Andrew Sharp from Grantland – one of my favorite writers on the internet – wrote a fantastic article on Randy Moss today, in anticipation of the 30 for 30 about him (Rand University) airing tonight on ESPN.
I felt like I had to write a few words about Randy, considering he is – bar none – my favorite athlete of all time.
Yes, Moss is #1 – even above John Starks – and I’ll tell you why.
As people close to me know, I never stuck with a particular football team, despite it being my favorite sport. Growing up in a family with European roots meant that soccer was the family sport, with basketball second. I had a brief dalliance with the 49ers when I was five or six years old, mostly because at the time they were the best, and at a young age you tend to be a bandwagoner. The relationship was never deep; I still remember finding out Jerry Rice was black when I got my first copy of NFL Quarterback Club ’96 for Sega Genesis.
Living in New York and New Jersey complicated things; if I grew up near, say, Boston, I could just fall in line with all the other Pats fans. Ditto for most cities…except New York. No, the Big Apple needs two teams to satisfy our gigantic ego. Basketball was easy; I was born in Brooklyn, and in the 80’s and 90’s, that meant you bled Knicks orange (the Nets, to me, are still a team from NJ that nobody loved and whose main purpose was to function as a shitty field trip for urban youths).
It felt wrong to just “pick” a team by what would amount to a coin flip; how could I empathize with Jets fans if I had never felt the pain of Rich Kotite? How could I root for the New York Football Giants when I knew Bill Parcells mostly as the Patriots coach?
I became resigned to a life as a floating “football fan” – a fan of the game, if you will. Nowadays, when I get caught talking about rolling coverages or how Giovani Bernard is overrated, someone will ask “Who you a fan of, anyway?” and I’ll half-assedly say “Giants,” just because your average neanderthal football fan can’t wrap their head around someone without a team and it’s easier than trying to explain it. Truth be told, I love it – I feel like regular football fans look at us as wildlings, but we call ourselves Free Folk.
What does one become a fan of when you don’t have a team?
Players, naturally. Much like Andrew Sharp, I was about 11 years old when Randy Moss came onto the scene, and I loved him right away. When you’re that age, you don’t want to establish the run and win the field position battle; you want to throw it up, dammit!
Moss was an easy guy to fall in love with on the football field. He was 6’4″ and ran a 4.3 40. I’ve read a few rumors that he once ran a 4.2 flat, and there are some people who said we’ll never really know how fast he was; he just ran as fast as he needed to.
When you toss in the off-the-field issues, he became a slam-dunk hero. As I entered puberty, this was the age when Eminem was blowing up and every suburban white kid was trying desperately to act black and asking his horrified parents for FUBU jeans for Christmas. No? That was just me? Ok – well, that’s what I was doing. Moss came out of college with a rap sheet and braids in his hair; who do you think 1999 Jack Gashi would root for in this picture?
Later on, as Randy’s career kept going and I started to develop a set of morals and values that would govern the rest of my life, the kinship became even more clear. Moss is the athletic embodiment of one of my life most basic life credos: talent winning over hard work.
This is a country drunk in love with the idea of hard work beating everything else. We’re taught to never give up; to fight till the bitter end; taught that preparation wins. We’re taught to root for Rudy.
Get your ass kicked enough times, keep persisting, and maybe one day you too can get a meaningless sack on the last play!
It never made sense to me. Fuck Rudy. Give me Randy Moss any day. My generation grew up in the Diva Receiver era, and Moss helped invent it. When we played tackle football in the snow at Forest Ave field, we didn’t score a touchdown and hand the ball to the imaginary ref; we danced into the endzone and sometimes got caught from behind in the process (actual footage from 2002, before people stopped saying “retard”). When we plugged in NFL Blitz on N64, everyone wanted to be the Vikings, run Da Bomb every single play of the game, and lob it up to 84 (just like in real life, it was generally unstoppable).
Randy Moss pissed off conservative white people, and usually if you’re doing that, you’re doing something right. Among a laundry list of amazing quotes, videos, and interviews, one of my favorites is that sorry display Joe Buck put on when Moss fake-mooned the crowd at Lambeau. He pretended to pull his pants off and moon the crowd and Joe Buck reacted like Moss had penetrated himself with the goal post on-air (bonus great reaction editing from this random Vikings fan at the end of this video):
I can’t even imagine what Joe Buck would do if he saw what I do in the shower when I’m bored. He’d probably gouge his eyes out with a rusty nail like the guy from Event Horizon.
Tune in tonight. As always, I bet Randy puts on a show.