‘Straight cash, homey’

I’ve done this sportswriting thing at the Star Tribune for 34 years. In that time, I’ve covered everything from the Summer Olympics, Ryder Cups, the Masters, Final Fours, NBA and NHL finals and the World Series to Wimbledon and a six-week assignment traveling 2,400 miles across the Southern Ocean to Antarctica.

A mere 35 seconds of it all — and three uttered words — on a subzero winter’s afternoon in January 2005 remain about as memorable as any.

That’s when our Vikings beat writer, Kevin Seifert, asked me rather sheepishly if I’d go stand out in the cold as a Thursday turned to dusk just in case Randy Moss had anything to say about the $10,000 fine he had just received from the NFL for pretending to moon the Green Bay crowd during a playoff game the previous Sunday.

Kevin had so done every other day that week, casing out the parking lot, chasing news as players left for the day. But it was a Thursday, and deadline for a package of Sunday stories loomed and so he asked me — a very occasional helper out at Winter Park — if I’d do the often fruitless leg work.

So out I went with several other media members to await Moss’ departure for the day. He finally appeared, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt that covered everything but a grin when he was asked by a KARE-TV Ch. 11 producer if he had written the NFL a check yet.

“When you’re rich, you don’t write checks,” he said.

So if you don’t write checks, how do you pay these guys, he was asked?

It was then that Moss uttered the immortal words that would have broken Twitter if it had existed then.

“Straight cash, homey.” 

And it wasn’t even his best quote of the short exchange.

Before he ducked into his vehicle and drove away, he said $10,000 didn’t mean, well, anything to him.

“Ain’t nothing but 10 grand. What’s 10 grand to me?” he asked.

Then he said next time he might shake something other than his behind.

And off he drove. 

When I returned to the warmth of the Winter Park media work room, Kevin asked me how it went and if my time out in the plunging temperature had been in vain. As did some of Moss’ words that day, my reply required an editor’s touch, but paraphrased: 

Pure gold.

-- JERRY ZGODA

‘I play when I want to play’

Randy Moss was often portrayed as being quiet or selfish when it came to the media, but he was always open and available to me when I needed a quote.

One thing Moss appreciated was that I would publish some of the charitable work he was doing for the St. Joseph’s Home for Children, where he donated time and money without asking to have it publicized.

That’s how it came to be that he uttered a phrase that would stick with him his entire career, “I play when I want to play,” after the Vikings had defeated the New York Giants 28-16 on “Monday Night Football” at the Metrodome in November 2001.

The quote often lacks all context and has been used to portray Moss as someone who was selfish when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I talked to Moss that Monday night the first thing he said to me was that the game had nothing to do with his 171 receiving yards or his three touchdowns but instead with the retiring of Korey Stringer’s jersey.

“I think that I got more emotional over Big K’s jersey,” Moss said. “Monday night had nothing to do with it.”

When I told him that some media members questioned whether he always gave 100 percent, Moss then gave the quote that would stay with him forever.

“I play when I want to play,” Moss said. “Do I play up to my top performance, my ability every time? Maybe not. I just keep doing what I do, and that is playing football. When I make my mind up, I am going out there to tear somebody’s head off. When I go out there and play football, man, it’s not anybody telling me to play or how I should play. I play when I want to play, case closed.”

For months after, people would ask Moss about the quote, and he could have denied it up and down, but instead he always said that I got the quote right.

On top of that, Cris Carter came to me and said that no NFL player can give 100 percent all of the time, it just isn’t possible.

Yes, that night ended up being all about one quote, but for Moss that night was really about Stringer, who was one of his closest friends and who four months earlier had collapsed in the heat on a practice field and died.

Moss had spoken at Stringer’s funeral and said this: “I’ve been praying to God to at least let me see him in a dream, let me talk to him again for the last time.”

Moss would have more issues pop up throughout his career, from walking off the field early in the final seconds of the final game of the 2004 regular season to mooning the Lambeau Field crowd, and in 2002 he told me, “I can’t get my reputation back,” after he had an incident during a traffic stop.

But Moss has done that and more. He has become a big star for Fox and ESPN on NFL telecasts, and people see him more like I did when he played with the Vikings, as an honest and open person who says what is on his mind.

Only now it works to his advantage.

-- SID HARTMAN