Howling at Moss' 'moon' justified?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

One day later, Joe Buck still shook with outrage.

Randy Moss did his thing in the end zone, pantomiming a moon shot to Green Bay's faithful, and Fox's lead NFL announcer was all over Moss like no Packers defensive back had been all day.

Buck responded with indignation. Yesterday, he pressed the attack against the Minnesota Vikings' mercurial wide receiver.

"What really bothered me about the whole situation was not just the mooning," Buck said in a telephone interview, "but then he went over to the goal post and was rubbing his backside against the goal post.

"That was literally rubbing it into everybody's face, the people watching on TV, in the end zone. To me, it seems like there are no more lines anymore."

With a touchdown catch that cemented the Vikings' 31-17 upset of the Packers in the NFC wild-card game Sunday, Moss pretended to drop his pants and then clean himself off.

Whatever lines he crossed, Moss stomped on. In so doing, he touched off a firestorm of controversy that will trail him to Philadelphia for Sunday's divisional playoff game against the Eagles, assuming the league doesn't issue a precedent-setting suspension.

Weary of the self-aggrandizing stunts of its stars, the NFL almost certainly will tag Moss with a hefty fine for his quasi-moon over Lambeau Field.

But even as the NFL community rose up in anger and disgust, there were other voices calling for perspective. One of those belonged to Thomas Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California.

"I don't think he crossed the line," Boyd said. "I honestly think we're in a cultural moment where there's a lot of overreaction to things which at the end of the day don't really amount to very much.

"I thought what Moss did was funny, depending on your sense of humor. ... People act like the guy actually pulled his pants down. If that was the case, then I could understand all this."

From Indianapolis, Colts coach Tony Dungy gave reporters this perspective:

"It's not the kind of thing you want to see on national TV, but I understand what it was all about. Anyone who has played in the NFC Central knows ... the fans in Green Bay have a tradition in the parking lot after the game where they moon the visiting team's bus. It's kind of a unique send-off."

That may be, but Peter Roby, director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Boston, doesn't believe it rationalizes Moss' conduct.

"You've got millions of kids watching and they don't know anything about what Packers fans do," Roby said. "It's irrelevant, because if we justify our actions by what other people do, we'll have chaos.

"I don't think there's any gray area. I think he was disrespecting the fans ... "

The NFL has been reeling from indecent displays since last season's Super Bowl. Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction exposed more than her right breast. It also underscored the NFL's sensitivity to its image.

When ABC opened a Monday night broadcast with a steamy scene in which a naked Nicollette Sheridan of Desperate Housewives leaped into the arms of Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owens in the Eagles' locker room, it launched another brouhaha.

Then, just when you thought the NFL had cleaned up the jumble of tasteless end zone celebrations, Moss' antics brought them center stage again.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome measured his response carefully.

"I think in Randy's mind, he was having fun," he said. "But in mine, he crossed the line."

A member of the league's competition committee, Newsome also suggested that this is a subject that may have to be reopened in the offseason. How much further the league can go remains to be seen.

Retired players hardly can believe how far today's players have gone already. Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti, two Hall of Fame Colts who attended a card show in St. Louis over the weekend, were lamenting as much before Moss' latest act.

"Gino said to me we could teach them how to play football and they could teach us how to dance," Donovan said. "It's a disgrace to the whole country, never mind football fans."

Said Marchetti: "If [commissioner Paul] Tagliabue had any guts, he would put a stop to all that. The players association should do it. I think it's terrible, disgraceful. They have no respect for the game."

Roby said the responsibility for control lies with the league and each team.

"When you get to the point where guys are making substantial amounts of money, they can kind of decide they don't need to adhere to what everybody else's expectations are. That's unfortunate," he said.

Given Moss' history, Buck said no one should have been surprised by Sunday's events.

"That's the sad thing," he said. "We've had a lot of people saying, 'That's Randy being Randy.' That may be, but it shouldn't prevent us from trying to be accountable for something. The Vikings don't hold him accountable for anything."

From his vantage point, Boyd doesn't buy the theory that Moss traumatized a generation of young football fans. Rather, he suggests there has been a disconnect from football tradition and the hip-hop culture.

"What makes me uncomfortable is when controversies arise, people talk about what happened as though speaking with a universal voice for the entire nation," Boyd sad. "It's a cultural thing. People don't understand the hip-hop athlete.

"I don't think a lot of kids will be scandalized by a guy who's pretending to moon somebody. To me, it's not a big deal. All you need to do is turn on MTV and watch Jackass. That will make this seem like a Sunday school prank."

In yesterday's editions, the name of a University of Southern California professor quoted in a sports article was incorrect. The professor's name is Todd Boyd.The Sun regrets the errors.
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