The venue is a crowded basement meeting room at a run-of-the-mill community college. The room is decorated with generic white wall panels, dark blue carpeting and white ceiling tiles. Judging from their pasty complexions and autumn-weather attire, the more than 100 gathered people who are standing around and socializing are likely from the Midwest. Toward the front of the room, a large number of chairs have been lined up in neat rows facing a podium that is equipped with a microphone and a gavel. Located at the back of the room near a set of double doors is a black message sign attached to the top of a four-foot tall stand. The words “Welcome Randy Moss Owners” are spelled out in large white letters. A large, burly security guard sporting a short, military-style haircut stands at attention just behind the sign, maintaining a watchful eye.
I quickly dart behind the podium, grab the gavel and gently pound it on the podium three times. “We’re ready to start everyone,” I said, speaking into the microphone. “Please take your seats.”
Almost all comply quickly. The group is comprised of men of all ages and a surprisingly large number of women that range in age from late teens to middle-age. I notice two young men standing near the double doors, grinning smugly. One is wearing a Minnesota Vikings jacket that looks one size too small for him while the other is decked out in Oakland Raiders garb with a Darth Vader mask concealing his face. “Hey guys, have a seat. Join the party,” I said.
The Vikings fan abruptly started shouting while his friend urged him on. “You guys are Randy Moss owners?” he asked. “You selected him in the first round of your fantasy drafts? What a bunch of pathetic losers! When Bernard Pollard slammed into Tom Brady’s knee in Week 1, Moss’s fantasy value went down the tubes! You guys are too chicken to face the truth!”
After the Raiders fan erupted with a laugh that made him sound like a chain-smoking hyena, he joined in the taunting. “You guys think your fantasy teams will make the playoffs without Moss putting up mega-points? Face it losers, your teams are toast! It’s time to start planning for your 2009 drafts!”
Some of the seated people pivoted in their chairs, shouting various insults at the two rabble rousers. An old, white-bearded man with a cane stood up and yelled something that would offend anyone who has mild sensibilities. A young woman buried her face in her hands and started sobbing. Several younger and older males did the same. A geeky-looking male teenager with greasy hair took a few deep drags from an asthma inhaler. Others hugged and tried to comfort each other, while a few gazed forlornly at the ceiling, holding back tears.
I shot a glance at the security guard. He quickly strutted toward the two troublemakers, but they escaped through the double doors, repeatedly chanting the word “losers” before he could get close to them. Frustrated, he slammed the metal doors shut behind them.
Turning my attention back to the seated group, I spoke in the most comforting voice that I could muster. “Everyone please calm down,” I said. “We have a lot to talk about.”
After a few seconds passed, the room finally fell silent. I noticed everyone was politely looking at me. I knew what I had to do. “Welcome to the inaugural meeting of the Randy Moss Owners Support Group. Hello, my name is Matt,” I said. “And I’m a Randy Moss owner. I own him in three leagues.”
“Hello, Matt,” everyone said in unison.
“Thank you for coming. We all know why we’re here,” I said. “Admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it. I’m here tonight to tell you that Moss’ fantasy value has not gone down the tubes without Brady, and Moss should be okay for the rest of the fantasy season.”
Some in the crowd gasped in astonishment, while smiles crossed the faces of others. A few men used tissue to wipe away tears of joy from their eyes. A tall, slender middle-aged woman raised her hand, and I gave her a go-ahead-and-speak nod.
She stood up. “Hello, my name is Lucy,” she said. “I own Randy Moss in two leagues.”
“Hello, Lucy,” everyone said in unison.
“Matt, as you know, Moss was a major fantasy stud in 2007,” Lucy said. “He amassed 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns. Are you saying Moss will rack up numbers close to those even though Brady has been lost for the season and Matt Cassel is New England’s starting quarterback?”
“That is very unlikely,” I said with a sigh.
As Lucy sat down, many in the audience mumbled while others shook their heads in frustration. When the crowd quieted down, the young geeky-looking male teen with greasy hair stood up.
“Hi, my name is Ernie,” he said. “I own Randy Moss in four leagues.”
“Hello, Ernie,” everyone said in unison.
“This just isn’t fair,” he said. “Tom Brady never gets hurt. He hasn’t missed a start since he took over for Drew Bledsoe in Week 3 of the 2001 season. When I drafted Moss, it never even crossed my mind that Brady might miss time with an injury.”
“I don’t think any Moss owner should beat himself up over this,” I said. “No fantasy owner or fantasy pundit had imagined that Brady would suffer a season-ending injury. If any of you are superstitious, here is a theory: maybe the Super Bowl Bridesmaid Curse is affecting the Patriots. The last seven or eight teams that lost the Super Bowl struggled the following season due to injuries, tough schedules, apathy or some combination of those three things. It could be worse. We could all be Brady owners.”
