Interview: Bopper discusses his ‘Amazing Race: All-Stars’ medical exit

“The Amazing Race” has had twists that sent teams home before leaving Los Angeles, but no Racer has ever gone less distance than William “Bopper” Minton.

Sunday (February 23) night's “Amazing Race: All-Stars” premiere began with a sad twist for Team Kentucky. 

Bopper, a fan favorite who cheered for partner Mark through an arduous, health-testing Bollywood challenge in their first season, began experiencing internal pain the night before the Race was set to begin, was diagnosed with an inflamed pancreas and was told he shouldn't Race. Instead, Mark was paired, seemingly out of nowhere, with fellow Kentuckian Mallory, making her third appearance on the show, but her first without father Gary.

That's the narrative as presented by “The Amazing Race” on Sunday.

On Monday morning, I talked with Bopper about his medical condition, how he handled it and how the show handled it. Bopper explained his recent perfect storm of catastrophes and his relief that Mark was able to continue without him. He also noted why Mallory was the closest the show could find to another Bopper.

Click through for the full conversation.

HitFix: First off: How are you feeling and how's your health?

William “Bopper” Minton: Buddy, I'm doing good. I'm doing great! Like I told a couple others, I'm kicking like a wild mule and I'd love to go back on that Race again!

HitFix: How hard was it to watch last night's episode, even knowing what was coming?

Bopper: There wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was actually a little harder for me than what I thought it was gonna be. It was pretty rough, having to watch a Race starting without you, knowing that you were just so close to being there, you know, but it just wasn't in the books.

HitFix: Had you guys prepared any differently for this time around?

Bopper: I don't think we'd actually done anything different, which is actually nothing different, except that we just kinda stepped back and looked at what we'd done wrong the first time, which was to really thoroughly, thoroughly read those clues. That was our only plan. Our only plan going into this next Race was to stay more focused and just have more fun with each other this time, really enjoy the Race and just let things come to us as it comes and then we would worry and deal about it then. So that was our only game plan. We thought we're in the health for it, we were in shape for it, you know? You cannot plan the Race, because you do not know what you're gonna be doing, what you're gonna be jumping off of. You don't know. You've just gotta try and have your head on your shoulders right and do the best you can do when the cards are dealt.

HitFix: OK, then. Talk me through how this health problem all went down. How close were you to the start of the Race when you started to feel not-so-good?

Bopper: Actually, the day before we left to go to Los Angeles, I woke up that morning and had a lot of pain in my belly and stuff. So I didn't know what was going on, so I went to the emergency room and they did some bloodwork and an MRI, a CAT Scan and stuff, and they told me that I was having a pancreas attack, that my pancreas was inflamed. I'd never had a pancreas issue in my life. So this was the day before we were going to Los Angeles and they were gonna leave me in the hospital and I wouldn't let 'em and they told me that if I plenty of clear fluids through me, eat a very bland diet, that in two or three days I should be fine. So knowing that, going to Los Angeles, I definitely wasn't gonna be able to jump off a plane to be able to go, so I kinda stayed in motel room for a few nights, just before the Race was starting, and I really wasn't getting any better. So I told Mark that I was gonna have to ask production to let me see the doctor. So we went to the doctor, let him know what went down and what was going on with me. He drew some more blood from me, just gave me another thorough look-over and my pancreas enzyme levels just weren't where he wanted 'em to be and he just didn't feel like that I was capable and should take off and race around the world. That was kinda what happened.

HitFix: I assume this was the kind of thing where you had conversations with the “Amazing Race” producers when you first went to the hospital in Kentucky, right?

Bopper: [Long pause.]  Nnnnnnoooooot exactly. [He laughs.] I was hoping that this would all pass over in just a day or two and was actually hoping I could beat this. So no, I actually didn't call CBS up and tell them that, “Hey, I took a pancreas attack. I'm sick. I can't come to Los Angeles.” No, I was going to Los Angeles. I had to do that for Mark. In my mind, if I would have called CBS up and said, “I'm sick. I don't think I can run this Race,” that'd cut my chances out straight off the bat, I was cut out of the Race. So I went to Los Angeles in hopes that I would get to feeling better in just a day or so and would be able to run a good, strong Race.

HitFix: So what was the first point at which you actually begin conversations with the CBS people?

