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.