The Eclipse Award winning – amongst other honors – racing journalist Paul Moran passed away from lung cancer last week at the age of 66. I had the pleasure of working with him at the Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth in 2007, the year when the folks there had the good taste to hire him and myself to write blogs for their website. Noticed just quite recently a horse of the year poll in his name (which I promptly disagreed with); and his final column appeared on ESPN.com on Oct 28.
I would sometimes playfully refer to him as “Paul Morose” for what I felt was a negative tone to his observations of the racing world. But, as he observed in his final column: “Age has its curmudgeonly privilege.” Tragically, Moran left us all too young, but that point is still well taken in this context. It’s surely understandable why anyone who’s been around long enough to see what has become of the game in the last half century – watching as the throngs that would pack the tracks daily have disappeared while the storied plants that accommodated them have deteriorated – would be cranky from time to time. Not to mention the state of his own industry: Moran wrote for Newsday at a time when coverage of the sport flourished in the NYC press. In addition to his coverage, they even had a daily trip notes column on the NYRA races by Brad Thomas (now the great analyst at Monmouth) and Marc Siegelaub. Now, Newsday has nothing, and the Daily News is the only NYC paper that still has daily coverage of the races.
Not all that much younger myself than Moran was, I’m surely subject to getting depressed by it all as well. This past weekend, passing through on the drive from Miami to Sarasota, I stopped at Gulfstream Park. It was the first time I had been there since it was razed and replaced by whatever one wants to call the structure that stands there today. The old Gulfstream was right up there with Saratoga as my all-time favorite track; spent many a debauched day there back in my youth, and later in life made annual pilgrimages right up to its final year in 2004. Nothing about what I’d read or seen about what is sometimes laughingly referred to as a “renovation” had ever made me want to return. Still, I approached it with an open mind. Then I realized that the Crate and Barrel in which I was standing was in around the same spot where Cyndi Lauper performed the last live show that I ever saw in the once grand backyard now transformed into a shopping mall.
I won’t go into a discussion here of the current Gulfstream; suffice to say that anyone I know who likes it had never been to the original. But man, it sure made me sad. And cranky too. Just ask my wife how I reacted when she suggested that she thought it was OK. Somewhere there must be an elegantly indignant column by Moran on the subject. I’m sure that whatever afterlife he has passed on to has a sparkling – though not too much so – version of the original. RIP, Paul.