Randy Moss may or may not be gone for good. The way injuries happen in the NFL, this post may be outdated by the 4th week of this season. But since Randy CLAIMS he’s retiring, lots of blogs will spend this week honoring him and reminiscing, hopefully, on a time when Moss’ play was elite, consistent, and awe-inspiring.
Sports Illustrated already put together a nice collage of rare Randy Moss photos I think is worth checking out. If you’re unfamiliar with Moss, it’s a great way to get a quick history lesson on the man who made phrases like “Straight cash homey” popular, interviewed himself a time or two, and just generally made the game more exciting to watch.
You can get your “is Randy Moss is the greatest ever” debate on some other blog. I have bigger concerns.
When Moss is gone, who will inject the NFL with his brand of authentic eccentricity?
No matter how much the NFL tries to crack down on players’ personalities the league has benefitted over the years from the story lines erratic behavior creates. In particular, the behavior of those who have become known as “diva wide receivers.” It used to be the running backs that got all the glory, but as the pass in the NFL expanded, we got to know the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Ochocinco. We tuned in to see Moss’ mooning, T.O.’s cheerleading, and Ochocinco’s hair.
The media has changed so much in the time that that Moss first appeared on the scene. Today, we operate in a 24 hour news cycle and football is more popular than ever. There is endless encouragement for players to practice being what Moss was naturally. With Moss you never got the sense that he was putting on for the public. Every strange press conference, run in with the law, hair style, and plaid piece of clothing felt as if Moss was simply being himself and you were just privileged enough to tune in to his channel.
The same media that spends so much time covering players’ antics (and racking up the dough while doing so), is the same media that berated Moss (and others) for giving them the footage they needed to survive. That bashing lends itself to a sports media that will provide a zillion excuses not to vote Randy Moss into the Hall of Fame his first year of eligibility but will swiftly insert Brett Favre. The same Brett Favre who has spent the last 4 years trying with all of his might to erase all memory of his greatness. Fortunately, for him, an adoring media wouldn’t let him. Moss should be so lucky.
It’s a shame that Moss’ kind of personality can only really be appreciated in retrospect. In a 16 game season every play is so consequential. When a player seems eccentric we spend every free moment speculating about what negative impact he’s having on the team. You want a player like Moss to show up every game and not be a “distraction.” It never occurs to you while running through the season that you should stop and appreciate the smell of something besides the roses.
I was a fan of the great Jerry Rice, and when Rice retired, there was no question in my mind how great a player he was or that his level of skill and professionalism was a loss to the sport. But his retirement didn’t leave me with the kind of longing Moss’ less-than-ideal departure will inspire. You know, that general feeling that without this person around, I’m “missing something” a whole lot bigger than game highlights. We can hail star students who are most widely known for their dedication to the sport, and it’s a wonderful thing to do. But when the last pass is caught, it is players like Moss who leave us with iconic footage on and off the field.