By Dan Snapp, Patriots Daily Staff
Christmas came early for the Shaughnessy clan. Randy Moss spoke.
Dan Shaughnessy loves material that writes itself. Hell, he’s written the same column for twenty years. You know the formula: take newsworthy item, add outdated cultural references and dumb nicknames, relate the item somehow back to the Red Sox, throw in a little Grey Poupon, and boom. That’s a column.
But Randy Moss on the podium, saying he doesn’t feel wanted? That’s beyond writing itself. That’s honey flowing from a microphone. Shaughnessy’s fingers barely touched the keyboard. He just called up the UsualSuspects.doc, changed a couple of the names and references, added the requisite exposition, and hit “send.”
“God bless Randy Moss,” Shaughnessy must have thought. “Otherwise, I’d have to write about the damn game.”
Shaughnessy, once described as “the bravest columnist in town” by his boss Joe Sullivan, is paid to add insight and context to events like these. Certainly, Moss saying he feels unwanted is a newsworthy event, and dictated somebody opining on it.
The problem is Shaughnessy has no insight or context to offer. That would require work, a subject on which Shaughnessy knows less than he does Moss.
Moss has long been an enigmatic figure, either naive or uncaring of how his words play in public. He’s been burned enough times by the press to build a healthy distrust, not unlike that of his coach. Most famously, there was the “I play when I want play” myth, in which a little added context reveals Moss was actually saying he doesn’t need added motivation from Denny Green or Cris Carter to get up for games. A key moment of that episode was when reporters asked Moss if he wanted to take the comment back.
“Hell, no,” Moss said. “That shit is what I said.” That’s the comment to key on, the one that separates Moss from the likes of Carter (who’s already making the media rounds today as the go-to “Moss Expert”) or Brett Favre, professional posturers eternally willing to dance to the tune the press plays.
Moss says what he means, without apology, filter or spin. Yesterday was the same. Moss said he felt unappreciated and not well-liked.
Moss is no doubt feeling the pressure of being in the last year of his contract, with players around him signing new megadeals, in an uncertain labor environment that could see him not negotiating a new contract until he’s 35.
But he also said he loves it New England, wants to stay and is going to work his ass off this season, new contract or not.
Shaughnessy’s take from it? “Classic meltdown.”
You likely missed it, but Shaughnessy wrote something profound on Friday. It was buried deep in another sleepy stab of a column, four paragraphs from the end, where few of his readers still venture.
Shaughnessy referenced Gay Talese’s 1966 Esquire article on Frank Sinatra, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” Talese couldn’t score an interview with Sinatra, yet still crafted an insightful profile of the man by talking to the principals in Sinatra’s periphery. It was a groundbreaking piece of writing, ushering in a new era of journalism.
So this was interesting. Dan Shaughnessy talking about a reporter taking initiative. Praising a writer making something out of nothing. Dan Shaughnessy?
Where would he go with this, and how would he relate it back to Tom Brady’s cult of personality, ostensibly the column topic? Would there be the likely comparison to the Foxboro throng striving for something of value from similarly reticent public figures like Moss or Bill Belichick? Or maybe this was a crack in the Shaughnessy veneer, candidly identifying the journalist he wished he could have become?
Nope. Shaughnessy’s next paragraph:
Now we have Sept. 9, 2010, featuring “Brady Involved in Car Crash,’’ followed by “Brady Agrees to Four-Year Pact.’’
Shaughnessy inadvertently hits upon a cultural reference that’s actually relevant to him and his brethren, and he punts it. He couldn’t care less about the message of Talese’s enterprising efforts. He just wanted to riff on the iconic headline.
“I think most journalists are pretty lazy,” Talese said in a 2007 interview. “A little lazy and also they’re spoon-fed information.” Talese was referencing the run-up to the Iraq War, but Shaughnessy’s work ethic applies.
If you want some insight on Randy Moss, check out this City Pages piece from 2002, about the same time Shaughnessy was writing today’s column, but about Manny Ramirez. There will probably come a day when he forgets to replace an instance of “Manny” with “Randy”, or going forward, replacing “Randy” with the name of his next target for derision.
The likelihood is there will be no work repercussions for Moss. He’s true to his word, and so that means another memorable season on the field. He may even get the extension he wants. And the last thing Belichick cares about is what a player says to reporters, especially ones who had their pieces written long before Moss opened his mouth.
Shaughnessy’s not the only lazy one. This piece was queued up over the weekend, waiting for something to tie it together. Then Moss spoke, and it was only a matter of waiting for Shaughnessy’s inevitable reaction.
Basically wrote itself.