The Song Remains the Same

Randy Moss was besieged by reporters Wednesday to respond to allegations of battery made by a Florida woman who claims Moss physically assaulted her. While the facts of the case are sketchy at best, it has given the media to once again jump off the Moss bandwagon -- using this incident to continue the decade-long perception that Moss is the bad guy.

Here we go again.

One of the phrases that makes the least sense of any in the English language is "the court of public opinion." It somehow gives credence to the rush-to-judgment mentality that has allowed people to be convicted in the public eye without the benefit of little things like testimony from applicable witnesses, background information and even basis facts. In an era where drug-addled, no-underwear party-mongering by pseudo-celebrities like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears is of more interest than Presidential debates to decide the direction of this country over the next four years, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Randy Moss is at the top of the sports headlines again.

Moss and the media have had a long and storied past, dating back to the day he was drafted a little less than 10 years ago. Moss had a checkered past that, in light of the previous high draft selection of Lawrence Phillips – a bad boy of epic proportions that had several teams reviewing their policy of talent vs. character – became a powder keg of controversy that allowed Moss to slide deep into the first round of the draft.

In my first interview with Moss on draft weekend, I asked him why he wasn't in New York City for the draft itself to do the obligatory grip-and-grin with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue – keeping in mind that back then they invited about 20 players, some of whom would be in the green room until after the chairs at the tables around them had been turned upside down and abandoned. Moss' response? "The NFL doesn't want nothin' to do with Randy Moss."

To an extent, he was right. The NFL was in image spin control and really didn't want to hitch its wagon to a player like Moss, who was seen as carrying a ton of off-field baggage – which he did. However, within the span of six months, the TV networks and even the NFL itself would start promoting games with phrases like "the Chicago Bears meet Randy Moss and the Minnesota Vikings." When it came time to cha-ching a cash register and promote the game, the suits in the NFL knew that Randy Moss meant box office.

That has been the story of Moss' career. Fans love him. For the most part, his teammates loved him, or at least his talent. But his relationship with the media was such that whenever there would be some sort of issue that came forward in his life that it was headline news. Some were clearly Moss' fault – like squirting the referee with a water bottle in the 1999 playoffs and walking off the field early in a season-ending game with the Redskins. But others were matters clearly blown out of proportion and sensationalized because they made news. The most prominent of these was an incident with a traffic control officer in Minneapolis – a case in which almost every eyewitness to the incident said the officer herself escalated the situation.

In every incident that has happened, from the traffic incident to the "mooning" of Packers fans – something any Vikings player can tell you is done by Packers fans to the Vikings as their team bus leaves Lambeau Field – it has given the national and local media a chance to pull out their file tapes and relive the incidents that have been part of Moss' past. Not only do they report on it, but they seem to relish in it.

So it should have come as no surprise that Moss, who was described almost universally as a potential cancer to the Patriots locker room until he played a key role in the team being on the threshold of history, is once again being vilified in the media for what he says is an extortion attempt.

The facts of the case seem sketchy at best. A woman claims battery and apparently what was injured was a finger. Her attorney allegedly asked for $500,000 or the case would be made public – at the worst possible time. Moss refused and news that the woman (whom Moss has known since college) obtained a restraining order against him. Moss vehemently denied ever striking the woman in an interview session in the Patriots locker room and said he has never struck a woman. But does that make a difference?

Nope.

Once again the media – both locally in the Twin Cities and nationally – has jumped on this. Moss is a distraction. Moss has a checkered history. Moss is a bad guy.

It doesn't seem to matter that Tom Brady can get a couple of supermodels pregnant almost simultaneously because he's the golden boy. Moss isn't. It's little wonder Moss has no love lost for the media. It would seem every chance they get, they stick the skewer in him and twist.

While I know as much about the specifics of this incident as you do, it's time for the media to let the facts of the case come out and not rush to judge Moss or use this incident to dredge up more bad information from his past. Let the man play football and, as much as it might hurt not being able to tease a Moss story before the commercial break, don't make a story out of something that quite simply may not have merit.

Will that happen? No. Moss is money wherever a story can be generated. But hopefully some media outlets will use the restraint to not convict Moss in the mythical court of public opinion – at least not until a minimal amount of facts come to light.


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