Tampa's Tina Greene and husband Ken make the finals of The Amazing Race
By the time I met Ken Greene Sunday night -- jammed next to him in a booth at a St. Petersburg barbecue joint watching he and wife Tina compete on CBS's unscripted travel contest The Amazing Race -- my biggest question already seemed to have an answer.
I'd already written a story about how Tina said they'd entered the competition to save their marriage. The former NFL player and college football coach couldn't say much on that score Sunday, fearing he might give away something important in the show's finale, scheduled next week.
But it seemed obvious from the way he looked at Tina, leading a fundraiser for a new church their son is establishing in St. Petersburg, that things seem to be clicking between the two. The fact that he was in town -- officially, he still lives in San Diego and Tina lives in Tampa -- was a signal that their plan may have worked out as expected.
"All the other teams in the race, there were very few dealing with the issues we were tackling," said Ken, who comes off as affable and relaxed in person as he often appears on camera. "It put additional stress and strain on Tina and I. But I saw things in her that I didn't realize were there and she saw the same with me. It's been an incredible experience -- the hardest thing I've ever done, including NFL training camp."
Sunday's episode revealed that Tina and Ken would be among three pairs of contestants vying for a $1-million grand prize in the contest's finale Sunday, Dec. 7. Working together, the couple have scooted past eight other teams to land in the show's finale, standing out as the oldest pair left standing (according to CBS, Ken is 51 and Tina is 48).
On Sunday, Tina and Ken appeared at the Butler Barbecue Restaurant to help raise funds for son John's Focal Point Church, a ministry he's organizing in St. Petersburg. Watching the show sitting next to the couple was surprisingly suspenseful -- even their son didn't know how the episode would end, and the pair seemed in danger of expulsion right up to the final minutes.
And the pair dished some behind-the-scenes info about the night's episode and past events, including:
-- Like many reality TV contestants, Tina believes the show's producers have moved around her quotes and edited scenes to make her look more critical of Ken than she is. Sunday's episode featured Tina batting Ken's hand away as he attempted to point something out; later, Ken noted ruefully "Tina feels like she's always right."
-- Sometimes, the race action is affected by issues that aren't shown on camera. In Sunday's episode, the teams must gather their first clue from an actor on a Russian submarine. But Tina noted, that when she and Ken arrived at the boat, the tourist attraction wasn't yet open. When it was opened three hours later, all the other teams had caught up to them, eliminating their advantage.
--- The difference between winning and elimination in the race is often a good cab driver. In Sunday's episode, Tina and Ken lucked out early by getting a Russian cab driver who had a GPS system, making it easy to find the obscure landmarks where clues were hidden. Tina didn't realize until she saw a preview of tonight's episode last week, but they lost that cab driver when another team noticed the GPS system and jumped in the cab while heading to another clue.
--- Cabs aren't so easy to catch in foreign countries. Though editing makes it seems as if the racers run out of one area and grab a cab in minutes, it can take a half hour or longer to flag down a ride, even in areas that seem to be filled with tourists and travelers.
--- Even the other teams competing in the race didn't know Ken and Tina were starting with their marriage under strain; the couple didn't tell anyone, to keep their rivals from using the issue to their advantage. "A lot of my family and lot of my friends, people who work for me, didn't know I was separated," she told the crowd. "Each week, it's tough to watch."
"To me, it was not a lot of fun," Ken told the crowd before the show started, noting that he got worried when the race started at the Los Angeles Coliseum, because he'd never won a game as a player or a coach there. "It was an incredible experience, but it was work . . . you were on the go all the time."
"It takes over your life," Tina said, just after Ken joked that she had dreams about being in the thick of the competition weeks after the race had ended. "It was the first time in our lives that we have been away from family and friends and work. No computers. No e-mail. no outside contact. It just . . . it takes over your being and it's all about the race and your relationship with your partners. It's intense."