Friday, May 06, 2005

Countdown to TARCon: The Basics

Four days. That's how long it will be before the finale of The Amazing Race. And with the end of another season comes perhaps the greatest fusion of reality television and fans.

It began in 2001. A few forum posters from Mighty Big TV (now known as Television Without Pity) wanted to hold a get-together for the first season's finale. It quickly mushroomed into a huge shindig, as many of the contestants stopped by after the show aired. This was an early indication of the fusion between the site and the show. It also helps that there's never a live finale or reunion.

I came in at TARCon 2 in May 2002. After hearing the raves about the show and the 'con, I wanted to see what the fuss was about. It took awhile for me to get through the door, since I was kinda shy. But I'm glad that I came over for what I call the best finale in the show's history. We saw Tara & Wil snipe at each other and suffer various mishaps, as well as Chris & Alex's come-from-behind victory, outrunning Tara & Wil in the home stretch. We got surprised by a mid-episode visit from Brennan Swain (TAR1's co-winner), Kevin O'Connor & Drew Feinberg (the lovable Frats from that season), and Oswald Mendez & Danny Jiminez (TAR2 fan faves, aka Team Cha Cha Cha). And I got to see Paige Mycoskie's outfit, which was like an S&M ballerina. All in all, I had a good time, and I've gone every year since.

TARCon has grown over the years, from the cramped bar known as Proof of TARCon 3 (made worse by friggin' Flo winning half a million bucks) to the Play by Play at Madison Square Garden, which will host the third TARCon in the span of nine months. For some fans, it's a pilgrimage to reality mecca, to see the finale the way it was meant to be seen. I consider myself fortunate that I live on Staten Island, which is a ferry ride away from the city. In fact, the Play by Play isn't the only place with a TARCon; celebrations will be held in Cleveland, Minneapolis, San Diego and Santa Monica this Tuesday.

"Jason," you might be asking, "what's the big honking deal about TARCon?" I got three reasons why you should go, whether it's this Tuesday or after the next season:

1. You Get To Meet Other Fans

A cab attendant shooting Tara & Wil down. Flo whining about floating on a basket. Kim discovering that the flight of the other two teams is about to be delayed. Kris unlocking her lock on the Roadblock. Remember how thrilled or angered you got watching that? Now...imagine that multiplied by a few hundred. That's the fun. You can shout at the TVs. You can high five the fans when something good happens (I try to hold back, so as not to break somebody's wrist). As cheesy as it sounds, it's like you become part of the Race. Back when Wil was running to the finish line and Tara was flagging far behind him, we were the ones who pushed Chris & Alex past the both of them. It's true. Screaming "Go! Go! Go!" helped a lot. Yeah, you can do the same thing at home, but that's never fun.

2. You Get To Meet Racers

Before I continue, I must tack on a disclaimer. This is never a guarantee that anybody from the show will stop by. That said...they do come over. For TARCon 6, nine of the eleven teams dropped by...from local boys Avi & Joe (aka "New York Jews in Iceland") to lovable runners-up Kris & Jon, to the almost universally reviled Jonathan & Victoria. It's kind of surreal to have folks from TV that up close, where you can touch them. In case you're wondering: no, there's never been any violence at a TARCon. It's Highlander rules: the Con is holy ground, so there's no beheadings. For the most part, the Racers can take jabs at their characters. I was impressed that Colin Guinn could come to TARCon 5, especially with fans wearing at least a half dozen variations of t-shirts, all to the tune of "My Ox Is Broken!" I remember Brandon Davidson going up the escalator, showing partner/girlfriend Nicole O'Brien a "Will Shave Heads For Drinks" button, a reference to their refusing to get shaved for a Fast Forward.

The arrivals are a big event. Aside from seeing the world and winning money, making an appearance at TARCon is the best reason to get on the show. You will have people loving you, big-time. People will take pictures with you. They will talk you up and down, all night. Past Racers also stop by. You should have seen me go gaga when John Vito & Jill walked up the stairs in TARCon 5, even though I've seen them twice before. Heck, some celebs who stop by aren't even Racers. I've met folks from Mole 2 on several occasions, which always warms my heart. Survivor has been in the house ever since Mitchell Olsen came to TARCon 2 (yeah, dude is HUGE). In TARCon 5, a few folks from Survivor: Thailand came over...including Shii Ann Huang, my favorite amongst the All-Stars season. That's probably the best reason why Rob & Amber are on TAR7...for the hope that the "Shii Devil" comes over with them. Hey, she did win Amber her first million bucks.

3. You Get To Meet Me

I am not an egomaniac. But still...when I go to TARCon, people are happy to see me. Some know me through my posts on the forums. Some remember my entries in the Pixel Challenge. Heck, some connect "Lantern7" to "Jason Borelli," and praise me for my recaps. In fact, when I sat down for TARCon 5, I shared a table with somebody well-versed in the Challenge. It wasn't perfect, though...the guy called me a "Melissa apologist." Like that's a bad thing? Seriously, it's a little mind-blowing to me that I have fans. I plan on bringing some index cards over, so I can direct them to this blog.

So now you know about TARCon. I'll be writing a few more columns about TARCon before Tuesday, but you have the big picture. And if you're coming over, give me a holler. I hope we can all have fun on Tuesday....that, and Uchenna & Joyce win the Race.

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