Thursday, August 18, 2011

Straight Cash, Homie.

For 13 professional years (and who knows how many years before) Randy Moss committed the unpardonable, cardinal sin of athletes. A transgression far more egregious to the world than any Pacman Jones “scrip” club brawl or Barry Bonds dirty syringes.

Moss, an athletic phoneme the likes of which we may never see again, was an absolute waste of talent. Period.

You couldn’t help but watch the Randy Moss train wreck, even if you wanted to turn in disgust.

“Randy has weighed his options and considered the offers and has decided to retire,” his agent Joel Segal said.

No “Thank you, fans”. No “It was an honor to play”. No “I want to spend more time with my family”. Moss didn’t even acknowledge earning millions as a football player was an enjoyable experience. Apparently his career wasn’t enough of an insult. 

I realize I will never know even a shred of the answer to this question, but it begs considering: Why?

How do freakish talents like Moss, Albert Haynesworth, or Jamarcus Russell, find their way to the upper echelon of their sport only live out their careers as apathetic, puffed up egos in size eighteen shoes.

One would think the public disdain alone would drive someone to at least change their outward appearance. To go the Office Space route and give the illusion they’re working if only to appease the die-hard fan base. But for Moss and co., such rationale is met with bristled indignation.

There are disgruntled employees in every profession. Whether it’s Google or McDonald’s, someone will complain about every aspect of work and try to make every other employee’s work life miserable. Moss is the guy working in the next desk who wants to drag you into his world where no one seems to see the entitlement he’s been denied.

Where this is so much worse, though, is that Moss was given truckloads more than the discontent guy working next to you... and it was never close to enough to appease him.

In Bill Simmons June 13 post on Game 6 of the NBA finals, he wrote that Lebron might be the greatest, pure talent we will ever see, but he refuses to live up to his potential. This, he argues, is what ultimately drives the fires behind the Lebron hatred. Rather than step up to the moment and carry the fans to the glory they’re craving, Lebron hung around the perimeter and tried to look busy.

He later balked at reporters who dared question his talent and determination, roaring back with the obvious revelation that his life is better than everyone else’s.

In so many ways, Moss makes Lebron look like a first grade gym teacher. Lebron at least craves praise and approval. Moss seems to scoff at it.

It’s enough to make me wonder if some superstar athletes are so disconnected from reality that they can’t get out of their own way and enjoy their lives. Carlos Zambrano nearly walked away from $24 million because of an out of control temper tantrum and impulsive retirement claim after being ejected from a game against Atlanta. James Harrison can’t open his mouth without alienating half of his teammates, let alone the NFL brass. James would be a golden god had he stayed in Cleveland. And who knows the untold millions Tiger Woods lost because he chose flings with porn stars over his wife and kids.

For athletes who’ve been given every advantage, physically and monetarily, it’s amazing how often they stomp on their own success just when it’s there for the taking.

My favorite short story is Hemingway’s “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, which tells the story of a dying writer’s final thoughts as a gangrene infection slowly kills him. He begins reviewing his life, realizing the potential he traded for luxury and ease. The more he realizes his waste, the more he lashes out at his adoring female companion, blaming her wealth as his ultimate downfall. He dies bitter and angry, having never written what meant most to him.

Moss will now retire to a posh home, rubbing elbows with America’s elite and wealthy, and will never be forced to endure another day of thinking outside himself. But one day, whether tomorrow or 30 years from now, Moss will realize what he could have been. Millions of dollars can’t amend regret.

1 comment:

  1. Very true. An old adage states that if you want someone to stop doing something, you pay them for it.

    I heard a story about some kids who kept playing ball on a man's property.

    He tried everything to get them to stop playing out there, and for a while he gave up.

    Then one day he walked down to the field and said, "boys, I really like that you guys come down here and give me something to watch, everybody gets 5 dollars when they come play."

    From there on everyone showed up religiously to play ball, but a few weeks later the man told the boys he would have to cut the pay to a dollar.

    The boys kept showing up, but not nearly the way they had been.

    The man then informed them that he could only give them 50 cents to come play.

    Eventually, he told them they could keep playing there but he couldn't pay them anymore.

    He never saw the boys again.

    Different story than Moss's, but it says something about the path of achievement human beings take. Oscar Wilde once said, "the only thing worse than not getting what you want, is getting what you want." Once you are presented with nothing to complain about, and no more goals, the hunger disappears.