Webster's World

I am really offended by those who spend their lives being professionally offended.

In our modern world of social media, instant media, and 24-hour rolling news, we have reached a stage where almost no day can pass without us being invited to feel outrage over what someone did or said.

It has reached a point where not only celebrities but members of the general public are so uptight and on guard about what they say or do that we are beginning to live our lives in fear of being branded racist, sexist, homophobic or in some way anti-this or that on any number of issues.

There are, of course, plenty of things which, to most sensibly-minded human beings are considered to be offensive. Genuine oppression of people for their race, colour, creed or sexual orientation should cause offence while discrimination against people for being women, or being old, or being young should receive equal short shrift.

But as often as not, we choose instead to be offended by trivial matters which should no more be an issue of the day than a breakfast order.

Last week prior to the England-Scotland game at Wembley, England fans were ‘outraged’ by Scotland fans booing God Save The Queen. The Scottish objection to the English anthem is that one of the versus (since officially removed) used to talk about Marshal Wade slaughtering Scots – “..and like a torrent rush, rebellious Scots to crush” – although the Scottish argument is somewhat diluted by them then selecting Flower of Scotland as their anthem, a song which glories in killing Englishmen in battles many centuries ago.

Why the two of them can’t just select Jerusalem and Scotland The Brave as their anthems – both songs which pay homage to their own countries rather than thumbing their noses at another nation - is beyond me. And so the faux anger continues. Curiously however, the same fans find it acceptable to cheer and worship some soccer players who earn up to £250,000 per week and then use tax avoidance schemes to pay about four per cent tax. Legally okay but morally bankrupt and yet that doesn’t seem to cause offence.

Eight years ago, during an NFL playoff game in Green Bay, the Minnesota Vikings ridiculously-talented receiver Randy Moss embarrassed Al Harris down the right sideline, got him all turned around, and then pulled in a touchdown pass. Moss ran to the centre of the end zone, stood by the goalpost with his back to the Packers fans who had always taken great delight in giving him the bird, and then made a motion to simulate ‘mooning’ the Green Bay fans before dancing a jig of delight with his teammates.

Fox Sports commentator Cris Collinsworth thought it was fairly funny as he commented: “..and he shoots the moon to the fans in Green Bay.”

But Collinsworth’s play-by-play partner in the booth that night, Joe Buck, saw it rather differently. In those overly-serious tones of his, he immediately expressed outrage on behalf of America and apologised on behalf of his employers.

Buck said: “That is a disgusting act by Randy Moss and it’s unfortunate that we had that on air live. That is disgusting by Randy Moss.”

In a league where we have become accustomed to players perpetrating all manner of crimes that should offend on any level, pretending to ‘moon’ the opposition fans should surely be a long way down the list.

While editor of First Down, I got sick to the back teeth of reporting one player after another being arrested for being drunk and fondling women in bars, sexual assault, rape, carrying firearms on to planes, assault, attempted murder and murder.

I also found offence in the death of Minnesota’s Korey Stringer and the subsequent treatment of his wife as she tried to get some justice for her husband over the contributory negligence which led to his heart exploding when his body temperature reached 108 degrees on a practice field one day.

I was appalled at Vikings coach Mike Tice being rumbled in a ticket-scalping operation where he abused his position. My blood boiled when Ray Lewis obstructed a police homicide investigation and then treated with contempt the families of the dead.

And I was outraged when the Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns walked out on their respective cities with barely a word for the fans who had supported them through thick and thin.

But Randy Moss pretending – not actually doing – but pretending to ‘moon’ a crowd that was baiting him caused me no offence whatsoever because there really are far more offensive things in this world, and even in the NFL, over which to cry foul.

The story is back in the news because eight and a half years later, Buck and Moss have buried the hatchet although far be it from me to suggest that the truce had anything to do with the fact that Moss has now retired from the playing field and taken up residence in the Fox studio where he will be helping to analyse games, starting this season.

During a segment in a pre-season game last week, Buck and Moss spoke across the airwaves and Buck revealed that they had not spoken since the 2005 incident, an outburst which led to Vikings owner Red McCombs demanding that Fox remove Buck from an upcoming Minnesota game. Last week, the pair talked about the fact that Randy had been doing his thing in playing football and Joe had been doing his in talking about it, and they agreed that it was all in the past and they made light of it to some extent.

However, that left me to wonder this – does Buck no longer think it was offensive or was he just doing a TV kiss-and-make-up for show?

What Moss did in that game was to imitate a prank that is pulled by college kids all over America and just because Moss is supposed to be an adult and perhaps above that sort of behaviour made the gesture a bit of childish fun at the expense of Packer fans. It did not constitute a “disgusting act”. How could it have done? For one thing, Moss kept his clothes on.

There have certainly been things for people to get offended about in the history of the NFL. I think of things like George Preston Marshall’s Washington Redskins being the last in the league to lift their prejudice against signing black players as a good example.

But Randy Moss’s moon-dance does not qualify for my money and Joe Buck has spent almost nine years of his life making a lot of fuss about a lot of nothing.

Sit back and enjoy the view, Joe. There is a lot to appreciate. And save the outrage for people, actions and incidents that truly deserve it.

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The NFL has been called many things in its time but perhaps one that hurt deeply was when it started being referred to as the No Fun League.

I can’t recall exactly when that one started but I do know it was frequently thrown in the league’s direction in the 1990s as the rules committee imposed one harsh penalty after another on how players were allowed to celebrate.

I think the original cue for league action actually reaches back into the 1980s when Mark Gastineau’s sack dance sparked a brawl in one game. The league then came up with a ridiculous wording, outlawing things including coordinated dances and routines. Ironically, perhaps the most prominent at the time was the celebration dance performed by the Washington Redskins receivers who were nicknamed the Fun Bunch.

Is it just my imagination or did that also spark a slow death of player nicknames? The thought came to mind when I noticed the Giants Damontre Moore having a standout game a couple of weeks ago as New York beat Pittsburgh 18-13 in pre-season.

The Giants had been high on Moore since he had a great training camp. He was once projected as a first-round pick but fell into the middle of round three after a combine performance that left a lot of people with misgivings about his prospects.

Against the Steelers however, he registered a blocked punt, four tackles, a quarterback hit and several pressures as he disrupted their passing game. It would appear Damontre could be deserving of his nickname DaMonster which, while obvious, is also good.

But what happened to all the great nicknames? Is it too much to ask for another ‘Mad Dog’ Mike Curtis, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane, Andre ‘Bad Moon’ Rison, ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath, ‘Bullet’ Bob Hayes, The Galloping Ghost – Red Grange, Jack ‘Hacksaw’ Reynolds, or Elroy ‘Crazy Legs’ Hirsch.

And, of course, there was always Deion Sanders, who was so flashy he had to have two great nicknames in Prime Time and Neon Deion.

Today we have Megatron – Calvin Johnson – and now DaMonster. We need more to put some of the fun back into the NFL and to make headline writers’ jobs easier.

Just be careful, though. Don’t come up with anything that could cause Joe Buck offence.