How Randy Moss transformed the Minnesota Vikings

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Randy Moss
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Randy Moss /

Randy Moss’ arrival in 1998 turned the Minnesota Vikings fanbase upside down and possibly kept the team from moving.

The Minnesota Vikings have a deep, rich history. Founded in 1961, there have been many great players that have stepped on either Metropolitan Stadium, the Metrodome or U.S. Bank Stadium that have donned the purple and gold.

While every player leaves their mark on the franchise they play for, there’s no denying that there was nobody in the history of the Vikings that was quite like Randy Moss.

Prior to Moss’ arrival in Minnesota, the Vikings were just kind of there. Sure, there were glory days in the 1970s when Fran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters led Minnesota to four Super Bowls, but that fandom was lukewarm as the franchise trudged through the 80s.

Despite a late run in the strike-shortened 1987 season, the Vikings didn’t see a high level of success. As time transitioned to the 90s, they saw Dennis Green get Minnesota to mediocrity, but they could never get over the hump on the field.

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Because of that, tickets were easy to come by. I remember stories about my neighbors (in Rochester, Minn.) driving to La Crosse (Wisc.) to watch the game because the Vikings couldn’t sell out the Metrodome thus blacking out the game on TV. People liked the Vikings, but they didn’t love them.

Then came the 1998 season. While the loud arrival of Red McCombs stole some headlines, the arrival of Moss would be what the franchise needed. After falling to the Vikings with the 21st pick in that spring’s draft, Moss would light the NFL up with 17 touchdowns on one of the greatest offenses in NFL history.

With the ability to score on any given play, a new electricity was injected into the franchise. Suddenly, it was hard to get tickets to Vikings games. Purple Vikings jerseys flew off the shelves in the run leading up to Christmas, so (ugly) gold jerseys took their place and people were more than happy to walk around in them.

At the forefront of this movement was Moss. People wanted to see him go and get the ball on Sundays. Although it may have been reluctant in his eyes, he instantly became the face of the franchise when Cris Carter left town after the 2001 season.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

He stuffed the stat sheet thanks to the “Randy Ratio” and even when the Vikings were mired in single-digit wins and heartbreaking losses, people still wanted to see Moss do his thing.

While Moss was doing his thing on the field, the Vikings were in limbo off of it. It’s debatable whether McCombs ever wanted to keep the team in Minnesota and when the NFL wouldn’t give him the assistance required to build a new stadium, he tried to break the team’s Metrodome lease that ran through the 2011 season.

This story has played out in cities before like Cleveland and Houston, where the cities loved their teams, but couldn’t find a way to stop them from moving. Perhaps if this story had played out a decade earlier, we would have been talking about the Los Angeles Vikings. But, with the wave of momentum that Moss sparked with his arrival, the Vikings weren’t going anywhere.

McCombs would later give the fans the ultimate screw you by trading Moss to the Oakland Raiders before selling it to Zygi Wilf, but Moss’ place in Minnesota Vikings history remains the same.

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Although his antics wore on some, Moss is beloved by most Viking fans because of that stretch from 1998 to 2004 and that same passion for the team lives on today.