She knows it sounds insane — trying to fix a marriage fractured by separation and infidelity by embarking on a globe-hopping, nationally televised reality TV show.
Though local businesswoman Tina Hunter Greene can't divulge details of her and husband Ken Greene's time on the 13th cycle of CBS's hit travel competition The Amazing Race, the twinkle in her eyes when her partner's name comes up may say it all.
Greene, 49, won't say whether her husband is moving from his California home to Tampa, noting the progression of their relationship is a story line on the show. But she does say that, from the moment they began filling out CBS's 13-page application, she knew their time on The Amazing Race would make or break their reconciliation.
"I learned a lot of things about how Ken looked at me, and how I looked at him that I didn't really know," Greene said. "You either grow to respect and love your partner, or you don't. And that will all be played out on TV."
Crisp and cheery in a fire engine red suit, Greene seems more urbane professional than globe-hopping competitor. But when the opportunity came to apply for the show last November, she suggested to her husband, an ex-professional football player, that they film a video to try for a slot.
"I didn't seek out the Race to save the marriage, but it came at a time that we were at a make-or-break situation," she said.
He was a former player for the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Chargers who migrated to college coaching at Fresno State, Purdue and finally Washington State. She was a well-traveled, hard-charging business owner willing to move from Tampa to Washington state for their marriage about five years ago.
But last year, something happened. A commercial for Race depicts Ken Greene admitting an infidelity, and he resigned as cornerbacks coach for WSU in May 2007.
Tina Greene declined to comment on the specifics of her husband's mistakes or job change. But the two were living in separate cities by the end of 2007 — she in Tampa and he in San Diego, where he was working as a home builder.
Ask whether their stint on Race might be the most expensive marriage counseling ever, she laughs.
"One of the producers said to me, when I was waffling a bit on doing this, 'If you do this race, when you step off the plane, you will know whether you want to be with this man.' "
Still, when friend Mary Ann Massolio heard Greene was competing, she thought her pal was participating in some local version of the CBS hit.
"Once I figured out what she meant, it made perfect sense," said Massolio, executive director of the Children's Cancer Center, which provides counseling, financial assistance and other support to the families of children struggling with cancer.
Now, Greene is chairwoman of the center's board — a volunteer so focused, one of her first questions was how to best promote the group on the show.
"She's very athletic, she's very driven and they have an interesting story," Massolio said. "I thought 'If you want to go public with that, God love you . . . Go for it.' "
To prepare, Greene jogged with 30-pound weights, trained with an ex-officer from MacDill Air Force Base and brainstormed strategies with Ken.
She got sick, notching a fever of 103 degrees, while competing in a 30,000-mile race across five continents in 23 days (CBS revealed the race starts in Brazil, ends on Portland, Ore. and has 11 pit stops total). A $1-million prize and national fame waiting at the end for the winner.
"We get to take the ordinary everyday person . . . and say, 'Here's an experience that even a million dollars couldn't buy,' " host Phil Keogan said in July. Last Sunday, he helped accept the show's record sixth Emmy as best reality TV show.
"What really works is when people come to the show, not because they want to be famous . . . (but) because they want to change their perspective," he said.
"God put this in our lives at this time for a very specific reason," Greene said. "Even though it was extremely tough and I wouldn't like to play out my personal life on national TV, hopefully we'll touch some lives and it might help others."
Eric Deggans' blog, The Feed, is at blogs.tampabay.com/media.