I remember at some point during Randy Moss’s epic, jaw-dropping 17 TD rookie season Willie D said “he’s the next Jerry Rice.” I also remember laughing derisively, thinking there is only one Jerry Rice (of whom his wife said once said “he runs in his sleep”). But in reality, the one and only thing Rice ever had over Moss was his legendary, fanatical work ethic. In terms of raw athletic talent Randy Moss had no equal at Wide Receiver or any other position. He is the most graceful and athletic receiver in the history of the NFL. The way he used his body to get in position and grab jump balls in the end-zone reminded me of a stylish NBA center ala Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Hakeem Olajuwon. It was an amazing sight to see and it’s sad writing all of this in past tense. Everything Moss did on the field seemed fluid, stylish, effortless — not one bit of wasted or extraneous motion, as he floated furiously past hundreds of hapless defensive backs, or soared over their shoulders like a falcon. The Thanksgiving day game in his rookie season where he immolated Jerry’s Cowboys in Texas Stadium stands as a vulgar, awe-inspiring display of athletic power as well as a towering testament of spite (Moss has reportedly always held a grudge against the Cowboys for not drafting him) and swagger.
The word swagger is used far too much in the current American lexicon, particular in relation to sports. It truly fits only a few modern athletes, none more so than Randy Moss. As brilliantly unique and stylish as we was on the field, he was just as brilliantly unique and strangely stylish (in a fascinating way) off it. Just as Martin Sheen’s character in The Departed remarked of Mark Walhberg’s Sgt. Dignam “He has a style all his own and I’m afraid we just have to get used to it,” Moss seemed to be a pure, perfect expression of that exact same ethos, ie. making people bend to his style. He gave us the immortal phrase “straight cash, homey” in his thick, inimitable West Virginia drawl (living next door to that state most of my life, I’ve never heard one comparable). He had the sickest beard in NFL history and probably the best hair. I’ve seen at least 2 NFL Films clips of him warming up on the sidelines to T.I (an MC I don’t even like) that make you make you want to strap on a helmet and blitz your boss, your wife, your kids et.al. According to people who’ve interviewed him, Moss is a germ freak who won’t touch doorknobs and professes to not have any friends. He comes off as an intensely proud, self-made man; the kind of man who would tell Sports Illustrated that he doesn’t “need new people” and that “you don’t show people your pain” which is why the Patriots’ (an organization he obviously let his guard down and grew to love) unwillingness to sign him to a long-term deal last year caused this carefully cultivated facade to crack and long concealed emotions and vulnerabilities came pouring out in astonishingly naked press conferences and interviews whose stark, unfettered honesty were so over the top they reminded me of — but far surpassed, due to the unquestioned strength of their reality — wrestling promos.
My wife really, really wishes he’d never done this one, as the utter awesomeness of “axe myself the questions” seems to always tumble out of my mouth at random, inopportune times. All kidding aside, these interviews were fascinating and painful to watch. Their reality so alien, compelling and unrecognizable compared to the neverending streams of gibberish and cliches that typically constitute American sports interviews. Sadly, they overshadowed anything Moss was able to do on the field, save for one last one-handed masterpiece over Darrelle “one year legend” Revis
Seeing a lost, vulnerable swagger-less Randy Moss going through the motions on a terrible Tennessee Titans team at the end of season was sad. The fact that it will be the last we ever see of him is a travesty and I really can’t think of a more abject end to such a great player’s career.
His chemistry with Tom Brady in 2007 was sell-your-soul-at-the-crossroads level magical and I doubt that we’ll see something that devastating or special ever again. When Moss got shipped out of New England last year, I actually heard pundits say: “Well, New England never won the Super Bowl with him.” I mean, people that stupid shouldn’t even be allowed to watch football, let alone comment on it (h/t to Jon Wilson for that line). That Patriots team went 18-1 and was one miraculous, implausible helmet catch away from a stunning, extraordinary achievement that would’ve made them all instant legends…there is no way on Earth they could’ve been in position to do that without Randy Moss just as there’s no conceivable way to blame him for their ultimate failure. I hear this type of idiocy bubbling up again in the wake of his retirement where people like Mike Florio and others are actually questioning about his Hall-of-Fame status out loud. It’s mind-boggling. Yeah, he quit on the Raiders. So has everyone else that’s played for them since Jon Gruden left. The only person who hasn’t quit on the Raiders in the last decade is the only person who should. But to even wonder about Moss’s rightful place in Canton is pathetic and ridiculous.
I’m going to sign off with one of the most badass commercials ever made. Thanks for the memories and entertainment. The NFL just got a lot less exciting. You will be missed.