Opinion

I Love Hate You, Randy Moss (Part One of Three)

Us 90s kids all feel that way.

Around 10-13 years old is when kids really start to take sports seriously. They’re the formative years which a person always looks back on with fondness and will refer to as “the good ole days” for the rest of their life. Something about being on the cusp of becoming a teenager opens up the brain and the mind becomes a sponge for everything related to their chosen interests.

Born in 1985, my sponge opened up at a perfect time in sports. The Jordan Dynasty was back in full effect after the baseball vacation (and before the Wizards experiment), something-called Kevin Garnett out of something-called Farragut Academy was starting to come into his own with the Wolves, and the Vikings drafted a controversial wide receiver from the smoky hills of Rand, West Virginia named Randy Moss 21st overall in the 1998 Draft.

Let’s back it up to 1997, I already knew who Randy Moss was. I was obsessed with him.

***

As a 12-year old who had just gotten a rebuilt 15” Zenith television in his room, ESPN and ESPN2 was blaring around the clock. Sportscenter was the soundtrack to my formative years and I was particularly drawn to this Freak of a redshirt sophomore that got more than his fair share of the college football highlights that season. Tiny Marshall University, which had just become a Division 1-A school that season and was playing in something-called the MAC, was being hammered into my sports sponge subconscious because of a 6’4”, blazing wide receiver who wore number 88, had swag for days (even before we knew was swag was), and was truly a man amongst boys. I still root for the Marshall Thundering Herd to this day because of that season. Even though Nathan Poole went to school there and was Moss’ teammate. Yes, that Nathan Poole.

I researched everything I could about my new favorite player. Keep in mind this was 1997, so that meant looking up articles on a 14.4 modem at home and at the school library on top of clipping articles out of Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, SPORT magazine (before they went under), and the Star Tribune when they posted Heisman Race updates. Moss finished 4th that year behind Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning. Charles Woodson won.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was obsessed with this man. Playing 7th grade football that year, I was saddened to find out I couldn’t change my number from 24 to 88 because A) the coach said running backs don’t wear 80s numbers and B) we didn’t have a number 88 jersey (minor details). But that didn’t stop me from bugging my parents until they bought me the knee high, black and white striped Nike socks that Moss rocked on occasion at Marshall. Since I wasn’t the tallest kid on the block, the socks came up to my mid-thigh and were basically pantyhose, but I didn’t care. I was emulating my first sports crush not named Dominique Moceanu.

At the Heisman ceremony that year, Randy Moss wore sunglasses during the entire ceremony leading Chris Folwer allude to the Timbuk 3 song, “future’s so bright, gotta wear shades.” What amazing forshadowing.

Moss was the first player that I followed in college that I wished – with every ounce of my being – would become a member of my favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings. But it seemed far fetched at the time. The Vikings were drafting late in the first round that year (21st) because of a solid 9-7 season under Denny Green, resulting in a wild card birth but falling short in the Divisional Round to the 49ers.

Wide receiver was also not a position of need. Cris Carter was still in his prime, Jake Reed was coming into his own, and then you had gadget man David Palmer, special teams ace Chris Walsh, and eventual defensive back Robert Tate to pick up the leftover receiver bits. That’s not a bad crew. Given that Moss would probably go high and the Vikings didn’t really need a wide receiver, my 13-year old expectations were pretty tempered. As long as he somehow didn’t end up with the Packers, it was fine.

***

I vaguely knew that he was supposed to go to Notre Dame originally, but didn’t because of legal trouble. And that he was supposed to play for Florida State… But didn’t because of legal trouble. I didn’t know the common draftnik phrase of “character issues” at the time, but my dad and grandpa seemed to think it might cost him and he actually might fall to the Vikings at 21. Or maybe they just said that to make me feel better and stop bugging them about “this cool wide receiver who’s totally awesome”.

The draft wasn’t the primetime television spectacle it is today, so it was a Saturday afternoon in April that I tuned in to see where my guy would land and who my team would pick. Hopefully they would be one in the same.

Eli’s older brother went number one to the Colts, after some serious consideration of Ryan Leaf (hindsight is 20/20, but yikes). Chargers took Leaf second (#TrainWreck) and Woodson went to the Raiders at four. Then a bunch of guys who’s names I didn’t know, or were vaguely aware of via TV and sports magazines, went to teams that weren’t mine. A lot of Tom, Dick, and Keith Brookings flew off the board, but no Randy Moss! How could this be?! Didn’t they see the Army game (which I had recorded on VHS and also had a backup copy) where Randy hurdled a guy while taking a screen pass 90-yards to the house? What the hell’s goin’ on out here?!

I almost passed out when the Titans took Kevin Dyson at 16. How on earth could anyone not named “Randy Moss” be the first wide receiver off the board? But Tennessee’s decision (Moss would’ve scored on the last play of Super Bowl XXXIV, by the way) made me realize something, “Moss could be ours. Holy heck. Moss. Could. Be. Ours.”

Two teams stood in the way, the Packers at 19 and the Lions at 20. If The Freak could slip through the NFC Central filter one time, he would be ours. If he didn’t, he’d be a pain in our ass for the foreseeable future. Could you imagine a young Randy Moss with Favre, Antonio Freeman, and Robert Brooks? Or with Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, and Johnnie Morton? The Vikings had a meh defense as is at time and if Moss landed with either team, that’s a guaranteed fitty-burger twice a year.

