Football’s other Randy Moss

When one mentions NFL football and Randy Moss in the same breath, most people will think of the wide receiver for the New England Patriots. That Moss played his college football at Marshall University, played his first seven years of pro football for the Minnesota Vikings and then was traded in 2005 to the Oakland Raiders. In April 2007, Moss was traded to the Patriots.

This season, however, there’s another Moss associated with the NFL. It’s Hot Springs native Randy Moss, the thoroughbred racing analyst for ESPN/ABC. This fall, Randy is also working for the NFL Network. Frankly, I can’t think of a better fit. I’m biased because Randy is a friend and a former newspaper colleague. But I can tell you he understands all sports and is among the best analysts of any type on television.

Now living in Minnesota, Randy is among the native Arkansans who have done well on the national stage. Randy, who grew up hanging around Oaklawn Park, attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock with the intention of becoming a pharmacist. Soon, however, he decided it would be more fun to handicap horses than to fill prescriptions.

Moss left pharmacy school when Arkansas Gazette sports editor Orville Henry offered him a full-time position as the newspaper’s handicapper and Oaklawn correspondent.

As a young sportswriter at the rival Arkansas Democrat, a fortunate turn of events occurred for me soon before the start of the 1982 race meet at Oaklawn. Jeff Krupsaw, who had been covering Oaklawn for the Democrat, took a job at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. With Krup headed to NOLA just before the start of the live meet, Democrat sports editor Wally Hall had to scramble.

It just so happened that I had been sports editor of Arkadelphia’s Daily Siftings Herald during my four years of college and had spent a good part of my wayward youth in the Oaklawn press box. So I got the assignment — pretty much by default since no one else understood racing — as the Democrat’s 1982 Oaklawn beat writer.

Of course, Randy was both handicapping and writing stories. I only wrote stories. Terry Wallace made the picks for the Democrat in those days. Still, it was fun competing that year against someone who already had become somewhat of an Arkansas celebrity.

Less than a week after the Arkansas Derby that spring, Wally called me into his office. He said: “I’ve got some bad news for you and some good news for the paper.”

The bad news for me was that Moss was leaving the Gazette to go to work for the Democrat. It was virtually unheard of in those days for a well-known writer at the Gazette to depart for the Democrat. Moss was the first big-name defection in the newspaper war. Orville Henry’s defection wouldn’t occur for several more years. It meant I no longer would cover Oaklawn on a daily basis. But it was good news for the newspaper since it also meant that the Democrat was on the rise.

Before the Moss hire, Wally had promised me that I would accompany him to his first (and my second) Kentucky Derby. Even with Randy Moss on board, Wally was true to his word. So the Democrat had three people at that year’s Derby, a sign of the kind of money that was beginning to be spent as the newspaper war heated up.

I would leave the newspaper for a time, only to return as Wally’s top deputy in 1985. In that position, I was technically Randy’s supervisor. Randy spent his autumns at Louisiana Downs back then. Nowhere on the sports battlefield against the Gazette was the competition more heated than in the area of Friday night high school football. I was determined that Randy should join all of our writers in covering games on Friday nights.

You know what? He never complained. He would finish handicapping the Saturday card and then drive from Louisiana Downs to Texarkana, El Dorado, Magnolia, Camden, Hope or wherever else in south Arkansas I had him covering a game. And he put as much effort into his high school football stories as his Kentucky Derby stories. He was a pro.

Randy left Little Rock for the Dallas Morning News back when Dave Smith was putting out the best newspaper sports section in America at Dallas. He later moved to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Randy even worked for Oaklawn for two years. Randy has now been an analyst for ESPN’s thoroughbred racing coverage for a decade. He had first cut his teeth in television doing reports from the Oaklawn press box for Little Rock television stations.

If you enjoy thoroughbred racing, you’ll enjoy Randy’s new blog for the Daily Racing Form at www.mossblog.typepad.com. He’s now become even more famous among amateur handicappers for his Moss Pace Figures.

If you have the NFL Network, you can also look for him there this fall. It’s not a bad step up for a guy we had covering Camden Fairview games back in 1985.

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