(This story was published in 2004).

For some reason, I love the bad boys of sports. Charles Barkley was the funniest, but one of the nastiest, players in the NBA when he was active; Reggie Miller is an assassin with the basketball; Barry Bonds is, by all accounts, a complete, selfish ass – yet he hits the ball better than anyone else.

Randy Moss is my favorite football player. The guy rocks. While I’m not attracted to his selfishness and propensity to decide when and where he wants to play, I think some of that leads to what I DO like about him.

Sports are so full of lame-asses and apologists. It’s really the fault of the sports commentators and the leagues. Any time an athlete does something out of the ordinary, he gets slapped down by a bunch of old white guys in suits.

On Sunday, upon clinching a victory over the Green Bay Packers for his Minnesota Vikings, Randy Moss fake-mooned the Packers fans in the stands. It was great. Very funny. According to Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, it stems from a long-standing tradition in which Packers fans moon the busses carrying the visiting team when they come to Lambeau Field.

But, when Moss did it during the game on Sunday, Fox commentator Joe Buck said it was a disgrace. SI columnist Peter King said it was classless. ESPN refuses to show it. All because a young black man pretended to moon a few thousand wholesome mostly white fans who have mooned him about a half-dozen times.

I love Moss because he doesn’t give a shit about the little things. He doesn’t care what some old white guys in suits have to say. He doesn’t care whom he plays against. Sure, he cares about winning and cares about helping his team. But, he just won’t play the bullshit little games that the suits so desperately want him to play.

That’s also the way he plays football. He doesn’t care what defenses throw at him. He’s going to catch the ball, get his yards and score no matter what you do. He’s the most exciting football player to watch – maybe ever.

“Experts” complain over and over that Randy Moss isn’t a team player. They say he quits on his team and doesn’t care about them. Tell that to the guy who couldn’t stand not being on the field this past October with a torn hamstring. Tell that to the guy who demanded to be in the game on Sunday despite a sprained ankle. When Brett Favre does that, the “experts” talk about what a gutty team player he is. When Randy Moss does it, they ignore it.

Since his first season with the Vikings, Moss has volunteered at the Catholic Charities’ St. Joseph’s Home for Children. He has even handed out a football or two – just caught in the end zone of an NFL game – to less fortunate kids on the sidelines during games. He doesn’t do it for nice headlines or to improve his image. He does it because he cares.

Moss is the ultimate tragic character. He has all the talent in the world, yet is completely misunderstood. Two years ago he broke down in tears during an ESPN interview when he talked about the emotional pain he feels when people attack him.

He’s the kind of guy I can understand. I think many gay men, at some point in their lives, feel misunderstood. Like the world just doesn’t get them – or they just don’t get the world. I’ve been there. It sucks. You feel alone and isolated. I sympathize for Moss when he gets attacked by men who really don’t understand him because I’ve been there. I get it.

The NFL will fine Moss for his funny gesture to the Lambeau crowd on Sunday. Probably around $30,000. The white guys in suits will feel better because of the fine – they’ve beaten down one more young black man who dares to defy them. White guys in suits – like Joe Buck and Chris Berman – will continue to attack Moss every time he does something remotely out of the ordinary that doesn’t include catching a football.

I, for one, am glad Moss will keep being his own man. And I’ll applaud him louder every time he asserts himself into the limelight.