Two weeks ago, we noted that one member of the Minnesota Vikings' 1998 draft class would be a first-time Super Bowl champion Sunday night. That player turned out to be center Matt Birk, whose Baltimore Ravens held on for a 34-31 victory over receiver Randy Moss' San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
As we subsequently noted, animosity between the two largely cooled in the eight years since they were teammates. Sunday night, Birk told reporters that winning a championship in his 15th season was "unreal at this point" and said he hoped that some Vikings fans would find joy in the moment.
"I'm a Minnesotan," said Birk, a St. Paul native. "I grew up with the Vikings and was blessed to have played for them for 11 years. I hope I'm still in the Viking family. I want to be. I do hope being from Minnesota. I hope they take some pride in this and I hope they share this."
Birk, 36, said he hasn't decided whether he will retire. Moss, 35, has said he wants to play in 2013 but he is a pending free agent.
If Moss spoke to the media, there is no immediate record of it; the NFL didn't post quotes from him on its extensive media website. Moss, of course, had created one of the top storylines of the week by declaring himself the best receiver in NFL history, but his two-catch performance didn't do much to support that claim.
In fact, Moss displayed on a national stage the kind of nonchalant body language that has so often generated criticism in his career, the kind that falls short of loafing but doesn't appear from the outside to exemplify maximum effort. The most glaring example came on Ravens safety Ed Reed's second-quarter interception on a ball that quarterback Colin Kaepernick sailed far over Moss' head.
Moss had no chance to catch the ball, but his failure to so much as raise his arms for it drew the ire of former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski --- and to a lesser extent Dwight Clark -- during a postgame analysis on Comcast Sports Net in the Bay Area.
The video is here. Romanowski said: "What happened is Randy Moss, he alligator-armed it. He didn't go up for the ball. He said he was the best receiver in the damn world. OK, you hear me? Oh god, that [ticks] me off. … You're playing in the Super Bowl, guys. The Super Bowl!"
Clark countered: "He didn't alligator-arm it. He didn't even reach for it. … He watched it sail over his head… Yes it was high … but make some kind of movement toward the ball. Get your hands in front the defender's eyes or something. Maybe he drops it. I saw the same thing."
To be fair, Romanowski and Clark have personal ties to the 49ers and were no doubt emotionally impacted by the loss. And those of us who have seen large portions of Moss' career have seen similar instances before. To bend over backwards to be fair, we should note that reaching for the ball almost certainly would have been wasted energy.
Any one play along those lines is understandable. But a career's worth of decisions not to waste energy creates an indelible storyline. And you could argue that in the winner-take-all Super Bowl, no effort is wasted. If Moss had a 1 percent chance to disrupting Reed's line of sight, it would have been worth a jump with out-stretched arms. Take that for what it's worth.