2004, the W in Lambeau, and what current “Fans” can learn about taking talent for granted

There are few moments in Minnesota Vikings lore that are as iconic as the January 9th, 2005, “Mooning” of the crowd at Lambeau Field by Viking legend Randy Moss. That moment had everything that exemplified Moss’ final season in Minnesota. Moss was injured that season, missing a game for the first time since his rookie season (he ended up playing 13 games that year), which lead to his first sub-1,200 yard receiving season in purple. Despite that, though, he still had 13 touchdowns and was the focal point of an offense that had the best season out of Daunte Culpepper (who had 39 touchdowns and could’ve been MVP if not for Peyton Manning’s 49 touchdown campaign).
Moss was quickly becoming persona non grada amongst the fans in Minnesota who had, in my estimation, incorrectly comprehended some of the things that Moss had done. The “I play when I want to play” quote was taken wildly out of context and used as an example of how Moss was “lazy”. Anyone who has access to the internet and has seen the YouTube video titled ‘The Moss Method’ will know how laughable that idea is.

That was the same season in which Moss had walked off the field during the failed onside kick against the Washington Redskins. People thought that that meant Moss didn’t care, as if he was leaving because he was hoping to still make the then McDonald’s Breakfast cut-off. I mean, of course, he couldn’t have been upset that the Vikings had yet again come out of the gate strong in 2004 (starting that season 5-1) but still were on the cusp of not making the playoffs yet again. That’s exactly like the 2003 season, a season in which the purple started 6-0 and missed the post-season courtesy of a 4th-and-24 desperation push out touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. I can’t even begin to tabulate the odds of starting two seasons a combined 11-1 and missing the playoffs twice, but I did try to crunch those numbers (even though the Vikings did back into the 2004 playoffs) and it’s safe to say that if you see/hear/been turned to dust by a mushroom cloud from every mobile apps on Gamble CO or the like, that’s on me. I’ll add some very affordable aloe vera gel to our merch store to do my part. Sidenote: I was going to mention sports betting in Iowa, but that mushroom cloud is actually just the smell of Iowa (pork refineries, corn, and whatever the quad cities is).

On top of that, people had lumped Moss in with Terrell Owens, vaguely labeling him a “locker room cancer” despite no one coming out EVER and saying that Moss was anything but a great teammate. The only person that came close was Matt Birk, who was on my KDLM Sports radio show and said that he and Moss had ONE misunderstanding and that they handled it. But he said that Moss was a hard worker and beloved by other players in the locker room.

Before Birk’s conversation with yours truly he said the following about Moss as a teammate:

“There’s a lot more good than bad with him,” Birk said. “I think, maybe contrary to what picture gets painted, he was a good teammate. Not perfect, but none of us are. He was a good guy in the locker room, never walked around like he was bigger or better than anybody on the team. For the most part, I really enjoyed playing with him. I like Randy. He made me look good.”

In regard to that one incident? It was the aforementioned walk off against the ‘Skins:

“Well, the most notable one is when he walked off the field with a few seconds left in the Washington game at the end of 2004 (I think that was the year). It was a tough year for all of us. I didn’t think he, as a leader, should have done it. I raced to the Lockeroom and let’s just say we had some heated words.”

What does this have to do with the Moon seen ’round the upper-midwest?

Well, a lot, actually.

Moss was hanging out with Tommy Kramer while in town to do an autograph signing and was discussing the event that many that wanted Moss gone (I won’t even refer to those people as fans because you could’ve give all 32 first-round picks in the 2005 Draft and still not come anywhere near to close in terms of what Moss meant to this team) pointed to as the final straw.

The second that Joe Buck labeled Moss’ “Mooning” as a “Disgusting act” the controversy was born. You’d think with the benefit of hindsight that Buck would come out and say that his spur of the moment reaction was an overreaction, but he has done the opposite. Sure, he has said that reacting to things in real time is “harder than it looks” and that he has to stand by what he says in the moment (which is debatable, when your job is to react to live events in real time you can also say that your initial reaction was wrong, but I digress), but then he goes into a vague story about a father thanking him for explaining what Moss did so… That father doesn’t need to be a parent and explain something to his own children?

