Contrary to what many fans believe, professional sports is not just about “the game.” It is a multi-billion dollar business where athletes are high-priced commodities who can be traded and released all in the name of what’s best for the bottom-line. And for many of today’s celebrated athletes, salary demands, winning, losing and their performance both on and off the field are key factors in their ability to remain part of the teams that have selected them to be part of their organizations.
There are no guarantees and getting released or traded is all part of the business. But what happens when you’re traded back to the team where it all started? A team where you achieved some level of success or lack thereof? Can you really go home again?
NBA veteran, outstanding person and all around great guy, Derek Fisher has won several championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, but in between stints with the NBA Champs, Fisher played for Golden State and Utah before returning to L.A.
On the flipside, longtime Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback, Donovan McNabb, found himself traded earlier this year to division rival Washington Redskins after 11 years with the Eagles. Last weekend, McNabb led his new team to victory against his old team at the place where he used to make his living in Philadelphia. Interestingly enough, the normally hostile Philly fans greeted their old QB with respect and cheers.
There are many elements involved in dealing with what it means to go home again, especially the heightened emotional aspect, especially when you've been traded to or from a rival. There are many examples of athletes who've been traded, coaches who have returned to coach for/against their old team, etc. Tonight however, we will witness the return of a once prodigal son, as future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, rejoins his former Minnesota Vikings for a Monday Night Football matchup against the New York Jets.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Randy Moss has returned home.
Three weeks ago, I talked about what Randy Moss did right and where he could improve regarding his comments during his post-game press conference with his (now former) team the New England Patriots. One thing is for certain. Moss was prophetic in predicting he would not be playing football for the Patriots next year. He mentioned he felt this would be the case because it was about the business of football and nothing to do with his love for the Patriots, the New England area, the coaching staff or his teammates.
Moss' return and the reception he'll receive is due largely in part to the growth and progress he's made as a professional throughout the course of the past several years. It’s no secret that after several less than favorable on and off-the-field incidents, Moss left the Vikings years ago with his legacy, reputation, and work ethic in question. But after several years away and largely due to the success he had in New England, Moss has gained the confidence and respect of many of his former skeptics.
So what's different? How has Randy Moss turned his reputation around?
1. Maturity - Sportsmanship Over Showmanship. Moss has matured in how he deals with the media, he has worked hard on the field, and he has shown he is still an elite receiver in the NFL. And he has worked hard off the field to change the perception media and fans alike have of him, as he has not been a lightning rod of controversy or a disruptive force in the locker room.
2. Confidence - Not Arrogance. Although not perfect, Moss’ confidence is high and he is developing the ability to control the interview and stay on message more effectively. He is answering questions in a conversational, informative, non-confrontational, and humble manner.
3. Putting the Past Behind and Moving Forward. He recognizes the role his attitude and behavior have played in previous stints with Minnesota and Oakland. He’s owned it and he has worked hard to clean up his past for the benefit of his future. And he clearly loves what he does. He takes his job seriously, showing why he is an asset to whatever team he plays for, and is focused on the good that has come out of the past few years.
By all accounts, Randy Moss has been a model citizen, an outstanding player, and a great teammate since joining the Patriots. We should expect that to continue in Minnesota. Overall, he is doing a great job when it comes to managing his reputation and rebuilding his brand and is another example of how you can turn your reputation around.
Tonight, Randy Moss will show you can go home again.