Bachelor writes his TV obituary
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Ben Sands -
11/30/2004 23:08 MST
Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of columns that Ben Sands is writing for the Aspen Daily News. He had been competing for Jen Schefft's affections on the reality television program "The Bachelorette," which airs tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC. At the end of the column, is a brief question-and-answer segment conducted by Associate Editor Troy Hooper who reviews the final episode.
"It's not the critic who counts. ... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood."
I had been reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt throughout the filming of the show and, as I stood and silently toed the patterned rug in front of me, Roosevelt's words echoed in my head. Well, clearly we were in the arena (perhaps a bit more carefully appointed than the Coliseum but an arena nonetheless), and the blood was about to spill.
The night before, our arena had been the deserted, early-morning streets of Manhattan. A race to the top of the Empire State Building: A beautiful woman and romantic date awaited the first man to the top. A little cliché to be sure, but we were all ready for some healthy competition.
One-on-one dates, "connection," "chemistry" -- none of that mattered as Wendell, John Paul and I tore down the streets of Little Italy looking for the nearest cab. Both a romantic and an optimist, I had no doubt that I could talk my way into a free ride uptown. As the first cab pulled up, however, I immediately realized the difficulty of the task at hand: I wasn't dealing with the staff of Mountain Taxi. My story was going to have to resonate on an emotional level, while at the same time crossing cultural barriers. I was not only going to have to communicate my plight, but I was also going to have to explain why a guy from the Eastern Bloc should care. Two cabs later I finally got it right and heard (miraculously, it seemed) the glorious "OK, get in." We piled in: A camera guy, producer, sound guy and the naive 26-year-old ski instructor from Aspen, Colorado -- on our way to see how this extraordinary adventure would play out.
For a mere $30,000 you can rent the Empire State Building for a night so, with the exception of a few security personnel, the lobby was deserted when I arrived. I ran through the lobby looking for the bank of elevators and waited impatiently as the special Otis sped me up towards the observation deck. During the short ride to the top of the world, I caught my breath and caught myself smiling at the sheer absurdity of the situation I was in.
Wendell was smiling, too. In fact, his smile couldn't have been bigger. When I came around the corner, that toothy grin was all I saw. Jen and he sat on a luxurious couch, a bottle of bubbly on ice in front of them. I was just a little late. The night was over. Perhaps I appeared "defeated" but I was genuinely happy for Wendell: If it couldn't be me, I wanted it to be him. As he said the following morning, "It was just (his) night."
Now, the following evening, came my night -- the night I had looked forward to with both dread and anticipation since this long journey had begun over five months ago. The bloodletting began, of course, with Fabrice. Since the last Rose Ceremony, Fabrice had become increasing detached from the group, both emotionally and physically. Considering this, and his penchant for melodrama, we all knew that something was coming. The scope and the length of the monologue, however, took us all by surprise. How everyone held back the laughter, I'm not sure, but with a final, "I don't want to marry you, Jen!" Fabrice, "Frenchy," was gone.
We moved on and, 15 minutes later, just one rose remained in front of the Bachelorette. Jen stood at the center of the room, painfully deliberating to whom to give it: John Paul or me. Whether her apparent indecision was real or simply for dramatic effect, I don't know. But during those moments of hesitation I had a brief epiphany. I looked around the room and saw four guys with a conviction that the woman in front of them might one day be their wife. I had no such conviction and realized, as Jen's eyes darted from one to the other, that I was no longer meant to be there. Up until that point, hubris, that most classic of fatal flaws, had blinded me from this obvious truth. This was supposed to happen and it needed to happen. As I relaxed my pride, I felt the sense of foreboding that had previously gripped me, slip silently away. "John Paul," she whispered, and it was done.
Roosevelt continues, "The credit belongs to the man ... who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Prior to heading into the final rose ceremony, I shared this quote with Ryan, Jerry, Wendell and John Paul. We all agreed, that while this was no conquest of San Juan Hill, it had been a truly formidable experience in our lives. We then drank, tequila this time, to friendship, fate and, of course, to love.
Hooper: "Bummer about getting bounced. But Jen looked pretty short on TV. How short was she?"
Sands: "Maybe 5'4" or so. I can never tell with the heels."
Hooper: "You put on a good show the other night. My phone is ringing off the hook and my e-mail inbox looks like the letters page for Teen Magazine. One girl actually tracked down my cell phone number wanting to know how to get in touch with you. Other media outlets are also calling. How did you manage to stir everyone into such a frenzy?"
Sands: "Not sure. I thought I did a pretty good job of staying under the radar for most of the show."
Hooper: "Do you think you were portrayed accurately on the show?"
Sands: "Yeah, I am a quiet guy who generally takes his time with women and relationships. I think that accurately came across, particularly in the final episode."
Hooper: "How has your life changed from this show? Do you think it will follow you around for eternity?"
Sands: "My life has certainly become more interesting. Any shred of anonymity I once enjoyed is gone and I get a dozen or so phone calls each day from random women around the country. Fortunately, my notoriety is fleeting. I'm sure there will be a reckoning at my rehearsal dinner one day down the road, but I think for the most part, this will all soon be forgotten."
Hooper: "If the producers asked you, would you entertain the idea of being the next 'Bachelor'?"
Sands: "This is something I did for a story. I've got one. I'm ready to meet a girl the old-fashioned way now."
Ben wants to thank everyone both in Aspen and across the country their kind words and support over the past few weeks. He'll be back in a couple of weeks following the "Men Tell All" special with one final column. Comments, criticism and/or gossip about his personal life may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
We may or may not forward it on to him.