“I got a letter from a young father who was watching with his sons and was glad I said it because he didn’t really have to explain much to his sons about what that move was they just watched a Pro Bowl player do on television. And I had plenty of conversations with people in airports after. “

What a hero.

Buck continues:

“Go watch it and see how it hits you. I mean really watch it. A fake mooning and putting his ass on the goal post to paying fans in a stadium on national TV? I would for sure be regretful if I said nothing. That’s not how I was brought up. But, hey, Cris thought it was funny. So who’s right? Neither.”

Yeah. Let’s actually take Buck’s advice and watch it:

I’ll tell you what I see.

I see a player that had been unfairly lumped in with another top-tier receiver who was a major distraction or whatever team he was on, who had a hate-hate relationship with the media because the media had treated him poorly from the very beginning (he was maligned for wearing sunglasses to the Heisman Trophy announcement dinner despite the fact that he wore those sunglasses because he was incredibly nervous). Case in point? When he was asked by a fan if he was at Winter Park to hand in a check to pay the fine for the above mooning incident. Here’s the completely contemptible transcript:

Reporter: “Write the check yet, Randy?”

Moss: “When you’re rich, you don’t write checks.”

Reporter: “If you don’t write checks, how do you pay these guys?”

Moss: “Straight cash, homey.”

People were enraged, I’m not joking, at the time because “Minnesota is a blue collar state and $10,000 is a lot of money to a lot of hard working people so what Moss did was a complete slap in the face of the very same fans that support him week-in-and-week-out”.

I wish I was joking.

I’m a person that is big on intent. If someone makes an honest mistake, like mixing salt into a pie instead of sugar, I don’t see the need to apologize because they didn’t do it on purpose. If someone punches me in the fact but says that they won’t do it again, then the apology is important (unless it happens again, and again, then it becomes meaningless). Was Moss’ INTENTION to belittle the hardworking people of Minnesota? Of course not. This was just a time in which Moss could do no right and a time in which “fans” wanted the best wide receiver of all time who was still very much in (or arguably entering) his prime to be traded because he did the following:

– Pushed a crossing guard with his car
– Had a small amount of weed in said car
– Sprayed water from a water bottle on a ref
– Walked off the field during an eventual loss to the Redskins because the Vikings ownership refused to invest any real money into the defense, which basically wasted all the talent the Vikings had on offense (something I talked to Bryant McKinnie about HERE

and Matt Birk commented on that by saying:

“My first 8 years in the League were under McCombs ownership, so I don’t think I knew how bad it was compared to other teams. I mean, I knew he was pinching pennies, but part of me was just happy to have a job and be playing in the NFL for my hometown team. I am proud of how much we did win without strong support from ownership. I think we kind of rallied around that.”

On Moss, though, Birk explained:

“But I loved Randy as a teammate. He was a lot of fun in the Lockeroom and didn’t carry himself like he was better than anybody else. I think why I got so mad in Washington was because he was feeding the stereotype that he was a Primadonna and I knew the press was going to have a field day at his expense. He was better than that. “

So, hearing Moss open up about the motive(s) behind him “mooning” those in Lambeau, to me, really just solidifies that Moss got a raw deal whilst in Minnesota from (some of) the media, far too many of the “fans”, and the national media as well.

Part of what makes football fun is those rivalries and the non-Philadelphia or Oakland back-and-forth between fan-bases (or in Philly/Oaktown the stab-and-knife) and Moss was playing into that with the fans at Lambeau, who it is worth noting, didn’t raise a stink when it came to what Moss did. I mean, if you listened to Moss’ story it’s clear that based on what we know about the BMI of those in Lambeau and the fact that they were mooning the Vikings upon arrival, they were by definition raising quite the stink, just not the type of stink I’m describing.

