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Body Language and Sports Analysis: The Randy Moss Fallacy

What does Randy Moss' body language say about his attitude? Not much, I think.

Andy Lyons - Getty Images

I'm sure that all of you guys and gals have already seen the most epic interaction between two men since Brutus v. Caesar. That is, the Randy Moss / Aldon Smith showdown. If you haven't, then stop reading this right now and go watch it. Seriously, it's way more interesting than this.

In a nutshell, Randy is funny because he teases Aldon. Then, Aldon just takes it to the next level. I don't want to spoil it, so that's all I'll say.

Except that Randy Moss was having fun. He was having fun and he wasn't on the field. Moreover, because Aldon was resting on the bench, the offense was probably getting into full gear, if they weren't already on the field (it's sort of tough to see what's going on in the background, because only parts of the field are shown). Anyway, this just confirms what we all know: Moss has not been an every down player for us.

After the Vikings game, I saw a few - not a ton, though - national media types who called into question Moss' body language on the bench. The tenuous conclusion they reached was that Moss was possibly in his pre-quitting stages - like if the 49ers didn't press "B" quickly enough, Moss would evolve into Patriots Moss or DeSean Jackson or something. I'm really hoping that this isn't the first wave of a whole bunch of article in the "guess Moss' attitude" vein.

Here's what bugs me, though. Randy Moss is a professional athlete. We aren't. We have no idea what was going through his head. Basing an argument about how we think Moss might perform upon his body language is just silly - unless, of course, you have some serious training or experience with dissecting body language. Even then, though, how can one be sure that the body language is related to individual performance / effort concerning the game? Maybe his cat died on Sunday and he was taking some time to himself on the bench. We just can't know.

No, the Viking game just sucked. It sucked for pretty much everybody. On the other hand, the Jets game was pretty awesome. Again, pretty awesome for just about everybody. If we non-trained fans have to make guesses about an athlete's body language, let's just go to the scoreboard. We lost the Jets game. Randy's a competitive guy, who, I'm sure, hates losing. His body language might possibly be reflecting the score. Any assumption beyond that is irresponsible.

Addendum: Naturally, this article is intended for the majority of fans who don't have training or experience with body language. I mean, we are pretty clueless in that regard. There are going to be fans who do have such experience. I remember, for example, that our very own DeafWriterJC has had quite interesting things to say about Harbaugh's body language recently (post-Vikings game, I believe). I have a few questions for the community of fans with this experience: how can you be certain that athletic body language is similar enough to other types of body language? Is body language just body language and that's it? Would an expert in body language need to couple that with training in sports psychology? How can you tell if Randy Moss is upset about his playing time vs. the score vs. his dead cat or whatnot? While I'm pretty certain that body language reading is just silly for most fans without the proper training, I'm really interested in what somebody who actually knows what they are talking about has to write on this subject.