My remark drew some cathartic laughter from some, while others just smiled. The old, white-bearded man with the cane suddenly rose to his feet.
“My name is Lou,” he said. “I own Randy Moss in six leagues. And they’re all big money leagues. No pansy free leagues for me.”
“Hello, Lou,” everyone said in unison.
“Matt, I don’t understand how you can be so positive about Moss’ fantasy value,” Lou said. “When Brady got hurt in Week 1, Matt Cassel came in and threw some passes to Moss. He hit Moss on a long-gainer and a 10-yard touchdown pass, so I had thought Moss would be fine, even though Cassel, a fourth-year pro, is a career backup. But Moss did nothing in Week 2 against the Jets. I couldn’t believe it. He was targeted three times and caught just two balls for 22 yards. He also dropped a long pass that could have gone for a touchdown. Two balls for 22 yards. This is what we’re going to get from him for the rest of the season!”
The sounds of loud boos and people using coarse language to describe their regrets about passing up Frank Gore, Clinton Portis or Marion Barber in their drafts to select Moss filled the room. I had to pound my gavel eight times to restore order.
“Okay, Moss had a bad game against the Jets,” I said, “but don’t over-analyze this. The Jets game was Cassel’s first meaningful start since he was in high school. The game was on the road against an AFC East division rival. Moss was double-teamed with a safety most of the day. I’m sure Patriots head coach Bill Belichick insisted on using a conservative game plan, because he knew he could win with his defense and his running game. Belichick also wanted to build Cassel’s confidence by letting him make easy throws to the other wide receivers and dump-offs to the running backs. Belichick is smart enough to know that he needs to get Moss involved in the offense. Belichick also realizes that his offense can’t settle for field goals a majority of the time.”
“Did you see the frustrated look on Moss’ face at the end of the game?” asked Lou. “When Moss isn’t getting the ball, he becomes disinterested. When he’s disinterested, his attitude stinks, and he goes through the motions on the field. He’s going to turn into the Oakland Randy Moss! I just know it!”
“I don’t think so, Lou,” I said. “I’m sure he was frustrated during the Jets game. All great receivers want the ball and want to be involved in their team’s offense. There is nothing wrong with that. However, I honestly think he has found a home with the Patriots. Moss just signed a huge contract extension. I’m sure he talks to Brady all the time. There is a huge veteran presence in the locker room, and Belichick is there. I doubt Moss will turn into a locker room cancer and start phoning it in on game day.”
As Lou sat down, a 30-something man dressed in a dark suit stood up. “Hello, my name is Tucker,” he said. “I own Randy Moss in five leagues.”
“Hello, Tucker,” everyone said in unison.
“Have any of you tried to trade Moss?” he asked. “Nobody wants him. And the few offers that I did get were a joke. I can’t get fair value for him in a trade.”
“You’re not going to be offered fair value in a trade involving Moss right now,” I said. “He’s just too risky for anyone to acquire because of his questionable quarterback situation. You may not get fair trade value for him later in the season, either.”
“Later in the season?” Lou asked. “Do you think Moss’ fantasy value will go up?”
“I think it will to a degree as Cassel becomes more comfortable in the offense, and they let him thrown down the field more,” I said. “No, Moss is not going to come close to the numbers that he posted last season, but I think in the end he’ll still be a decent No. 1 fantasy wide receiver. I also think having good talent and good coaching around Cassel will help him immensely.”
“When will the Patriots let Cassel throw down the field more? When will they try to get Moss more involved in the game plan?” asked Tucker.
“I think it could happen as early as this Sunday when New England hosts the Miami Dolphins,” I said. Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the Dolphins surrendered 361 yards passing and three touchdowns to quarterback Kurt Warner.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald amassed 153 receiving yards on six receptions, and wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught six balls for 140 yards and three touchdowns. No, I don’t think Cassel will put up Warner numbers, and I don’t think Moss will come close to duplicating Fitzgerald or Boldin’s numbers. However, if the Patriots are planning to open up the offense for Cassel, this looks like the perfect matchup for it to happen.”
“If Moss has a monster game Sunday, should we then try to trade him?” Tucker asked.
“You can try to trade him if you want to,” I said. “A monster game would help his value, but other owners would still probably be skeptical of him. Unless I get an offer I can’t refuse, I’ll probably keep him.”
We all sensed the meeting was wrapping up, but I decided to make one more remark.
“Don’t lose sight of one thing – fantasy football is supposed to be fun. That’s why we immerse ourselves in this hobby every year. Injuries happen in football.
Last season, it was Marvin Harrison, Carnell Williams, Cedric Benson and Travis Henry, among others. Two years ago, it was Clinton Portis. Even though the odds are against Moss posting 2007 numbers doesn’t mean your fantasy team is sunk. There are no quitters in fantasy football. Do the best you can and have fun. Meeting adjourned.”