Moss may be the most talented athlete ever to play in Minnesota...he may be the most polarizing too.
Quick story to start things off:
Three years ago, in 2010, I was asleep in my bed at around midnight when I heard my phone ringing. It was the first Sunday night before my junior year started, I was in my college house and there was a massive party going on only a couple feet below me.
I had been working an internship at a little place the good people call Bleacher Report and had awakened at 6:00 am every morning in order to catch the Cal Train to San Francisco from the Santa Clara station.
Although I wanted to celebrate off-campus life with my housemates that night, we had already gone hard on Friday and Saturday and my body clock was telling me it was time to hit the hay at around 11 p.m. on Sunday.
I picked up the phone and heard the voice of my housemate Mike, telling me there was a lady downstairs that was a huge Minnesota sports fan. She had seen my Vikings and Twins posters in the basement and wanted to talk to me.
Thinking it was a prank, I told Mike to “bug off,” or something to that effect, but before I could hang up, I heard a woman’s voice coming from my phone. She told me she grew up in Chaska and, sure enough, was a huge Minnesota sports fan.
Intrigued, I pressed on. She told me her favorite player of all time was Randy Moss. She went on and on and on about Moss, so much so that I was nearly lulled back to sleep.
Randy Moss? I thought. Really?
That guy? He’s your favorite player?
It is unfortunate that that is how I remember Moss.
He might have been named Offensive Rookie of the Year when the team went 15-1 in his rookie season. He might have been a part of a trio that included Cris Carter and Jake Reed that absolutely devastated opposing secondaries. He might very well have been the greatest pure athlete to ever play for a Minnesota team.
It’s just that Moss always seemed to find himself in trouble.
Moss began the 2010 season with the New England Patriots, of course, but was dealt to the Vikings with a seventh-round selection for a third-round pick.
He joined a team looking to avenge its NFC Championship gaffe and his arrival was celebrated by many Vikings fans who either busted out their old No. 84s or bought a Moss uniform with the new design.
He quickly wore out his welcome, however, when he told Vikings owner Zygi Wilf that then-coach Brad Childress was unqualified to coach the team and should be fired (in hindsight, he might have had a point…) while subsequently praising the Patriots' coaching staff.
The final straw came when he insulted the team caterer.
A mess ensued: Childress put Moss on waivers after a loss to New England without letting Wilf know and the owner nearly fired the coach over it. Chilly Willy was canned three games later, following losses to the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, and Leslie Frazier took over as the interim coach.
His first retirement seemed all too appropriate: It came after a turbulent year, and he seemed to fade into the background after playing for three teams in one year (a rarity in professional football).
His final year was redemption for him, though. He was not disruptive and appeared to put forth an honest effort as a non-superstar on a Niners team that nearly got him his first ring. He did not complain about being a decoy or not getting enough touches.
It was a much better finish and may allow people to remember how talented he was rather than his mischievousness on and off the field.
Viking fans should remember Moss for how he dominated the league as a rookie. They should remember that he was part of one of the league’s most dangerous receiving trios and how he had over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons.
Oakland Raiders fans probably don’t have too much to say about him other than that his No. 18 uniform may be the most badass piece of clothing ever woven, but Patriots fans will probably remember that they got him for a fourth-rounder and traded him for a third-rounder. They’ll probably always remind Minnesota sports fans that in 2007 he joined David Ortiz and Kevin Garnett to create another trio: This time of athletes that began their respective pro careers in Minnesota but later had incredible success in Boston.
As a whole, however, everyone will probably view Moss differently if he kills it with this new Fox gig that became official earlier Monday (via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
It’s still justifiable to say that he was a player who got by on talent. Had he been a depth receiver, he may have been cut and never given another job in the league after bumping a traffic cop or telling everyone he only plays when he wants to.
At Fox we’ll learn a lot about him. His personality will not carry him through this job. Compared to other wide receiver divas, like Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens, he seems pretty dull. Yes, there was “I play when I want to,” “straight cash, homey” and a couple other one-liners included in “One Clap,” but nothing like T.O. eating popcorn after a touchdown or Ochocinco stealing the show on Hard Knocks.
If he is going to make it as an analyst, he’ll have to display intimate knowledge of the game. This is something that is acquired after watching hours of game film in addition to running routes on the field.
If he offers great insight, he’ll stick. If he doesn’t there are plenty of ex-wide receivers with more personality.
Moss may always be an enigma. We may never know how many things he stored in that massive Afro or if he actually pays his fines with a cold, hard cash.
What we will learn, however, is whether he thinks he still can remain relevant based on his talent alone.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.