Todd Hartley: Writing off Randy Moss
I got an interesting e-mail from my brother the other day: “I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.”
I knew in an instant what he was talking about. He was referring to a conversation we’d had a few years ago about Randy Moss, the volatile superstar of the Minnesota Vikings.
His contention was that Moss was poison to a team’s chemistry, given his checkered past, which at that time included drug arrests and losing scholarships from two major college programs. I claimed that despite all that, Moss was a once-in-a-lifetime player that any team would be thrilled to have, and for a few years I was right.
Moss was the 1998 rookie of the year, and the Vikings were a perennial Super Bowl contender. But soon their coach, Dennis Green, was let go, and then venerable wideout Cris Carter, a hall-of-fame shoe-in and exemplary clubhouse leader, was forced out. Then Moss made a comment ? “I play when I want to” ? that hall-of-fame quarterback Jim Kelly called the worst thing he’s ever heard a football player say. And then this year, an offense supposedly centered on Moss was installed by new Vikings head coach Mike Tice.
The result? The Vikings are off to an 0-3 start and look as bad as any team in the NFL not playing in the state of Texas. The once high-powered offense has sputtered, and the porous defense has been giving up far too many points.
Amidst all this gridiron chaos, Moss just spent the night in jail after being arrested on two misdemeanor charges stemming from an incident wherein he allegedly pushed a traffic control officer half a block with his car.
I e-mailed my brother back with this weak response: “That hate-to-say-I-told-you-so was four years in coming.” Ultimately, though, I was forced to admit that he was right, and I believe I phrased it this way: “The guy’s just an asshole.”
Now, as crude as that may sound, perhaps that is the inescapable conclusion. Sometimes people are just weak people and you just have to write them off as such. For example, Ty Cobb was among the greatest baseball players of all time, but not a single person from the world of baseball attended his funeral because the man, by all accounts, was a mean-spirited, racist son of a bitch.
I thought it was kind of funny when Moss squirted a ref with a water bottle after a perceived bad ruling. Oh those kids, I joked. Because at the time, Moss was catching 90 balls a season and the Vikings were in the playoffs.
Now, however, with Moss’s numbers down and his team in last place, his little transgressions don’t seem so cute. And watching him on TV as he strode arrogantly out of the jailhouse and boasted to reporters of his night in the clink, “It was lonely, but I was able to overcome it,” I was left with but one thought: This man is an arrogant, cocky, overpaid, stupid, ill-willed detriment to society, and I wouldn’t want him within a mile of my football team.
There’s just one problem. I stand by my belief that Moss is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He is faster and taller than just about any wide receiver ever to play the position, and he makes catches that you would swear were impossible, even though, as he says, he only plays when he feels like it. But is that enough to put up with his off-the-field idiocy? I don’t think it is.
The only thing keeping Randy Moss from being the greatest wideout in history is Randy Moss, and unfortunately for Randy Moss, Randy Moss just doesn’t get it.
This latest brush with the law and the resulting $50,000 fine from the Vikings will not help Moss grow up, and they will likely reinforce his mind-set that people are out to screw him over. I just wish that Moss could see that just the opposite is true.
Anyone who has seen what Moss can do on the field, if they have any appreciation for the sport of football, wants to see Moss succeed. I, for one, think he could amass unprecedented numbers if he stays healthy and instantly make any offense he plays with among the league’s most potent.
But he won’t. Because it appears that Randy Moss is, in fact, an irredeemable asshole and poison to a team’s chemistry. Pity, isn’t it? I guess my brother told me so.
[Todd Hartley’s mother would say, “A leopard doesn’t change his spots.” His column appears on Fridays in The Aspen Times. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org]
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Columnist Paul Andersen continues to hope that the moral arc of the universe trends toward justice.