Character is not made in a crisis—it is only exhibited.

—Robert Freeman

And how!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is what I have found most interesting while watching the fifteenth season of The Amazing Race:  how humans react under pressure.  When life squeezes you to the nth degree, then whatever you're made of—whatever is truly at your core—rises very quickly to the surface.  And sometimes that's not a pretty picture.

As I have pointed my finger at others this season, of course there have always been three (and a thumb) pointing right back at me.  I've just commented on what I've observed and how I've interpreted each week's events.  But maybe what I haven't blogged about is how it's caused me to ponder my own circumstances and how I would (and do) react when under pressure or caught in unfavorable and uncomfortable situations. 

I know that I lash out, too.  I'm not as kind or compassionate to others as I should be when I am in the grip of a life squeeze.  And I imagine had I been racing through 8 countries in 21 days and traveled more than 25,000 miles that I might have been a little cranky, treated others poorly at times and been short-tempered, too.

But … had I won the $1 million prize … now that would have been a different story, right? 

So let's get to it.  Who did win in last night's finale?  Well, don't hold your breath any longer, ‘cause you've probably already guessed it.  It's the team who was consistent and kept the bar high, week after week after week.  Yes, Team All American (Meghan and Cheyne) were the first to cross the finish line in the last leg of The Amazing Race 15.

But during the final episode, it really was anyone's race to win.  And challenge to challenge, we were all kept wondering what the outcome would be.  Here's a mini rundown of what happened:

• VIVA LAS VEGAS … In Prague, Czech Republic, where teams finished last week's leg, this week's first clue pointed to Las Vegas, Nevada.  All teams were on the same flight from Europe back to the States, and once there, teams had to travel to the Graceland Wedding Chapel where "Elvis" handed them their next clue.  All teams arrived at the same time, heard a little "'Amazin' Grace," got the next clue and then scurried back out the chapel doors to their waiting taxis.

 CLIMBING MT. MANDALAY … Next up:  "Make your way to Mandalay Bay."  Or, in other words, "Who's ready to climb down a mountain?"  Yikes!  Teams had to rappel face-first 600 feet down the side of the Mandalay Resort hotel/casino building.  Yep.  And you'll never guess who came in first in this challenge.  Ericka from Team Jungle Fever!  Unbelievable.  But this team's too-good-to-be-true lead didn't last for long …

• IT'S ALL AN ILLUSION … After the rappelling challenge, the next clue said:  "This desert has only one mirage.  Go to it."  Teams figured out they should go to the Mirage hotel, and once there, the next clue instructed them to "join the cast of 'Love.'"  As in the Cirque du Soleil show.  One team member was hoisted in the air via bungee cords while the other stood on the ground and catapulted him or her through the air in efforts to swipe a flower bouquet that was hanging from the rafters.  And this is where Ericka had her biggest meltdown of the entire season.  To call it a temper tantrum would be putting it mildly.  Cursing, accusing, screaming, kicking her feet and lashing out at husband/teammate Brian … well, this was not her finest hour.  And unfortunately, her outburst-ing and lack of focus allowed Team All American to get back into the lead.  (Team Bro also bickered a little during this challenge, but were able to get it together and pass up Team Jungle Fever.)

 THE CHIPS ARE IN … MONTE CARLO … The next clue directed teams to figure out "what's the most famous casino in the country of Monaco."  Teams had to decipher that it was Monte Carlo.  This challenge was a nail-biter as Team All American did not know that it was Monte Carlo and wasted precious time on other hotels (The Venetian, The Bellagio) before figuring out that they should be headed toward the Monte Carlo hotel.  Meanwhile Team Bro arrived at Monte Carlo first, followed by Team Jungle Fever.  The next clue directed teams to "count $1 million worth of poker chips."  Each table was covered with a sea of 8,400 chips (in various denominations).  When they thought they were finished counting, a dealer then verified the amount.  If they counted correctly, teams were handed a special chip and their next clue.  In the end, the calm, cool and collected teamwork of Team All American (who showed up last to count their chips, by the way) allowed them to finish first, regain the lead (again) and move on to the next challenge. 

 A NIP-TUCKED MR. LAS VEGAS … Wow.  Times, and Wayne Newton, sure haven't changed.  Teams received their next clue to "make their way to Suite 88 at the MGM Grand Hotel."  There, teams found "Mr. Las Vegas" himself (a creaseless Wayne Newton) tickling the ivories in a high-roller suite.  He then informed teams that they had to find his Las Vegas home which was the location of the finish line.  And that was all he said.  So that was all that team's got for their final clue.

 GOING ALL IN FOR A BIG FINISH … Teams "lucked" out as apparently Newton's home is a regular Las Vegas tourist attraction, so every cabbie knew exactly where to take the Amazing Race-rs.  But what they didn't know was which entrance was the right one.  Since the home is really a ranch with lots of acreage, it took Team All American just a little bit of extra time before they figured out the right entrance and Chariots-of-Fire'd their way to the finish line.

Upon reaching the check-in mat, Meghan and Cheyne threw their arms around host Phil Keoghan before offering some final comments: 

Meghan:  "This is absolutely a dream come true.  I couldn't have imagined a better race.  I've learned so much about Cheyne.  He's just such a good friend and such a good person.  I know he's always going to be there for me throughout my entire life."

Cheyne:  "[Meghan] was one of the strongest competitors in the whole race, even compared to the guys … The whole experience in itself was life-changing, and the money is not even as important as what we got to do together.  It was the perfect race.  It could not have been any better."   

Sam & Dan then arrived and clocked in in second place:

Dan:  "We're completely happy to be here, and we wanted to share our story.  We wanted to not let our family down just by being who we were.  But we just wanted to come out and do this race and finish this race and that's what we did." 

Sam:  "We bicker and we pick at each other, but we know it's not going to matter.  At the end of the day, we're still brothers, we still love each other, we still want to hang out the next day.  You know you have a great family whenever you look up to your younger brother, and I just love him so much and respect the person that he is." 

Rounding it out, Brian and Ericka finished in third place.  And in an ironic final set of comments regarding character, Ericka discussed her family's issues with Brian being white and marrying into a black family and how she hoped this experience would change their feelings toward him: 

Ericka:  "I think they're going to see some things in Brian that they've never had an opportunity to see before, and I hope that they fully accept him for who he is.  I think it's really important that people step back and evaluate the character of a person as opposed to what's face value, what's on the exterior and he's nothing in comparison to who that person really is. 

Well said, Ericka.  Well said.  May we all learn from this example.  And may we take time to evaluate character in others, as we make sure our own lives are rooted in that which is solid and remains unchanged—despite the detours, road blocks or speed bumps that come our way in the amazing race of life (Hebrews 12:1).


For additional coverage of Meghan's and Cheyne's win on The Amazing Race 15, please visit here or here.


STAY TUNED …

The sixteenth season of the amazing race is slated to premiere on cbs sometime in the first quarter of 2010.  So keep it simply amazing and keep yourself ready for the next season of The Amazing Race.  See you soon!