It is said that time heals all wounds and Moss has done a lot to change the perception of him as a misanthropic media hater. He is a part of that media now, something that is as surprising as learning that Michael Vick just won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show (“Up next is Michael Vick and his half-dog/half-bucket of frothy water!”). But it should still be mentioned that Moss did get a raw deal in Minnesota and that the team only really recovered from said deal when Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen emerged as the best 1-2 punch at wide receiver in the NFL (until they were supplanted by Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson).

Now DIGGS is everything people said Moss was, but there are two caveats. First, he is those things and second he was much worse. I covered as much in the following article:

Yet people are out there writing articles stating that Diggs was right. Why? Because the Bills made the playoffs and the Vikings didn’t. That doesn’t mean anything about Diggs’ behavior while on the Vikings or how he forced his way out of town despite signing a pretty disproportionate deal (in terms of what he had accomplished at the time against what he was paid). Nope, none of that matter because he went to the AFC ‘Ship in Buffalo!
Imagine that.

Diggs’ gripe wasn’t even that the Vikings weren’t good. They had just upset the “sure-thing” New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, after all. His thing, as even his “defenders” have said since is that he does want to win but he also wants to be THE REASON that his team wins. Moss was never that guy, Moss never asked for the Randy Ratio. Moss was that good that opposing coaches had to change how they covered him and his own coaches had to find ways to ensure they were maximizing what was and still is the most dangerous offensive weapon the game had and has ever seen.

But he wore sun glasses indoors, so, F*** him?

Reminds me, a lot, of the Kirk Cousins situation. Sure, it’s different, no one is accusing Kirk Cousins of doing anything after a touchdown that could be construed as disgusting (although, have you seen his dance moves? I’d argue that Buck’s statement applies to Cousins more than Moss). The only time that Cousins has had marijuana in his car is when he is picking up CBD oil for his childhood dog, with a name like “bandit” or “remember to do your chores”. Even then Cousins most likely forces a league employee to come with to pick up and handle the “contraband”.

What reminds me of Moss is the fact that Vikings fans are spoiled. Sure, we’ve never won anything of note, but we’ve had a ton of great talent here and we’re one of the most successful regular season teams in league history. Because of that, people take things for granted, like a Moss or a Cousins, and start to nitpick and assume that the minimal gains they’re angry about are a foregone conclusion if the team just trades away the player they’re taking for granted.

The team has done it as well, Kai Forbath being a great example. The guy was automatic from 40 yards or shorter and the Vikings cut him, despite him kicking the most clutch/forgotten big kick in team history against the Saints right before the Minneapolis Miracle because they wanted a couple of percentage points more in the extra point column.

People want Cousins out of town for vague concepts, not real tangible reasons. He isn’t a “winner” or “he’ll never get it done when it matters” or “can’t win in prime time”. But when you point out that he’s actually played BETTER in prime time? They’ll just move the goal post to him never winning a Super Bowl. Well, if that’s the standard than every single quarterback the Vikings have had is garbage.

The same thing went for Moss. They couldn’t argue with what he was doing on the field so they invented vague reasons for getting rid of him that didn’t pass a single smell test. Locker room cancer, lazy, arrogant, bad role model. As if Moss’ job was to raise someones children? That says more about that parent than it did about Moss and Joe Buck’s point emphasizes just that. That a grown man thanked him for describing the “Moon” to and for his children so he didn’t have to explain “Much about the move”?

So, I’m glad that Moss is as widely loved as he is now and that people can listen to this story and laugh. Because they most certainly were not laughing at the time and it lead to the team trading away the best player they’d ever had and languishing in wide receiver hell for the better part of a decade. You’d think that people would’ve learned from their mistakes, but it looks like the same thing is happening with Cousins. Luckily, the team doesn’t seem to want to trade away the player they’ve been trying to find since the late ’70’s, but if they did? I’m pretty confident that they’d yet again be swinging and missing on quarterbacks in the draft and signing mistake after disaster free agent quarterbacks a la Matt Cassell or Josh Freeman.
I’m willing to put Straight Cash on that bet, Homie.