Randy Moss Defined a Generation of Vikings Fans


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When Randy Moss unexpectedly retired yesterday, it marked the end of an era. The 1998 Vikings had officially been banished to the dusty cobwebs of the history books. Moss was the last active link (sorry, Matt Birk was a seldom used scrub in 1998) to that magically tragic chapter of Vikings history.

13 summers ago a tall, impossibly skinny rookie with a West Virginia twang and No. 18 on his chest stepped onto the practice fields of Mankato State University (as it was called at the time) and Purple Nation was never the same.

The stagnant Metrodome, home of a team that was unable to sell out half of its home games in 1997, suddenly rocked. Randall Cunningham was uncorking rainbow spirals, Moss was defying gravity to pull them in, a trim and slim Denny Green had lost 50 lbs and new owner/used car salesman Red McCombs was belting “Purple Pride” with governor-elect Jesse Ventura at his side. It was surreal.  It was a circus. And we were lapping it up!

It all seemed too good to be true and then - as Morten Andersen’s kick sailed through the uprights - it was. While that 15-1 season didn’t bring Minnesota its first Super Bowl Championship, it did do something very important.

Up until 1998, the Vikings were still defined by their four Super Bowl losses in the 1970s. There hadn’t been a signature season since that era. To a young generation of Vikings fans coming of age in the 1990s, those years meant nothing. We associated Fran Tarkenton and Metropolitan Stadium with our parents. Alan Page was a state Supreme Court justice. We were tired of hearing how great those Vikings teams were and were hungry for something we could call our own.

The 1998 Vikings provided that. They became the reference point for our generation to judge all great Vikings teams in the future. They provided context for what happened in 2009 and even helped us prepare for and deal with it.

The old timers never embraced Moss. Not that he made it easy from them with his antics. We however, rolled our eyes at their outrage, giggled at their disgust and scoffed at their hypocrisy. Hate to break it to ya pops, but they didn’t have drug testing in the 1970s and it’s a good thing too. Your favorite players weren’t drinking Ovaltine before bedtime.

We’ve never felt the need to apologize for Randy Moss’s behavior. He’ll never do it, so there’s no reason for anyone else to. We just never took it that seriously. So what if plays when he wants to play, bumps into traffic officers or smokes a little weed. We bought tickets and turned on our TVs to entertained, maybe see the spectacular and Moss, for better or worse, always delivered. The fact that he pissed off our parents in the process was just an added bonus.

The haters and complainers overlooked one very important fact. If Randy Moss had been a choirboy, he’d wouldn’t have been a Viking. If Moss had played by all the rules in high school and college, he would have been a top 5 pick in the 1998 draft. Instead he fell into the Vikings laps at No. 21 and we’ll always be grateful he did.

Thanks for the memories, Super Freak! We still hope you’ll change your mind!

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