What Makes Randy Run

For the country boy from West Virginia, saying the right thing doesn't count for much. Keeping it real does.

Image drives the sports marketing machine. And the machine punishes those who don't work in its interests. Two years ago, the New York Giants routed the Vikings 41-0 in the NFC championship game. The defeat marked the moment when the franchise--consistently competitive for a decade under Denny Green--slid from contender to palooka. Afterward, Moss was asked whether Cris Carter would or should return to the team. "I would love for Cris to come back," Moss said. "But I really don't want Cris to come back and have his hopes set on winning a Super Bowl. I don't really want to say something I might regret. But it's going to be hard for us to win a Super Bowl in Minnesota. It's going to be hard." To many fans, those words represented heresy of the worst sort, and Moss was lambasted. Heretic or not, he was prescient. The team was falling apart. Even in this era of quick turnarounds, it's hard to imagine the Vikings mounting another Super Bowl drive in the near future. Aside from Moss and perhaps a dozen other players (mostly on the offensive side of the ball), the cupboards are bare. This season is obviously a washout. At this point the only compelling question for longtime fans is whether the Vikings will manage to get a top five pick for their meager 2002 efforts.


Following his arrest in September, Moss turned in what was doubtless the worst performance of his career in a road game at Seattle. The Vikings were humiliated by a 45-10 margin. It was one of the more dismal showings in the team's history. Moss's play was particularly shocking. By all accounts one of the league's top big-play artists, he somehow managed to drop four potential touchdowns. Later, in the locker room, he assessed his performance with characteristic bluntness: "Hell, no, I ain't never had a game like that, not junior high, high school, or college," he said, adding, "It irks my soul to perform like that."

Rick Kolodziej for the Minnesota Vikings

An irked soul. Maybe that's what Moss is. He has a $75 million contract and a boatload of NFL records, with more seemingly on the way. But that's done little to erase a hardheaded candor that is just this side of outright fatalism, a fatalism that looms over him like the coal-depleted mountains that overshadow the Kanawha River valley.

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