Amazing Race couple chooses integrity over $1 million prize

CLINTON, Tenn. (BP)--Would you do anything to win $1 million?

That's a question Hope and Norm Davis had to answer.

The Davises were one of 11 two-member teams who participated in "The Amazing Race 2," a reality television program that aired March 11 on CBS and drew an estimated 12 million viewers.

In the program, teams are in a race to get from one destination to another using clues they obtain along the way. During each episode a team is eliminated. Over the course of the show the race totaled 52,000 miles in 28 days.

The Davises were introduced to the show by Hope's mother, Liz Lee, children's ministry specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Hope's dad, Tom, is a retired pastor and former LifeWay Christian Resources staff member.

Her mother also encouraged them to try out for the show, Hope recalled. Through friends, they knew Tina Wesson of Knoxville who was the winner of the "Survivor" Outback series last fall. She suggested they audition for the show and through her contacts found out whom they needed to talk with. One thing led to another. The Davises put together an audition tape, shot by their sons, Jared, 12, and Josh, 8, and after a series of whirlwind interviews, paperwork, and shots, the couple was chosen for the show.

They had to do it all in secrecy with only their parents, who kept the kids while they were gone, and their employers knowing the real reason behind their month-long absence.

The Davises went with the attitude of it being a "win-win" situation regardless of the outcome, the couple agreed.

For the Davises, deciding between the $1 million or keeping their integrity and value system in tact, really was no choice.

"We knew that our boys would be watching the show," Hope said.

Because of that and other factors, the Davises could not bring themselves to depart from the Christian values and morals that are part of their everyday life. As a result, they were eliminated in the second episode that aired March 13.

Acknowledging that some of the teams in "The Amazing Race 2" bent the rules and didn't try to help each other, the Davises refused to sacrifice their principles.

"We didn't want to send conflicting messages [to their sons Jared and John Luke] that in some cases it is OK to cheat and lie," the couple agreed. That simply was not an option, they added.

The couple said they put into practice what they had learned all their life -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

"We really believe that and try to live that way," Norm Davis said.

The couple paid for their honesty. They were "laughed at" and despite helping other teams along the way, were not given help when they needed it. They also refused to "stretch" or bend the rules which many of the other teams had no trouble doing. "Everyone says we were too nice," the Davises laughed.

In one instance during the initial episode, they helped a team who had run out of money by allowing them to ride on their boat to get to a destination. "They basically stayed in the race because we helped them," Hope said.

But in the next leg of the race, that same couple refused to share a map with the Davises, forgetting they would not have been able to continue without their help on the first leg of the race, the couple related.

Hope noted that some of the team members would tell them, "Any other time we would be like you."

The couple is convinced that if the rules which were established by the show's producers had been enforced, they could have won the race.

"We were penalized for playing by the rules," the couple agreed.

Yet, they would not have done it any other way. "I'm proud of how we appeared on TV," Hope said. "To compromise just to stay longer would not have been worth it," she added.

"We saw how it would go, but we would not bend our principles," Norm said.

And, though the other teams made fun of them for playing by the rules, the Davises did earn the respect of the crew and other cast members.

"Everyone in the crew and cast expressed gratitude for our friendliness," Hope said. "They called it 'that Southern hospitality.' We were the grounding for the whole group. We did not let the show change us," she added.

The couple's attitude did not go unnoticed by viewers of the show. After the first episode, the Davises were selected as the most popular team by viewers on an Internet popularity poll. The couple also said CBS told them they received a lot of e-mails praising them for their honesty.

The couple noted that the show's producers focused more attention on the teams who bickered with each other, used profanity, or exhibited some type of deviant behavior. The network and producers wanted to show interpersonal, deviant behavior, Norm related.

Noting they received little media coverage, Hope laughed, "We were boring TV."

"We went for the adventure and the memories, and we certainly have that," her husband noted.

He is working on an idea to have the casts of "The Amazing Race" and "Survivor" to meet in East Tennessee for an outdoor competition. "We think it would be really good for Tennessee and we would want it to raise money for charity," Norm said.

(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at Photo title: NORM AND HOPE DAVIS.

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