But our nemesi played ball, Green Bay took defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday out of North Carolina and Detroit took Rocky Top cornerback Terry Fair. Now there was still the issue of the Vikings not having an immediate need at wide receiver, but they took the plunge. Denny made the call, Billick got another weapon, and Carter and Reed got the third and final piece for Three Deep.

I was elated. My favorite team and my new favorite player were going to cross paths. Little did I know how much bittersweetness lie ahead.

 

Check back for the following two parts of the love hate story the next two Saturdays right here on Vikings Territory. 

 

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Andy Carlson

Andy Carlson (Podcast Producer) is life-long Vikings fan with a sense of humor to help dull the pain of that existence. Sports are fun. They're meant to be be enjoyed and not taken too seriously. He lives that mantra over at the Purple FTW! Podcast: Dedicated to the Pain AND Pleasure that is the Minnesota Vikings. Check out his shenanigans there and on Twitter @AndyCarlsonShow and @PurpleForTheWin.

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5 Comments

  1. Silly topic, the Vikings were a middling franchise in the Dennis Green years (1992-1997) before Moss arrived and had just 1 playoff win (5 app.) in 6 years.

    With Moss in his first 3 years from 1998-2000, they made the playoffs every year, won 3 playoff games total and got to two NFC title games while making the playoffs 4 times in his first 7 years overall. Since trading Moss in early 2005, the Vikings have made the playoffs just 3 times and the NFC title game once in that 10 year span.

    For comparisons sake, fellow 1998 NFL Draftee Peyton Manning and the Colts made the playoffs 5 times in that span (1 AFC CG app.) and all-time great LB/1996 NFL Draftee Ray Lewis’ Ravens made it 3 times (1 AFC CG app/1 SB win). In the regular season, the Colts had 66 wins, the Vikings 64 and Ravens 62. Playoff wins- Ravens 5, Vikings 4, Colts 3.

    Overall, Manning and Lewis rank high on several all-time greatest NFL players list (top 10 for Manning and top 25 for Lewis), well, I’m going to throw Randy’s name in that group too (top 25 all-time for me) because he had just as much impact as these two did and when you look at how bad those Vikings defense were from 2001-2004, his degree of difficulty for having to overcome it was far greater than what the other two dealt with in terms of their offense (Ravens) or defense (Colts).

  2. I was born in ’85 too and Moss is my favorite player ever. I would word it differently though. I have nothing but love for Moss. I am still a little frustrated with Mike Tice for throwing him under the bus.
    made Culpepper/George/Cunningham look like Peyton Manning and we thought we could cover that void with Troy Williamson.
    I generally concede Jerry Rice #1, Moss #2 but secretly I think an argument can be made for Moss for how his impact transformed a whole offense. I don’t think it’s a coincidence 2 of the top 3 offenses in history had Moss. (Top 2 until recently). But because #2 isn’t bad, I normally drop it.

    Great articl

  3. Agreed, Jerry is top 5 all-time among ALL PLAYERS in NFL history and the #1 receiver ever, with Randy #2 and Don Hutson #3 because he was the godfather of the receiver position, Moss took it to another level athletically and Jerry put it all together over a ridiculously long period of time.

  4. There will be never be another WR that made the spectacular seems so mundane. That’s just Moss MO…to make Sports Center’s highlight reels and make them seems so effortless. I am probably just a homer Vikings fan but there has never been a player that was SO exciting to watch (whether in an 84 or 81 jersey)…maybe Barry Sanders came close. I will forever hate Brad Childress…that weasel of a head coach…for cutting him after he came back to my team (…but at least I got to see Favre going deep to Moss for a TD). People get on Moss’ case because of his behavior off the field and not being a great role model. I…as sports fan…look at athletes to be great and help my team win…I don’t need them to watch or raise my kids. People say Moss wasn’t great because he never won the big one…but football is a team sport…its not tennis or golf etc. It’s just disappointing that there WERE opportunities for him to win a ring…from a missed field goal by an ace kicker…to a helmet catch from an unknown third rate player …or bone head play calling from Greg Roman/Jim Harbaugh in the last few minutes and within five yards of Super Bowl victory.

  5. I agree with you guys. Moss was Moss, he did it Randy’s way. That’s what made him Randy Moss! A once in a lifetime player. Yeah he probably brought a lot of the crap on himself…but hey, don’t we all. I’m a bit older, I remember Fran…and you know what? Tark was Tark, he did it Fran’s way! He was also a once in a lifetime player, he also lost out on Super Bowl rings. There were a few times for him that a play here or there would’ve changed things. Kev got it right, football is a team sport…it’s unfortunate for some of theses guys…But Kev, old Fran was exiting to watch, you must have missed that. They both were once in a lifetime players. So is AD, some don’t believe that, but it’s true…he is a rare player. Too bad.
    Now there is Teddy, it’s awful early, but I think I see some moxie with this kid! Damn, I hope so. And he might just break this curse. The way I see it, why not? If not now…when? If not him…who?
    Hey, c’mon Andy, on with the story!

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