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Michael Wilbon

Moss, NFL Show An Equally Bad Side

By Michael Wilbon
Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page D01

I don't need to see Randy Moss pantomiming a mooning. I don't need to see Moss rubbing his butt on the goal post to stick it to the Green Bay fans after a touchdown. It's moronic.

But it wasn't the worst thing in the world, which is what some folks including the ones at NFL headquarters want you to believe. League officials will be coming at Randy Moss with the big stick; perhaps they will have fined him by the time your morning newspaper hits the driveway. And a fine is probably in order. Don't expect to read in this space any defense of Moss. I wouldn't want him on my team. His self-absorption is always going to undermine his prodigious talent, and ultimately that hurts his team's chance to win.

What's worse, Randy Moss's simulated mooning or dozens of sexually implicit commercials during the game? (John Gress -- Reuters)

_____NFL Basics_____
Team index
NFL Section
_____Mark Maske's NFL Insider_____
Holmgren, Shanahan on the Hot Seat (washingtonpost.com, Jan 10, 2005)
Teams Eye Patriots' Crennel (washingtonpost.com, Jan 7, 2005)
NFL Teams Eye USC Coaching Duo (washingtonpost.com, Jan 6, 2005)

Having said that, I'm certainly not outraged at Moss's mock mooning in Green Bay. What he did seven days earlier at FedEx Field was worse. Yes, walking off the field while your teammates line up to try to pull off a miracle onside kick was far more disgraceful because Moss turned his back on his team and dishonored the game. At least the mock mooning came after he scored a touchdown.

But this righteous outpouring is sickening in its hypocrisy. The NFL would have you believe it's running something as pure as a Girl Scout bake sale on Sunday afternoons, when in fact the NFL has clothing-challenged cheerleaders giving you an eye-full of rump every second of every game.

Teenage boys (and, okay, grown men) tune in hoping to get the equivalent of a mooning. A few hours before Moss's mock mooning on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts' cheerleaders trotted out wearing chaps, which are meant to emphasize rear ends that are covered in a lot less than uniform pants.

If the NFC had sanctioned Moss's act and slapped a logo on it or marketed it, things would have been fine. But it didn't, so Moss's behavior will draw a fine and he'll be the sports world's Public Enemy No. 1 at least until Saturday, when the playoffs resume. Tell me, exactly, how a man completely clothed and pantomiming a mooning is more offensive than erectile dysfunction ads coming into your living room about 10 times a game during NFL telecasts?

A very smart man I know who deals with sports sponsorships for a living told me after the NFL lost its mind over the Terrell Owens/"Desperate Housewives" "Monday Night Football" opening, "It was a lot easier to explain to my 7-year-old daughter why [Nicollette Sheridan] dropped her towel and jumped into T.O.'s arms than it was to try to explain what an erection is during a football game -- not to mention why it lasts four hours."

The NFL, judging from the frequency and prominence of these ads, is in the erectile business. This is so palatable? The post-church hour should be spent watching NFL games where between touchdowns some hottie is talking about what her man can do with a little, uh, assistance?

One of the best play-by-play men to ever sit behind a microphone, Joe Buck of Fox, called Moss's behavior "disgusting," and my dear friend James Brown took the verbal equivalent of an electrical cord to Moss's behind. And I know a lot of people side with Buck and J.B.

But for the second time this season the NFL (and its network broadcast partners) just skate on the issue of what's appropriate and what isn't during a football game. It's okay to throw "The Twins" up in your grille at the end of every single game or the end of some ESPN highlight package, but Randy Moss is the devil because he showed his cloth-covered hiney to some fans in one end zone?

By the way, most folks outside the NFC Central, as it used to be called, probably don't know there's a little tradition of Packers fans actually mooning opposing players on the bus ride away from Lambeau after a Packers victory. Tony Dungy, who spent all those years with Tampa Bay when the Bucs were in that division, recalled seven such mass moonings in Green Bay. Not to justify it, but now you know the gesture, foul or not, at least has some context.

I'm supposed to react seriously to the Fox network trying to claim the high ground? The network that is bringing you "Who's Your Daddy," where a woman has to pick out her birth father, with a $100,000 prize, has the moral high ground? The same network that brings you "The Littlest Groom" about a midget -- I'm sorry, a little person -- attempting to find love in a reality show? ESPN can promote "Tilt" with clips of a semi-clothed woman straddling some dude -- but these networks were too squeamish Sunday night to even show a replay of Moss's mock-mooning?


Moss's misbehaving Sunday didn't merit a mention in my column on the Packers-Vikings game because it was too dumb and too trivial to mention.

I was glad to hear Michael Irvin, the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and current ESPN analyst, say on the air yesterday that it was a bigger deal a week ago when Moss walked off the field before the game was over. And Irvin added, "The first thing I thought about when I saw it was, 'Why would he do that?' " Irvin drew a necessary distinction between Moss's behavior and T.O.'s look-at-me end zone celebrations when he said: "T.O. is having fun. What Randy did had bad intentions. . . . He's wrong, just flat-out wrong."

But this "oh-my-gosh-cover-the-children's-eyes" level of outrage is wearing me out, especially when it comes from a sports league. Where would Enzyte, Cialis, Viagra and Levitra (the Official Erectile Aid of the NFL) be without sports leagues? On NFL.com there is a "Levitra Play of the Year" which I presume has something to do with football -- but maybe not. The NFL's position seems to be Randy Moss brought shame to himself and the league with his antics Sunday. Perhaps Moss and the hypocritical league deserve each other.

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