob Gronkowski ... or Gronk, for short. His talent (and fame) are both in abundance.
As the second-year New England Patriot came into view from the tunnel across the field yesterday, walking toward his Super Bowl "media day" interview booth, more than 100 cameras started clicking endlessly.
All of the major sports websites had headlines: "Gronkowski Off The Boot" and "Gronkowski's Ankle Watch Begins."
It was a response one might expect for an international leader rather than a tight end with a gimpy left ankle.
But that's what life is like for Gronkowski, who at 22 is the man of the hour, bigger than media behemoths Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Eli Manning.
"I think it's deserved," said former Super Bowl champion head coach Brian Billick. "He has transformed the position of tight end. We've had some great tight ends. But not like him. He is big and physical, and he's very athletic with quick feet.
"If you put a linebacker on him, he's too athletic to cover. If you put a defensive back on him, he's too big and strong. I don't know how you cover him."
The numbers bear it out. After a stellar rookie season (42 catches, 546 yards and 10 TDs), Gronkowski mauled the record book with single-season NFL records for a tight end in receiving touchdowns (17), total touchdowns (18), and receiving yards (1,327).
That's the stuff of matinee idols, which is exactly what he is around the country and especially here in Indianapolis.
Gronk-mania has been building. He has his own sports apparel line (gronkapparel.com). His post-touchdown spikes — he slams the ball on the turf as hard as he can — have become must-see TV. He's one of the most eligible bachelors in sports as was proven by some racy tweets of an adult film star wearing his game jersey.
Not bad for a blue collar kid from Buffalo.
"I don't think I've ever seen him when he isn't smiling. I'm serious," said Patriots offensive lineman Brian Waters.
The irony is that a lot of Gronkowski's success could be tied to the "other" 22-year-old tight end on the Patriots, Aaron Hernandez.
Despite putting up numbers this past regular season that rival the top five tight ends in the game — 79 receptions, 910 yards and 7 TDs — Hernandez is definitely the wing man in this tandem.
At least outwardly, he is OK with that.
"He deserves everything he gets," said Hernandez, who's more noted for his agility and quickness compared to the 6-6, 265-pound Gronkowski's massive size.
"We are part of a team," said Hernandez. "It's all about winning. It doesn't matter who is having better stats. I am happy for him ... We're in this together. Me and Gronk study our plays and want to be great players. That's another reason why we succeed in this league."
When the experts talk about the Patriots' keys to success on Sunday, remarkably Gronkowski's performance seems to be paramount, even bigger than a big day from Brady.
That means his ankle has become the biggest story of Super Bowl week.
The injury appeared to be a major one when it happened in the third quarter of the AFC Championship game in Foxboro. It looked like the tendons in his left ankle were twisted and torn.
Here we are 10 days later and the former University of Arizona star is walking bootless, without a limp. Although he hasn't practiced since the nasty injury.
"I am just going day-by-day every single day," said Gronkowski, with about 50 media members waiting for his answers with bated breath.
"If I had to play today, would I play?" repeated Gronkowski before breaking into a wry smile. "I don't have to answer that. We're not playing today."
The New York Giants, of course, expect the key cog in the Patriots offensive engine to not only play, but play well.
"He's going to do whatever he has to do to make sure he's ready for this game," said outspoken Giants safety Antrell Rolle, who will probably be covering Gronkowski a lot on Sunday.
"He'll be fine," said Rolle. "(New England) wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for (Gronkowski)."
That's respect. That's Gronk-mania. Apparently, everybody's got a little of it.
E-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.