HitFix Interview: Marcus & Amani talk ‘The Amazing Race’

In his 13-year NFL career, Marcus Pollard had 40 touchdown receptions and made the postseason with the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons. 
Pollard never made it to the Super Bowl, though, a fact he mentioned this season on “The Amazing Race,” as he and wife Amani made it all the way to Sunday (December 11) night’s finale.
Marcus & Amani came up short on “The Amazing Race,” finishing third after a  series of flight simulator miscues left them unable to make up enough time in Atlanta. Even in defeat, Marcus & Amani were one of this season’s most popular pairs, earning a reputation as the Comeback Kids, surviving a Non-Elimination Leg and several other close calls to make it all the way to the last Pit Stop.
Marcus’ irrepressible enthusiasm and love for sports metaphors, and Amani’s boundless patience with Marcus’ enthusiasm and sports metaphors made then fan favorites in a Race they often said they were running to set a positive and enriching example for their four children.
Click through for my “Amazing Race” exit interview with Marcus & Amani (and check back over the next couple days for the season’s last two exit interviews)…
HitFix: So how hard was it watching and reliving the flight simulator challenge again?
Marcus Pollard: I was frustrated all over again. All the anxiety and all of the disappointment came rushing back. So it was tough watching it, tough sitting there with Amani and the kids watching it. It wasn’t fun.
HitFix: Have you gained any sort of introspection on what was making it so difficult for you, Marcus?
Marcus: I think the thing that I’ve been trying to relate it to is that it felt like… I’m 6’5″, 255 pound and it was like I was driving a small car with the seat pulled all the way to the front and that’s kinda how the simulator was. So it’s not to make any excuses about the simulator size and the seats and the pedals, but… I think my biggest fear is flying and the flight simulator is so real that it actually felt like I was flying the plane and it really made me nervous and I had to calm myself. 
HitFix: Amani, what was it like for you sitting there and having to watch Marcus struggle like that?
Amani: Well, what guess I take from it is that both of us couldn’t be frustrated at the same time and it was a very frustrating situation, but however I do it, I don’t know, but I remain calm. Usually in really tense situations, we work well together and that’s an example. When he was going through it, I kinda knew that he needed space and that really he needed encouragement, but to see him so frustrated about it? You know, it was hard for me. But I also know the type of people we are and that flying is a fear of his. Or I don’t know if it’s a “fear” of his, but it’s something he doesn’t necessarily do well with and he doesn’t enjoy when we have to fly. So for him to try to take hold of his fear and grasp it, so I was trying to give him that and he did well with it. I don’t care if it took 100 times and we were sitting there. You weren’t going to see me any different than I was the times that the camera shot us and what you saw.
HitFix: You two seemed amazingly even-tempered and in-synch throughout the entire Race. Did you guys anticipate that that would be the case? Or was it a surprise how well you worked together?
Amani: It’s what we hoped. It’s how we are at home. We have four kids and we do the family stuff together and it’s teamwork, every day of our marriage, really. But when you’re on the Race, it takes you out of your comfort zone. You’re in a whole new element, you know? Everything is unfamiliar, so our hope was that the people we think we are were the people we really were on the show. I think it was refreshing to see that being on the show and having the cameras and people and not eating and the sleep deprivation and all of those things that come with it, never changed our marriage and didn’t change the people that we were. It just really drew us closer.
Marcus: Yeah, I wasn’t surprised with the way we responded when we were with one another. Although the adversity at the house is oddly different than the adversity we faced on the Race, I wasn’t surprised. We have a great relationship at home and I wouldn’t think it’d be any different being on the Race and the fact that we were so cordial and cooperating with one another, says a lot about our relationship.
HitFix: On the Race, you talked a lot about how you were doing this for your kids. How have they reacted to watching episodes with you guys at home?
Amani: It has been so awesome. I don’t know which is more fun, the fact that we got the opportunity to do the Race and watching it, or watching it with the kids. We’ve been jumping off the furniture screaming and hanging from chandeliers. It’s been a blast watching it with them and just to see how much they’re really taking in and learning from watching the Race. I think it’s been an excellent experience. Last night was a little hard for them and they were a little sad, but again at the end, what we said really brought it home for them and it totally changed their attitude from being sad to really just being excited that “Wow, Mom and Dad did that.” They said, “You did that! We’re proud of you.” And that’s just so awesome to know that you’re not gonna win at everything — You’re not! — but don’t you quit. That’s what we want them to know: Don’t you quit.
HitFix: Other than that “Don’t You Quit” lesson, what else have you been able to teach them as the Race has been going along?
Amani: Well, an example: We’ve always done adopting families and children for Christmas. So this year, we’ve talked to them. Now that we’ve seen outside of our box — Everybody has a box and some people’s box is really small and some people’s is really big — but for the kids to see the world and do “The Amazing Race” and see things that they’ve never really been exposed to — our children haven’t really done international travel before — so this Christmas, instead of… They wanted to get farm animals and things like that, but what we agreed to do as a familiar is instead of us getting these animals, we decided to buy them and we’ll give them to families in foreign countries. We bought goats and donkeys and we bought bicycles and they’re really excited about doing that for Christmas. And to see how giving our kids have been with that — because they really wanted animals and they really wanted some of these things — and for them to say, “No, Mom. We want to help other families.” On their own. That was awesome. It’s something that I was very was implemented into them.