Bopper: Like I said, it was the day before it was go-time. That night I really, really started having some bad pains and so I told production that I had to see the doctor and just kinda come clean to them about what was going on with me and, like I said, we just kinda went from there. He'd done an exam on me and told me exactly what was going on with my bloodwork and stuff and, like I said, my pancreas enzymes, they were really high. I had an inflamed pancreas at the time and so we just kinda talked about what was going on in my life, what brought this pancreas attack on. Like I said, I'd never dealt with a pancreas issue in my life.

I've had a lot of stress on me, a lot of financial stress and worries. It was Christmas time, I was ready to leave. The morning that I knew that I was leaving, I had to take my little girl, I had to leave her at Shriner's Hospital for them to do surgery on her arm that morning, had to leave her with her mother there. That was another worry on me. It was just the perfect storm that brewed up at the wrong time for me in every direction and it just really hit me. Take you back about a month before the Race, I've always had a minor back issue since I was kid and I started having back pain, so I got over that issue. As soon as I got over the back issue, I started having a problem with a tooth. So I dealt with the tooth and then after that, I kinda started getting an inner-ear infection. So there was three things that hit me. Something was telling me, “Man, you don't need to go and do this Race. It's not gonna happen.” So I put those thoughts out of my mind, I beat those three things and then the day before I leave, the pancreas attack. The perfect storm brewed.

HitFix: And when you were in that room with the doctors, were you having any flashbacks to what happened with Mark's health problems in India on your first Race?

Bopper: Absolutely! I knew what Mark was capable of what Mark wasn't capable of. Me and him really lean on each other a lot, for everyday issues, just like when I spoke with him last night. He called me and he was crying and letting me know how hard it was for him to watch and to relive it again. I just reassured him that I was glad that he was able to go on and do the Race and definitely glad that I didn't knock him out from doing the Race. That's one thing about “The Amazing Race”: What your partner does effects you and what I do effects my partner and they have no say-so in that. So just like my medical condition could have very easily put Mark out and him not with any say-so in it, so that's a big thing that a lot of people don't understand, I don't think, about the Race. You are totally dependent upon your partner's performance and what he can and cannot do.

HitFix: Did you guys know Mallory and Gary at all before this?

Bopper: Oh yeah. Well, I'm not gonna go out and say that we actually know each other person-to-person, but we've met each other a few times and I knew she'd run the Race two times before and so them pairing Mark up with Mallory was a total shock, but when they told me that they were gonna put Mark with an alternate, I had a pretty good gut feeling at it who it was gonna be. I knew it had to be somebody from Kentucky. I knew it had to be somebody with high energy. I knew it had to be somebody that was funny and somebody that could fill my shoes. I knew that they would have to bring Mallory Ervin out. So my guess was right!

HitFix: You started talking about it there, but why do you think Mallory was a good partner or a good match for Mark?

Bopper: Well, nobody can replace Bopper with Mark, but, like I said, when it comes down to it, Mallory was the only choice they had to put with Mark in my shoes. She's so much like me. She's energetic, she's spunky, she's funny, she's not afraid to open her mouth and ask questions. I think they had to pair him up with somebody as close to me that they could, but they had to represent Kentucky. That's what me and Mark is all about, is our home state and our county, so Mallory's a Kentucky girl, so there they go. A perfect double!

HitFix: Since you guys were down on the field at the same time, did you get any chance to talk to her at all?

Bopper: I didn't. Actually, when we were in the doctor's office that night and they told Mark that he could go on and do the Race… He didn't want to! He really felt like he was letting me down and there I was feeling like I was letting him down. Phil and the doctor were giving me the news and we asked who was gonna be the alternate for me and they told us that we would find out in the morning, so that's kinda how that went down. But as we were sitting in the motel that night, me and Mark were talking, and I told Mark, I said, “Everything in me, Mark, is telling me that they're gonna put you with Mallory.” I said, “If you all get put together, you guys are gonna be a hard team for these other guys to deal with.” Like I said, I had a gut feeling at it and be darned if they didn't call her out of the stadium and there she come running to us.

HitFix: If you'd had the opportunity to tell her things about Mark, what would you have told her about how to work best with him?

Bopper: Make sure that you put him behind the wheel as much as possible, be patient with him and tell the taxi driver to slow down sometimes.

HitFix: I appreciate you chatting this morning and I wish you only good health!

Bopper: Brother, I've got one little slogan to say to you: Go book 'em Danno!

Stay tuned for the rest of my “Amazing Race: All-Stars” exit interviews!