[Author’s note: With apologies to Washington Irving.]
Randy Moss is maybe the most talented receiver to ever catch a football. I say “maybe” because there’s good reason to believe that Jerry Rice is the most talented. Regardless of who has more talent, Rice will always be remembered as the greatest receiver in the history of football, because he successfully combined his talent with practice and a tireless work ethic to fully realize his potential.
Could Randy Moss have been just as great, or greater than Jerry Rice, if only Moss had worked harder during his career to develop his superfluous talent? I dunno, but this edition of the Sunday Spotlight isn’t really about where Randy Moss sits on the list of greatest receivers ever. This is about the curse.
See, ‘long time ago in Kanawha County, West Virginia, a young boy was playin’ some foosball with his friends. Problem was, he just wadn’t no good at them there games. This boy’d try and try ta get better, but he jus’ wouldn’t get none better. An’ then he tried his hand at the basketball instead, and jus’ the same, the boy wadn’t no better at that than the foosball. Baseball, track, hockey… Well, espessally hockey – the boy jus’ dun like hockey none, but he’d figure he’d try the skates on for size, jus’ in case he was any good at handlin’ that there stick.
But it can get powerful hot in Kanawha County, if one knows what he’s lookin’ fer. That boy heard his friends a talkin’ that the devil lives out in them thar woods, in the hills ‘tween Rand an’ Coal Fork. Yep, an’ they says to ‘im “The Devil’ll give ya wutchya want, but you best believe, the Devil gun’ get his due.” Well, that dun’ bother the boy none, see, cause he jus’ needs to be good at the sports.
See, rumor has it that before the sports world gained mass popularity an’ fell ta shameless commercialization, if you was born in Kanawha County, you wadn’t never gonna leave Kanawha County. Best believe that many a man done broke his back makin’ a penny by shovelin’ coal out them hills, and never seein’ the light of the world ’cause of it. But times is a changin’, and they say if you wanna make it out of Kanawha alive you gotta play the sports and play ’em hard.
So the boy decides he’s gonna play on fate’s fiddle an’ goes out in them woods, wanderin’ around like a lost dog. They say he walked the roughest trails an’ climbed the tallest trees, searchin’ them hills up an’ down, inside an’ out, lookin’ all over for Ol’ Nick. Finally, jus’ as the boy’s ’bout ta give up, he sees a tall, pale lookin’ feller comin’ towards ‘im.
The stranger walks up on ‘im an’ says “You lost boy, or wantin’ a-make a deal?” So the boy says, “I ain’t lost none, mister, but I was thinkin’ I might should oughta make me a deal.” So the stranger says, “You know who I am?” an’ the boy says “You’re Ol’ Scratch. I heard you live out in these here hills.” So the Devil tells ‘im yes, an’ asks ‘im what he wants ta trade fer. The boy tells the Devil he wants ta be good at sports, an’ the Devil jus’ says “Okay, that’ll be one soul, please.” An’ he whips ‘im out a contract from behind his back an’ tells him ta sign it. But the boy’s a bit more clever than that, see, and he says, “No, mister, I wanna be good at all the sports, see. Well, excepts hockey – I jus’ dun’ like hockey none.” An’ the boy says that he dun’ jus’ wanna be good, neither – In fac’, he wanna be the most talented that there is at them sports. So the Devil tells ‘im he’s gun’ hafta talk to his supervisor to make sure it’s okay. He gets back to the boy ’bout ten minutes later and says it’s a deal. So the boy gone on an’ signed that dotted line.
After that, things was different fer the boy. All of a sudden, he was better at them sports than his own friends an’ kin. Not jus’ the foosball, neither – that boy was better at all them sports. He gone on ta high school an’ done lead his foosball team ta the state champyinchip. With the basketball, he got ‘imself named Athlete of the Year – twice. One year he decided he gun run circles ’round the track, an’ he done win the state champyinchip in that, too. He even won some champyinchips playin’ the college foosball. That poor boy didn’t know it was all jus’ set up by Ol’ Scratch ‘imself.
See, the Devil had gone on an’ made it all sorts of easy for the boy ta play them sports and whatnot. An’ early on, the boy had nothin’ but su’cess playin’ all them ball games. He was winning games left an’ right, an’ it jus’ seem like whatever team he’d gone on ta-go-da, they was gun’ win them some champyinchips. An’ the boy’d gone on ta make it all the way up ta the professional foosball league, an’ then he’s playin’ ball with all the big boys. An’ his first year in, e’erybody jus’ say how good he is. They was talkin’ like there was never nobody that good before an’ whatnot. They was sayin’ he’d be the best there ever was, if he wadn’t already. His first year his team gone on ta win them 15 games and only lose ’em 1. His team done set all sorts of records, an’ they done scored them more points than anyone ‘fore ’em, an’ people says they’s maybe one of the best teams in histora. But then they was playin’ the NFC Champyinchip game, an’ they done lost in some overtime. That boy never felt so terrible in his whole life, I tell ya. Then he goes on an’ he play jus’ ’bout a whole dang ol’ decade an’ never got that close to a champyinchip again.
The boy jus’ knew somethin’ was wrong, espessally when he got traded ta the Oakland Raiders. So he went out in them hills ‘tween Rand and Coal Fork in Kanawha County, lookin’ fer the beast. He walks ’round them woods for hours, ’till finally Ol’ Nick walks up on ‘im. “You lookin’ fer me again, boy?” “Yeah,” the boy says. “I ain’t out winnin’ no mo’ champyinchips, mister.” “Well, you ain’t never says nothin’ ’bout winnin’ you some champyinchips, didja boy?” The boy tells ‘im no, but that he wants ta start playin’ on some good teams ‘gain. So the Devil tells ‘im, “Boy, I’ma make you a deal: I tell you, you’s gun’ play fer the best team that ever was. Yer team’s gonna score more points than any team ‘fore it, and it’s gun’ win as many games as any team ever has ‘fore it, but it’s gun’ cost ya.” By now, the boy was dadgum crazy, an’ he says he’ll give the Devil anythin’. So the Devil ends out gettin’ the rights ta the souls ta all his kids, an’ ‘fore you know it, that boy winds up playin’ fer the Patriots in Foxburra.
Well, the Devil done outfoxed ‘im again! Sure enough, that boy played on what people e’erywhere was sayin’ was the best team in histora. They set all sorts of records, an’ they scored more points than anyone ‘fore ’em, an’ they gone on ta beat e’eryone they play. People was sayin’ they were a-playin’ like a team possessed – I guess they dun’ know how right they were. Well, that boy makes his way ta the champyinchip game, and wouldn’t ya know it, they lose ta some team from New York City. Jus’ seems no matter how good the boy plays, or no matter how good a team he’s on, he jus’ ain’t gun win the big one.
They say the Devil’ll give ya wutchya want, but best believe that the Devil gun’ get his due. But if you ask Randy Moss, he’ll tell ya different. He’ll tell ya that the Devil gun’ get his due an’ then some.