HitFix: Going back to last week’s episode, all of the teams were excited and relieved when the Snowboarders went out in Panama. What was it like racing and always having that one dominating team in front of you?
Marcus: Well, I just have to think about how dominating they were. They won six Legs and combined, myself and Amani, Jeremy & Sandy and Ernie & Cindy, we only won five Legs. Those guys won six. So to me, I felt like we stood a better chance with those guys not in the finale. I think it was more of an even playing field. Although Cindy & Ernie prevailed, I still thought we had a chance of winning and to have the Snowboarders out of it gave all of us a better opportunity.
Amani: Leading up to that point, though, because of how great they were, you cannot anything away from them and what we have to do is give them kudos 50,000-times over, because they drove you to be better, because you knew you had to beat the Snowboarders, you had to beat the boys, you had to beat them. You knew they were tough competition and to never count them out, so we’re fans of Andy and Tommy, 100 percent. They are great guys and it was awesome to see them do so well and it was bad to see them go, but it was one of those things where the giant had to fall for us to be able to have an even playing field.
HitFix: You guys had a couple big breaks that went your way during the Race, including a Non-Elimination Leg and the helpful cab driver in Panama City. How do you guys look at those moments of serendipity or luck?

Amani: You know, I’ve heard a lot about the cab driver in Panama City and granted that that was luck, on the same token, what some people discount is that it also played against us too. When we were supposed to be going to the fish market [on the Detour] our cab driver took us to where everybody else was and that cost us plenty of time. We could have had extra time in Panama trying to figure out the clue had our taxi driver taken us where we were supposed to have been, initially, and not taken us to the shoe Detour. So that hurt us in that sense, too. And the Non-Elimination Leg in Malawi, that was just an blessing, because that was an awful day. We raced and we raced and we put our best foot forward and then we got behind and parade and low and behold they blocked off the whole street and you can’t get around the doggone parade, but then Marcus knocked out the bales of tobacco fairly well. Oh and our taxi cab breaking down. That kinda stunk. We hit some rough spots, so it was just refreshing that that was a Non-Elimination Pit Stop for us.
HitFix: So you look at it like the lucky moments and the unlucky moments even out over the course of the Race?
Amani: Yeah, I think so. Or I think they did for us.
HitFix: Marcus, do the sports metaphors become more prevalent when you’re under stress?
Marcus: I don’t think so. I’ve been asked that question several times. But in everyday conversations, I don’t talk sports. I barely watch sports. I think it was just situations where I made comparisons for the average viewer who may watch football, who may be new to situations that came up in the Race, and I related them to football. That’s what the commentators do on sports talk shows and so I just found a way to relate the material to what I was dealing with. Somebody who may not know about the Race may be fans of mine and the reason they were watching the show was to relate it that way. I don’t talk like that every day, though, and like I said, I barely even watch sports.
HitFix: Does that sound right, Amani?
Amani: You know what? If you don’t know Marcus played football, if you’re just around us, you’d have no clue. We don’t talk about football. The NFL is such a small part of who we are and I’m glad that in the Race, you were really able to see the kind of people we are. Granted that it sounded like he talked a lot about football, but I promise you, we hardly talk about sports in our house. Hardly ever.
HitFix: Could each of you give me a favorite Race experience that we didn’t get to see on TV?
Amani: I think for me, and this is again the type of people we are, but it wasn’t was when we were riding bicycles through the village, in Malawi, and the children out there were waving at us and the people… For us, it was really the interaction we got to have with the kids, because it was a touch of our kids, and just how excited they were to see us and we were just that excited to see them. So for me, it was really the people, all around the world. Even if it was just a simple “Hello,” that was awesome. How about you, baby?
Marcus: I have a hard time remembering everything that happened on the show, but I think that being in, I think Thailand, and seeing all of those people riding on top of the train was surreal for me, because to think that transportation is that vital, that that many people have to get on top of a train just to get where they’re going, makes you just stop and realize the importance of having what we have in the United States. We’re privileged to have cars and bicycles and taxis and ways of transportation to get from Point A to Point B without being packed on and on top of a train to get where you’re going.
HitFix: You guys were a very popular team. If you got the opportunity to do another “Amazing Race” season, would you do it?
Marcus: I don’t know. We’ve been asked that question all day and I don’t know if we would be All-Stars.
Amani: If we’d make the cut.
Marcus: Yeah, to be All-Stars. But if it did, we’d evaluate that as it came. We’d evaluate it and go from there, because 35 days away from my kids was pretty tough, but if All-Stars came around, they’d be older and I’d probably be less stressed out about it. If it came up, we’d talk about it. 
Amani: That’s such a huge honor. How fun. And what a neat experience it really has been for us and our kids and our families and family and our friends. It’s just been awesome. And just to see the support we’ve had from viewers of the show has been awesome. It has been. It’s been really nice to know that we’ve touched as many people as we have. That was a plan of ours going into the show, that if nothing else, we inspired somebody and we encouraged somebody. And based on the feedback we’ve been getting, I think we’ve done that. That to me, that’s even made the [bodybuilding] bikini worth it, if you believe that.