February 16, 2013

S.C. firefighters suit up for ‘The Amazing Race’

Lifelong best friends from Gaffney hope to defy Southern stereotypes but still use Southern charm to finish first in CBS reality-competition show.

The Amazing Race

Season premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday, CBS

After being selected to compete on CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” Matt Davis and Daniel Moss of Gaffney, S.C., immediately started studying previous seasons, digging up old interviews with contestants online, and devising tips for coping with unfamiliar foreign affairs.

Then they were flown to a pre-race event, where they met some of their competition, and bam! An epiphany.

“We’re firemen, so physically we could probably compete with any of these other teams,” says Davis, 25. “But looks-wise, we were like, ‘Man, these guys and girls are frickin’ models,’ and here we are we got a gut. So that inspired us to come back and run a lot and try to get in shape, just so we didn’t look like whales on TV.”

Davis and Moss, best friends since childhood, went on to lose about 20 pounds apiece and are among 11 teams of two participating in a televised race around the globe for a shot at $1 million. The 22nd season of the popular reality competition premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Opponents include twin doctors, roller derby moms, a father and son who both have survived cancer, and minor celebrities: Jennifer Kuhle and Caroline Cutbirth of country band Stealing Angels (Kuhle is John Wayne’s granddaughter; Cutbirth is a direct descendant of Daniel Boone); former NHL player (and Raleigh business owner) Bates Battaglia and his brother Anthony; and YouTube channel hosts Joey Graceffa and Meghan Camarena.

Prior to “The Amazing Race,” the most traveling Davis had done was taking cruises in the Caribbean, while Moss had never left the country. He didn’t even have a passport. They were both born in Gaffney, grew up one street over from each other, and went to Gaffney High School together. Davis spent two years at the University of South Carolina, Moss one year at Midlands Technical College (also in Columbia). Otherwise, all they’ve known is Gaffney.

The pair hoped their lack of worldliness might give them an edge.

“We thought, well, maybe we can get a little sympathy out of some of these people – like, ‘Oh, you’ve never been let me help you out,’ ” says Moss, who turns 25 Thursday. “Maybe our Southern charm will help us out.”

They also hoped other teams might view them as more naïve than they are.

“A lot of people have a stereotype of us just being redneck, or not being able to function outside of the South,” Davis says. But “both of us are pretty smart guys, and both of us have put ourselves in pretty stressful situations before, and I think a lot of the teams are looking at us and kind of underestimating us.”

Davis had to leave his wife, Casey, and 1-year-old daughter, Braylee, behind to compete – a tough decision, although he says “she was real supportive.” He adds that Moss is single, and “if this is going in the Charlotte market, Daniel might want that to be in capital letters.”

The season has already been filmed in its entirety; we’ll have to wait and see how many of the 30,000 miles and nine countries on five continents Davis and Moss got to travel. Meanwhile, they’re back working 24-hours-on, 48-hours-off rotations at the Gaffney Fire Department – Davis as a lieutenant at a substation, Moss as a firefighter downtown. If they strike it rich, though, will they keep their jobs?

“If we had a million dollars we talked about it. We would pay off debts, and we would kind of get everything situated,” Moss says. “But we said from the beginning: No matter how much money we end up with at the end of the show, we’re still gonna be firemen. We got into the fire service ’cause we like helping people.”

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