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Mark Moseley In Grantland And Circus Magazine

Posted by Matt Terl on July 7, 2011 – 1:38 pm

I’m not sure if you knew this, but the last two times there were protracted NFL work stoppages, the Redskins won the Super Bowl. No, really! So it’s logical enough that this latest work stoppage has caused a flurry of articles about those Redskins squads and the players on them. We’ve covered one or two of them here before, and Rich Campbell just wrote a terrific specimen of the general breed in the Washington Times.

The one that’s more germane to what I want to write about, though, is over at Grantland. For those who don’t follow the Inside Baseball of the world of online sportswriting, Grantland is the new boutique imprint of ESPN.com. It’s the brainchild — and private fiefdom — of Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons, featuring his handpicked stable of writers, his pop-cultural sensibilities, his longform verbosity, one of his favorite authorial tics (footnotes), and even a smidgen of naughty language.

I’ve found it generally enjoyable so far — Chuck Klosterman wrote a piece on a 1988 junior college basketball game that I absolutely (and somewhat inexplicably) loved — but the site hadn’t strayed particularly close to the Redskins, and so hadn’t come up on this blog. Yesterday afternoon, though, Ethan Trex offered up Grantland’s entry into the “Redskins stories from a shortened season” genre, entitled Mark Moseley and the 1982 NFL Season: A Case Study in Weird.

It’s a solid look back at Moseley’s improbable MVP campaign, especially for those unfamiliar with the story, and I highly recommend reading it. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Moseley, selected by a national panel of 84 journalists, had a slew of sportswriter fetishes on his side: He had been an ace in the clutch, he had a record-breaking streak, and his team had been successful. “I think once I got nominated it was such an unusual thing that everybody voted for me. When they called me to tell me I had won it, I was shocked beyond words,” Moseley said.

Here’s the thing, though: this isn’t the first time that Moseley’s been profiled in a venue that focuses on broader issues of pop culture. Heck, it’s not even the first time that he’s been profiled by a publication that also prominently features work from a famously verbose deadpan rock music critic. For that, we have to look back to this 33 year-old issue of Circus Magazine.

In case you were unable to tear your eyes away from Alice Cooper looking eerily like the imaginary third Gallagher brother, here’s the relevant bit of the cover, cropped and spotlighted:

I only knew Circus Magazine later — in the eighties, when it was shelved with Metal Edge, Hit Parader, Kerrang!, and all the rest of the rock glossies in the grocery store; and again in the early Nineties when Axl Rose included Circus in his explative-laden tirade during Use Your Illusion II’s “Get In The Ring” — and I was perplexed to learn that they ever covered sports at all, let alone at the granular level that warrants a profile of a kicker.

Apparently — based on this comprehensive oral history of the magazine — this issue comes from an awkward phase in the Seventies when Circus tried to cover general pop culture on a weekly basis, a la People magazine. Somehow, this bold experiment was a failure, but it ran for long enough that you can flip through this issue of the magazine and find the following:

  • A “Hardware” piece that starts as a consumer buying guide and ends with this: “If you happen to be mathematically inclined and know how to use a table of standard logarithms, you can easily convert any two power levels into a decibel ratio. The formula to use is: dB change of power = 10 x log10 P2/P1, where P2 is one power level in watts, and P1 is the other power level.”
  • An exclusive interview with Bob Dylan, touring on the back of his Street Legal album.
  • A color “poster” of Eric Clapton, looking exactly like a member of Fleet Foxes (which is, of course, pretty much what Fleet Foxes is probably going for).
  • A “Coping” piece on how to deal with travel diseases.
  • A story about Battlestar Galactica’s Richard Hatch having an actual UFO experience.
  • An interview with animator Ralph Bakshi on the making of his big-budget version of the Lord Of The Rings.
  • And two articles by a gentleman named Michael J. Weiss: one entitled “Purchasing Pot Paraphernalia: A Guide For The Perplexed,” and the other an in-depth look at the placekicker for the Washington Redskins.

(The Seventies, it seems, were completely insane.)

Perhaps the strangest thing about the profile of Moseley is just how little of a mainstream hook it gets. The thesis, basically, is that Moseley is good: “While limp-armed quarterbacks rule a mediocre offense,” Weiss writes, “Moseley remains the one hardcore point-maker from anywhere halfway to the end zone.”

There’s a bit of a dramatic backstory when Moseley is (allegedly) blacklisted from the NFL but manages to fight his way back, but … in the end it’s a pretty straightforward NFL player profile that just happens to appear in a rock magazine masquerading as a pop-culture/lifestyle magazine.

A few noteworthy bits from the piece:

  • Moseley allegedly went by the nickname “The Bionic Leg”.
  • Except in college, where he was called “Mr. Automatic”.
  • Billy Kilmer is referred to as “Billy ‘Whisky’ Kilmer”.
  • Moseley claims to have been cut from the Oilers because of a dream the coach had. (“That’s right, a dream,” says a still-incredulous Moseley. “He just said he had a dream and he cut me.”)
  • Moseley built a house that you could see from the Redskins’ practice fields.
  • Despite what would become the norm in future profiles, Moseley’s hair is never mentioned in the piece.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of all of this is that this issue of Circus magazine is from December of 1978, three full seasons before Moseley’s MVP campaign. In 1978, he wouldn’t even be voted to the Pro Bowl. Now that, to borrow a phrase from Trex’s Grantland piece, is a case study in weird.

(Oh, also: the “famously verbose deadpan rock critic” I alluded to as the magazine’s Klosterman analog? That would be Kurt Loder, later of Rolling Stone and MTV News fame, who just flat-out eviscerates Elton John’s A Single Man album. “But Elton’s message, such as it may be,” Loder writes, “remains for the most part inchoate, filtered as it unfortunately is through the knock-kneed lyrical sensibility of his new, post-Bernie Taupin collaborator, Gary Osborne.” Ouch.)

Here’s the entire Moseley piece; click for much larger, more readable versions.

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A New Name In The Quarterback Competition

Posted by Matt Terl on July 7, 2011 – 11:01 am

Brian Tinsman brings us up to speed on what folks are saying about the Redskins QB situation — including the first mention of a new, and terrifying, name.

As this bizarre Redskins quarterback controversy putters into July, practically anyone associated with the team has been asked to weigh in on the debate: Rex Grossman or John Beck? And while most people have mastered the art of deflecting the question, there are a few nuggets worth noting.

Here’s the latest recap:

Read more »

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FedExField Renovations Are Still Going On

Posted by Matt Terl on July 7, 2011 – 9:15 am

The upper deck on the east end of FedExField continues to shrink, and I continue to post pictures of cranes and vanshing concrete. As always, click the photos to enlarge, and check out the backstory on the renovations here.

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