|Wednesday, September 25
Moss collecting a load of ugly baggage
By Mark Kreidler
Special to ESPN.com
By the time the charges were actually filed as misdemeanors, Randy Moss already had become a felon in the court of public opinion. Some other words you might have heard tossed about this week to describe Moss: Cancer. Distraction. Enigma. Team-wrecker.
In a word: Nope.
What Moss now emerges into, as he exits jail and prepares to face charges in connection with his allegedly nudging a "traffic control agent" with his car repeatedly until she finally fell down, is a world that feels free to convict based not upon one moment but upon a short lifetime of moments. We did it with Allen Iverson, and we'll sure as Hades do it here.
And there are similarities in these recent cases that bear note.
Both Iverson and Moss were involved in legal scrapes which, upon first telling, sounded roughly 100 percent more interesting that they in fact may have been. Both Iverson and Moss were found, upon more thorough investigation, to have acted in ways that, while either stupid or careless, wouldn't exactly land you on "America's Most Wanted" anytime soon.
Iverson's case went away almost entirely. With the charges against Moss downgraded, post-investigation, from a potential felony assault to misdemeanor counts of careless driving and failure to obey a traffic officer, he stands a decent chance of seeing a similar result.
But that's the legal side. Out here in the rest of the world, Randy Moss has to deal with the truth as we see it. And this wall of scorn from a significant sector of the sports-watching public that he sees before him now -- well, he built the whole blasted thing, brick by ugly brick.
Quite a few similarities to Iverson, now that we mention it.
You know what Randy Moss is guilty of right this minute? He is guilty of associating with the likes of himself -- guilty, that is, of having said or done just enough arrogant, self-serving or actually illegal things over the years to have turned off a fair percentage of people who decided they hated his persona more than they loved his game.
He is guilty of speaking of "Moss" as if it were some exotic piece of art being discussed, not West Virginia Randy talking about West Virginia Randy. Guilty of squirting a referee with a water bottle in 1999 (that'll get you $25,000 lighter in the wallet under the NFL system, by the way). Guilty of verbally trashing some corporate sponsors on a team bus in 2001. Guilty of beating up a high-school classmate; of losing a scholarship to Notre Dame; of getting kicked off the Florida State team for smoking grass.
Significantly, to the sports fan/sitting judge? Moss is guilty of being the highest-paid player on a Minnesota team that stinks. He is increasingly viewed as the me-firsting diva whose exquisite abundance of developed talent never quite compensates for the all-about-Moss approach to things, an approach that increasingly is seen as an almost insurmountable obstacle to the Vikings developing a new tradition as a contender.
It may be true; it may not even be in the same area code as true. And what does any of it have to do with Moss' actions toward the traffic control agent on Tuesday in downtown Minneapolis? Well, nothing, of course.
We keep score around here; it's what we do. We keep score not only of the games that are played but of the people who play them. When Barry Bonds goes to bat for the San Francisco Giants in the postseason in 2002, he will be not merely the Bonds who has enjoyed back-to-back seasons of some of the most fascinating offensive production in baseball history. He will also be the Bonds who chokes in October, the Bonds whose career for so long was pockmarked by boorish or self-absorbed behavior -- the future Hall of Famer who has never led a team to the World Series.
Bonds doesn't take some of that to the plate when he bats; he takes all of it. Allen Iverson drags his stuff around with him when he hits the court. Bob Knight, just to pick a name out of the air, lugs his history like a dead carcass wherever he goes.
These men have almost nothing in common in their particulars, but in general they share this: a body of evidence.
It is the accumulation of those short lifetimes of moments, of that evidence, that informs every future judgment made on them, and if you doubt it for a moment just wait for the next time that Knight blows his stack. And what does the history tell you? That there will be a next time. That Knight will blow his stack, sooner if not later.
Now Randy Moss joins the ranks. Only 25, he already has filled such a tattered sack of bad news that the thing must be showing rips and bulging loose papers at the sides. And it is Moss's to carry.
It contains the evidence of a life that will be used to judge Moss -- harshly, one presumes -- the next time he manages to find trouble. And what Moss has had to say for himself to this point suggests the obvious, not only to the Vikings but to any team that would consider taking him on in the future: Trouble will again be found.
Mark Kreidler is a columnist with the Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com