A Portrait of the Artist as a Wide Receiver

Last Sunday’s post-game shows were full of holiday cheering: The Pats finally won an away game (for some reason, away-away in Wembley doesn’t seem to count)! The defense, although missing some key players like Wilfork, Pryor and Warren, showed up, mixed it up and befuddled the Bills! And Randy Moss, suffering for weeks the slings and arrows of outraged fandom, was back!

With the playoffs in sight – and only one win from being secured – all of this is great news, the best of which might be the re-emergence of Moss as a formidable force on the field. But wait a minute. Why did he disappear in the first place?

To my way of thinking, the promise and the problem of Randy Moss is that he’s an artist.
To be an artist is to be exquisitely sensitive to context. It is to function with will, deliberation and instinct – all at the same time. It doesn’t matter if the art is a solitary pursuit, like writing or painting, or a function of time and place, like playing in an orchestra or plucking a pigskin from the sky. The artist is a living history of performance, an unforgiving record in which only the most recent deed matters. When it comes to accomplishment, the artist is often his or her own most merciless judge.

When Moss appeared briefly at the post-game press conference, he looked and sounded, well, artistic. Moss’s face has an elegant structure, full of finely sculpted detail. His eyes have that thousand-yard stare. His form is long and graceful, with shoulders that can carry the whole world (whatever that means). His subdued rant throbbed with the anguish of the misunderstood.

It’s inconceivable that Moss doesn’t care about how he performs on the field. Genuine, real-deal artists cannot separate themselves from their work, no matter what other blessings, or curses, their lives contain. Not only is he a marquee player, one with more NFL records in his sights and a legend in the making, he is lacking something that many of his Patriot companions (and some of his detractors) possess: a Super Bowl ring. The game against the Giants must still rankle (heck, it still rankles me).

When it’s all going well, the artist’s euphoria is tempered with the underlying suspicion that he or she is both player and played. When the muse departs, the fearful questions emerge: When will it come back? Will it come back?

I have no doubt that in the next two regular-season games and in the post-season Randy Moss will play his artist’s heart out. Whether that will translate into the kind of performance that helps win games depends on the one thing that all his talent and determination cannot force: the unbiddable magic of inspiration.


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