By Jason Keidel
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In 1998, the Minnesota Vikings drafted Randy Moss with one eye open. The team gambled on his talent and almost reached the Super Bowl. The first time, that is. The second act was the act of a desperate coach leading his lost team.
My eyes were wide open while watching Moss at Marshall. It took one play to understand that he was not a normal man. He galloped down the sideline and, rather than duck, dodge, or dart out of bounds, he leaped over the man trying to tackle him, like an impala hopping over a fallen tree.
Some athletes, even in a huddle with other great athletes, glow with skill, with a raw talent that teaching can only suppress. Just let him fly. Moss makes you drop the remote and forget that the stove is on fire.
But Moss has become as much mystery as mastery, a moody star who has become a football gypsy. Cris Carter, who has spent as much time with Moss as anyone, told ESPN that he still doesn’t know Moss in many ways. Carter also echoed a sentiment felt by former teammates: they love Randy Moss.
The notion opens potential paradoxes. Can you be a great player, great teammate, and a terrible employee? If anyone can, Moss has. You can’t find a player who badmouths Moss as a friend, yet he’s a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer on his fifth team.
Moss and Terrell Owens are the fathers of the nouveaux wideout: mouthy, prolific, and ringless. Forget the silliness of banning touchdown dances – which everyone but Roger Goodell seems to enjoy – players with me-first mantras eventually infect a football team.
And the need for harmony is more pronounced on the gridiron than in other sports. The Chicago Bulls won with Dennis Rodman. The Bronx Zoo Yankees stopped punching each other just long enough to win two World Series. But football seems to flow with empathic energy, where every part is codependent.
A few weeks ago I wrote a column eviscerating the Patriots for trading Moss. I was wrong. The Pats have pulled the trigger on some bad deals, but dealing Moss was not one of them. And the beef they had with him is not unique to football: sometimes we just need to shut up. Moss doesn’t have that mechanism or membrane to lock his impulses when circumstances demand it.
Winning is relative to Moss. On the field he occasionally can, as evidenced by New England’s 18-0 start a few seasons ago. But eventually the thorns will spring and a contrived crime will be charged at a press conference. The press is bad. His coaches are wrong. Leave a game before it’s over. Squirt water at a ref. Tell the world you play only when you want to. Embrace the team that just traded you in front of the team you were traded to. Verbally assault some poor guy at a buffet who’s just trying to serve lunch to the team.
Moss lives in a self-made crucible, somehow an insider and outsider. This week Jets fans drooled over the idea of Moss joining their team before the Titans signed him. Consider yourself saved from yourself. Gang Green has filled their quota for housing miscreants and, at 5-2, they don’t need to be fixed, particularly by a guy who can’t fix himself.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com