There hasn't been this much discussion of a full moon since Neil
Armstrong took his small step for man, but Minnesota Vikings'
wide receiver Randy Moss has placed his posterior on the national
radar screen. After a backbreaking 34 yard touchdown catch which
slammed the door on the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes, Moss
engaged in what is being called a "faux-mooning" as he mimed
dropping his pants and then bent over to scratch his tush on the
Lambeau field goalpost. Now morality and hypocrisy in the NFL
are once again dancing cheek to cheek.
At first, color analyst Cris Collinsworth stifled a guffaw saying,
"Moss is giving the fans a moon!" But then play-by-play analyst -
and statue of rectitude - Joe Buck exploded in outrage, bleating,
"That's a DISGUSTING act by Randy Moss, and it's unfortunate we
had it on our air live!"
Joe Buck of course has never felt the need to apologize for
appearing in the Budweiser "Leon" commercials that parody - with
a lovely helping of racism and homophobia - a pretty, lazy, and
egomaniacal wide receiver thinly disguised as Moss (although
"Leon" would never have caught that pass on
a gimpy ankle like Moss did). For Buck, capitalizing on Moss's
outrageous personality for the purpose of selling beer is just
business as usual.
Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss bends over to the crowd after catching a 34-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of their NFC wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 9, 2005, in Green Bay, Wis. The Vikings won 31-17. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Fox sports' studio host James Brown continued the hypocrisy
waltz by declining to show Moss's heinie hijinks on replay, but
taking the time to call Moss "classless, ignorant and
embarrassing." This from someone who fronts for a networking
featuring shows like "Who's Your Daddy?" - a reality program
where a young woman in skimpy attire has to guess which of
twenty men is her natural father.
ESPN also adhered to the blackout on Moss's moon shot, merely
alluding to a "tasteless, crass" display while sparing us the
footage. As NFL writer Peter King put
it, "FOX and, later, ESPN, must have had some sort of pact with the
United States Human Decency Dept. (a.k.a., "The NFL'') and never
showed a replay that I saw."
The "Decency Department" is mum of course about the endless
wave of television commercials during NFL games that make
Moss' touchdown tushie dance look like a trip to Sesame Street.
Announcers fret about Moss's influence on young people yet say
nothing about the ideas pounded into kids' heads by NFL
sponsors--that the key to sex is driving the right truck, drinking the
right beer, eating the right nacho chip, taking the right erection pill
and of course having the money to afford it all. In this context, the
criticisms of Moss are like a Greek Chorus led by Caligula.
Unfortunately, the outrage by the auto, alcohol and erection
carnival barkers fronting for the NFL obscures a conversation
about Moss that is far more interesting. Put simply, there is a
method to his madness. The Minnesota Vikings were one of the
hottest teams in the league early in the season, winning five of
their first six games. But then they buckled like a belt down the
stretch, losing seven of their last ten. Their decline coincided with
injuries to Moss, who hasn't been healthy since October. With his
team under constant scrutiny for "backing into the playoffs" with an
unseemly 8-8 record, Moss invited tremendous heat in the last
week of the season for walking off the field two seconds before
the game ended in a loss. Then, the following week, Moss said he
didn't know if his coach Mike Tice "was the right person to coach
the Vikings." As everyone with a bookie put the smart money on
Green Bay to spank this team on the verge of a nervous
breakdown, the Vikings got up 17-0 before the Pack knew what hit
them. By taking the focus away from why the Vikings shouldn't be
there, Moss perhaps played a role in focusing his team. Moss
continued to invite scrutiny after his moon dance by saying, "It
wasn't mean. I was having fun. It was more a fun thing than a
hatred thing. My teammates loved it. I'm probably gonna catch hell,
but the Green Bay Packer fans know: I don't forget s---.'' Now, once
again, expect more sermonizing about Moss 's character instead
of how next week's opponents, the mighty Philadelphia Eagles,
will run the Vikes off the field.
Do such antics actually help a team? Does taking the focus away
from wildly talented but mistake prone quarterback Daunte
Culpepper and a defense that plays like purple teletubbies spur
this enigmatic squad to victory? In this era of sports media
saturation, does getting the cameras out of his teammates faces
and enduring the brunt of the bright lights make a difference? Even
Joe Buck at the end of the Packers-Vikings game said, "I can't
believe Randy Moss is having a galvanizing effect on this team."
Believe it. And if he keeps scoring touchdowns, that Hall of Fame
heinie may even make an uncovered appearance this weekend in
Philadelphia - on its way to the Super Bowl.
Dave Zirin's new book "What's My Name Fool? Sports and
Resistance in the United States will be in stores in June 2005. You
can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing
firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at