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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Amazing Race: A LACK OF INTEGRITY?

No pictures for this entry. I really don't have anything which is representative, but even if one of my tens of thousands of archived photographs were suited to the occasion I wouldn't use it. I don't want anything to detract from what I am about to say.

Regular readers by now know that I am a strong supporter of Phil Keoghan's NO OPPORTUNITY WASTED philosophy. In fact, I've written very specific pages on my blog, and have a NOW page on my photographic website. It made a big impact on my wife and me when we read it a number of years ago.

Likewise, we are terrific fans of the CBS television series THE AMAZING RACE, hosted by, you guessed it, Mr. Keoghan.

I write this particular blog entry on the morning after an episode which left me stunned with the ethical lapses of four of the show's contestants. Worse, it appears, at least initially, that the show and host have no interest in punishing the contestants for their fraud.

A bit of setting is in order: 

Seven teams have successfully crossed half the globe to arrive in Bangladesh, a poor but proud nation in Southeast Asia. On the morning of the day in question, all the teams awake and are given instructions to proceed to a specific travel agency and make arrangements to fly to Istanbul. The lead team -- identified by many as "Team Rockers" -- arrived and were making arrangements. The second and third teams arrived. At some point during the stop, money fell out of Team Rockers' pockets. $100. (Each team is given a specific allotment of cash for food and incidentals, including taxi trips.)

While Team Rocker was occupied with their arrangements, another team, the so-called Team Twins (two sisters from Sri Lanka) found the wad of cash on the ground. They took the money and palmed it. When they realized they'd been seen by another team, they promptly offered to share the cash in order to avoid detection. To my amazement, no one took exception to the move. Team Rocker, when they discovered they had lost the cash, were forced to go out onto this impoverished nations' streets to beg for money. The reaction and generosity of the Bangladeshis puts many other cultures to shame. Soon Team Rocker was back on the road, finishing third for the round (after two successive firsts).

When Team Twins arrived at the pit stop at the end of this leg of the race, they were greeted by a smiling and seemingly oblivious Phil Keoghan. This startled me, because TAR (THE AMAZING RACE) normally boasts stellar communications of racings stats and actions. Then, this morning, I learned that "picking up money you find is not against the rules".

This is where I find myself angry.

First, a wad of American dollars in a travel agency catering to the American racers (all of whom are in the room when the money is taken), is NOT found money. It clearly belongs to someone else in the room. Pocketing it, under the circumstances, is an outright theft. Outright theft is illegal in most countries, and it would be interesting to note what the Bangladeshi authorities might have made of the legality of the Race's rules. One has to assume there are entries in the rules which specify that the contestants must adhere to local laws and customs., even if the rules themselves don't specify the laws.

(For example: in creating the rulebook, the program likely didn't feel it necessary to state that murder is against the rules, however anyone committing such a crime would certainly be in a lot of trouble. Particularly since it's on camera.)

Needless to say, I have suffered quite a loss of respect for Phil -- a man I held in extremely high regard as both a traveler and for the NOW philosophy which has had such a profound impact on my life. From all appearances, the show's producers and Mr. Keoghan are in the extreme minority for defending this as not against the rules. The CBS website, as well as Facebook and Twitter are nearly 100% against the theft and the lack of consequences. For years they have cultivated a reputation for quality work, for spectacular planning and execution, and for insisting upon a certain level of integrity amongst the contestants -- including previous punishment of deliberate attempts to trip up other teams through underhanded means.

It will be interesting to see the effects of the blowback. A loss of trust and integrity could prove fatal for the show, and could seriously damage everyone's reputation, with the exception of the admirable James and  Abba (Team Rocker). They have had more than a fair share of personal challenges and setbacks -- and from the previews there are more to come -- but they race with integrity, enthusiasm and heart.

As a travel enthusiast, I am deeply, deeply disappointed by Keoghan;'s  Tweet and the response from the producers in general. They have done themselves a grave disservice, and reduced the show's integrity by a substantial margin. Only time will tell if they make things right.

Poor job, guys. Very poor.

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