Alum Snags 1st in Reality Show Race

Most people would find it difficult to hide a life-changing secret from their mothers, but B.J. Averell ’02 is no ordinary person. For months, he managed to prevent his mom—as well as friends and millions of viewers—from finding out that he had won CBS’s “The Amazing Race 9,” a fact revealed on Wednesday night’s season finale.

Averell visited his parents in New Jersey last week and found himself battered by maternal speculation.

“She kept asking me, ‘Why are you back on the East Coast?’” Averell recounted. “‘You wouldn’t be here unless you got eliminated!’ The more and more I denied it, the more she thought I was eliminated.”

Unbeknownst to his mother Betty, Averell had successfully completed 13 episodes worth of international travel challenges alongside his teammate and best friend, Tyler Macniven. In reward for their victory on the hit reality TV series, both men have received $500,000.

Averell, known in his time at Harvard for wild improvisational comedy shows and ostentatious behavior, said it was difficult to keep the secret from inquiring acquaintances since the conclusion of filming in December.

In the show’s final installment, “Team Hippie”—as co-stars and fans tagged Averell and Macniven for their bohemian outfits and lighthearted attitude—traveled from Japan to Alaska, where they raced to drill ice-fishing holes, and finally arrived in Denver, Colo., where they had to arrange a set of national flags in the order in which they had visited the countries.

On Wednesday night, Betty Averell joined her son, all his fellow contestants, and a select group of his friends for a viewing party in a New York bar. John P. Blickstead ’06, Averell’s friend and fellow Hasty Pudding Theatricals (HPT) member, was there and said the atmosphere was “euphoric” during the final moments.

“There was crying and screaming. My mom was standing on a chair,” Averell said of the night. “I think it was actually more emotional than when we won in real life.”

Meanwhile, students on campus were also celebrating. Roughly 20 HPT members had gathered to watch the show, as they had done every week before.

“I think we expected them to come in second place,” said Shira R. Brettman ’07. “But when we saw the final challenge, and it was placing flags, we knew they were the smartest.”

Immediately after the airing, Averell rushed to a CBS-sponsored “convention” for fans of the show.

“You walk in there, and it’s like being Tom Cruise in China,” he said. “Everyone wants a picture and an autograph—if not more.”

A sore-throated Averell told The Crimson that he still felt “out of control” and “a little bit exhausted” last night.

Yesterday morning, he and Macniven appeared on CBS’s “The Early Show” and “Regis and Kelly,” filmed a segment for the CBS website, and spoke with national reporters.

Averell said he is now in negotiations with an unnamed network to create a travel show staring the duo and also hopes for a live-action remake of 1980s cartoon series “DuckTales,” starring Averell as Scrooge McDuck.

As for the money, Averell said he’ll defer to others for ideas.

“Having many Harvard friends in the financial world, I’m looking for advice on how to use it wisely,” he said.

Averell’s roommate, Jon Eirich, said in an e-mail that friends and fans of Averell should expect the unexpected.

“What he should do, is not spend any of [the money],” Eirich said, “find the old air mattress he had been sleeping on, and then stuff it with all 500,000 singles. He could hoard it and become a Howard Hughes-esque recluse, though with his hair and beard, I’m not sure we’d really notice the change.”

—Staff writer Abe J. Riesman can be reached at riesman@fas.harvard.edu.