Mossgate Is the Legacy of Free Agency

"I'm just not that into you, Minnesota," says wide receiver Randy Moss

The coverage of Randy Moss’s exit from the Minnesota Vikings after just four games overshadowed all news here in the Twin Cities last night, getting top coverage over today’s election and the San Francisco Giants historic World Series victory.  Minnesota fans are up-in-arms, with 80% of the 13K voters on a StarTribune poll saying that head coach Brad Childress should be fired immediately for waiving Moss.

Moss’s sin seems to have been that he just wasn’t that into us — “us” being Minnesota.  He lollygagged on plays, he didn’t practice hard, he stuck to himself in the locker room, and, when given the chance, he ebulliently praised his former teammates and coaches from the New England Patriots — the very team that, not coincidentally, had vanquished the Vikings just moments before.

Moss is, in the words of WCCO-4′s Mark Rosen, “The most self-centered athlete I’ve ever covered,” a fact that was well known by the Vikings when they signed him a month ago.

But that’s not really the point.  Moss’s egocentrism simply brings into high relief what is wrong with pro sports and why I have lost almost all interest pro sports.

Moss doesn’t care much about where he plays or for whom.  Moss cares about Moss.  And who can blame him?  Pro athletes bounce from team to team with virtually no incentive to settle down, plant roots, and become part of a community.

Thus, I just can’t get that excited when Sports Illustrated’s ballyhooed and iconic cover this summer showed the new Twins stadium, Target Field because in that image, Jim Thome is at bat.  Jim Thome who will go into the Hall of Fame in the uniform of the hated White Sox for whom he played the majority of his career.

In the past, the owners of professional sports teams acted as if they owned the players, locking the players into long-term contracts from which there was no escape.  The players revolted and demanded more agency in their own vocation, which is understandable.  Thus was born the era of free agency in sports, enabling players to auction themselves to the highest bidder every few years.

It’s meant that athletes have more power in the system, to be sure.  But a far worse consequence is that a fan doesn’t know from one season to the next — sometimes from one game to the next — who is on their team.  And that leads me to care less and less about pro sports every year.

I don’t blame Moss for not caring much about the wins and losses of the team whose jersey he happens to be wearing this Sunday.  And I don’t blame Childress for cutting Moss loose as a distraction during an already distracting season.  I blame the system of free agency for gutting teams of loyalty from their players.

  • Eric Worringer

    Tony, it’s acutally just as likely he goes in as a Cleveland Indian, he had his best years there, and went to two world series.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Yeah, good point, Eric.

  • RJ

    Randy Moss in Minnesota. LeBron James in Cleveland. When I was a child growing up in Colorado, Lyle Alzado left Denver for Oakland. I threw his jersy away. Now that I live in Cleveland, and my son just went through the LeBron fiasco.

    I’m with you, Tony. If enough of us give up on pro sports, the athletes millions will be gone. Then they will have to return to playing for the love of the game, and I might start paying attention again.

  • Chris

    Go to your local high school’s football (or other sports) games. Granted, even HS sports can get a little over the top with ego at times, but there are still lots of great kids playing and for the most part it’s the best thing going. Better yet, check out some of the less “glamour” sports teams.
    You will find community at those games and nobody tries and plays harder than those kids, for maybe a trophy if they are lucky.

  • http://www.alexgamble.blogspot.com Alex

    I think this is a trend that is happening in all areas of society.

    At my university, the last chancellor gave a speech talking about how much he loves our school, how he is committed to the school, how he loves the community here. Two weeks later, he tendered his resignation for a better job offer in Texas.

    It is hard to feel connected to anything anymore when it feels like the economic forces trump community, always. I think it makes us more jittery, afraid to settle down because we don’t know when the next economic trend will sweep everyone away and leave us alone and in dilapidated communities.

    That’s what I liked about Jonathan Wilson-Hartgove’s book The Wisdom of Stability. When everyone sees where they are as a stage to get to something more profitable, everything is devalued and nothing is certain. I think this is the greatest downfall of globalization, and I wouldn’t be surprised if American athletes in the next decade started going to other continents to play for higher pay.

  • Kenton

    “I’m with you, Tony. If enough of us give up on pro sports, the athletes millions will be gone. Then they will have to return to playing for the love of the game, and I might start paying attention again.”

    You’re right, RJ, really. The problem is that once they return to playing for the love of the game and we start paying attention again, the money returns, and then the entitlement mentality returns, and we try to give it up again.

    And round and round we go.

  • Jeff

    And then there’s that little thing about how just about every week you read about some football player abusing his wife/girl friend/woman he met in a bar. It’s more than free agency, I think. Somehow there’s a culture of egocentrism at work that lends itself to subjecting others to your whims. I watch the Patriots, but always feel a bit guilty about it. :(

  • Jeff Moulton

    But isn’t that the EXACT same thing that we see in youth ministry, on both sides?


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