One thing fans have to understand is that elite professional athletes almost by necessity need to have a big ego. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal all have it. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols all have it. Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana all have it.
It's part of the business of sports. Players believe they are the best at what they do. It gives them the competitive edge. For years, Carter forged his lasting legacy as a big-play receiver for the Vikings who made the spectacular catch look routine. Then came Randy.
The love-hate relationship between Carter and Moss runs deep. As a veteran team leader and an old-school type of football player, Carter was extremely hard on Moss and Daunte Culpepper. He had sway with head coach Dennis Green and wasn't shy about demonstrating his style of leadership by yelling in the face of both Moss and Culpepper. It was done with a purpose – Carter legitimately wanted to make both of them better by imparting the wisdom he had picked up over the years. He often did it with the sound turned way up and very up close and personal.
On Wednesday, Carter appeared on Miami radio station WQAM and "The Michael Irvin Show" to talk about everything from being snubbed from the Hall of Fame to Moss. With arguably the prototype diva receiver (Irvin) feeding him the questions, you knew you were in for some interesting banter. Carter didn't disappoint, but added fuel to those who speculate his end of the argument is based on a longstanding jealousy of Moss' skills.
If asked directly if he was jealous of Moss, Carter might actually admit that there is an element of envy there. If you had a player with Moss' talent and Carter's work ethic on Sundays, you would have a player better than Jerry Rice – the unanimous selection as the best player to ever play his respective position.
The currency for wide receivers is based on yardage and touchdowns. It is what gets them big contracts and, for the most part, gets them into the Hall of Fame. That hasn't held true for Carter, who has come close to getting in ever since he became eligible, but has been passed over time after time after time.
Carter told Irvin that he was convinced he was going to get into the Hall because of his numbers in his first year of eligibility. By any standard, they are impressive stats, but, as the Hall of Fame voters have shown, it isn't the only standard by which induction is measured.
"I felt good my first year (of eligibility)," Carter said. "I am the only person alive that's eligible for the Hall of Fame that has 130 touchdowns that is not in. So, when you have a stat like that – you've got more touchdowns than Jim Brown and Walter Payton – I mean, I'm not campaigning for the Hall of Fame. For me, the list (of candidates) doesn't change every year. My numbers ain't going to change. It's just too much productivity over the time – like, I have no argument, Mike. I really don't."
Perhaps in that statement Carter explained why he isn't in the Hall of Fame. Lynn Swann was never a 1,000-yard receiver during his career. At no time when he played was Art Monk viewed as the dominant receiver in the game. Carter was both. Swann and Monk are in the Hall just as much because they won championships as to their contributions in those years that their teams won. The only number that really mattered for their induction was One – as in, "We're No. 1" in a given season.
As expected, the topic changed to Moss and Carter provided an interesting perspective as to why the Bears might have an interest in him – former Vikings head coach Mike Tice.
"I believe the best place for him is New England," Carter said. "I believe a team that might want to look at him is Chicago with Jay Cutler and Mike Tice, because (Moss) and Tice get along great. He has respect for Tice. Jay Cutler and Moss? I think they could work that out."
An unfortunate byproduct of the Carter-Moss public debates, ranging from Moss' rambling streaming video manifestos to Carter's insistence of throwing gasoline on an unnecessary fire, is a clash of egos that goes way back to their Vikings days. Need an example? Here you go:
With all the underlying competition between Moss and Carter, when Moss signed his second contract with the Vikings, he became the highest paid wide receiver in NFL history. He did it the old-fashioned way – he earned that spot – and he was splashed across the front pages of the local newspapers and was the top story on the news … not the top sports story, the top story when the local news reports began. It was big news.
The day after the news got out of the contract extension for Moss, Carter let it be known that he might be retiring at the end of the season. It knocked Moss off the front page and the top of the news and replaced him with Carter. It was an ego that was bruised. You get the feeling that, years later, the same scenario is playing out.
Maybe Carter will get in the Hall of Fame before Moss becomes eligible. The competition could get really heated if the two are fighting for the same spot in the hallowed halls of Canton.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.