Firefighters Michael Ward and Scott Strazzullo were the last team eliminated from The Amazing Race and despite Scott suffering a devastating ankle injury at the start of the leg, the Boston best friends never gave up and almost advanced. In the end, (and like so many Racers before them), it ultimately came down to the duo receiving some bad directions and I recently caught up with Michael and Scott to discuss what happened and to quiz them about why they didn’t stop at the museum like all the other teams did before them.
Murtz Jaffer: If you guys are ready to go we can get started right now?
Scott Strazzullo: Sure
Michael Ward: I am ready.
MJ: I want to start by asking if you will ever stop at a bar to ask for directions again?
MW: Absolutely… I just won’t go to that bar! It made sense that we went in there. I know that it looked like a stupid mistake (and it turned out to be one) but Scott’s leg had blown up like a football. He had rolled it a few more times in the rocks and the debris of the sheep field and it was getting bad. So when I was driving the car, we pulled into Museum Parking but we didn’t see the museum because of the way that we came in on our approach.
The first place we saw on our way to the museum is where we stopped. We just happened to see our hotel (a three star hotel) where the woman there didn’t know what the brooch was. We had already assumed that it was a Viking brooch. We stepped out of the hotel and we looked for the museum but the next building we saw was the bar and it was also daytime. The people we asked in the bar actually worked there and they were also from that island and the guy there gave us all the information on the brooch.
In fact where he sent us, they did make the brooches up there. They have them but the problem was that they weren’t the originals. They pulled up the exact copies. The clue said to go where it was found and not where it was discovered. So it was just one of the foundries up there where they have a silver foundry where they make these. As I say, it was a humble telescope. A perfect mistake. It all made sense. And to be 27 miles out of the way, we had just taken three trains from Oxford England all the way to Aberdeen Scotland plus an overnight ferry. So 25 or 30 miles wasn’t that big of a deal when we had a car.
MJ: Scott, on the last episode you suffered a leg injury right at the start of the leg. Can you detail what exactly happened?
SS: Yeah Mike and I, we had made kind of a comeback. We had been four hours behind the other teams and still had managed to make it to 6th place. Because of that, what we were doing is kind of making a push and we knew we had to get to a train stop. You would be a fool not to run or move as quick as you can because you don’t know what the next step is or how it’s going to benefit you if you are ahead. We had some good momentum, we were feeling good, and we were moving along. Unfortunately the roads in Oxford were some cobblestone roads and as I was coming down to read the map, the light wasn’t that good unfortunately…
I think I have played about how many years of football and I never got injured once. Now I was injured running down the street in Oxford at night where there is no one that you have to dodge or anything like that. I ended up turning it and going straight over my ankle and it really blew up quick on me. It was a high ankle sprain. We wrapped it and kept going. Kept moving as quick as we could and just tried to persevere there you know?
MJ: Michael, what was your first reaction when you saw that Scott was injured?
MW: Well he was trying to read some fine print on a map and you don’t want to miss the train by five minutes. You can’t walk somewhere or you are a fool and in that scenario, you have no one else to blame. So he was reading the map and running. I saw it all happen. I was kind of in the street and there was a little curb cut where he just happened to catch his ankle and I said ‘oh man are you alright?’ and he just went down and said it hurt.
At first we tried to hide it from the other teams because we didn’t want to show weakness. We had come with Ace bandage wraps (we do thousands of medical calls a year so we knew to bring them). Anyway it didn’t look good, it didn’t look promising but I just felt as though I would just have to step it up and that we would have to use our brain more than our brawn really.
As I said to the people there, sometimes a three-legged dog is stronger than a four-legged dog because he has to use his head in a different way. He has a will to survive in a different way. I was just going to say that Scott’s injury obviously didn’t help the situation but that wasn’t our fatal flaw. I think we could have persevered through it and kept moving forward. It was the bad directions that killed us. Not Scott’s leg.
MJ: Shockingly, Scott (just as Michael said), it wasn’t your leg injury that eliminated you from the Race, but the bad directions that were to blame. Is it more frustrating knowing that it wasn’t the leg that was to blame because at least that way you could say that it was an injury that eliminated you?
SS: We are not guys that make excuses. We work as a team. We try to always put ego aside and work as a team together. Even in the end, I would have said that it wasn’t the leg because really we got to just persevere through it. We were not making excuses. We tried very hard but it just didn’t work in our favor. That said, in no way we going to let me leg or anything else make us quit. Unfortunately we were so far out with the directions… it was just really hard to recover from that. It was almost impossible.
MW: Scott was running through it. Even the cameraman couldn’t believe it because he had seen how bad it had gotten, but the fact is that it did limit our decision making because we had to adjust. We couldn’t keep running the same game as our mobility was limited. So that is why we didn’t immediately run down to find the museum. We just stopped at the first place we found. The museum happened to be the second.
Then we kind of got distracted after we got the directions because we assumed Tim and Te Jay were right behind us. We didn’t have room for error. They ended up beating us by about a half an hour and we were probably an hour and a half out of the way by the time we went to where we had to go and returned.
MJ: Michael, I know you touched on this at the beginning of the interview but I want to revisit it. Most of the teams stopped at the museum to ask for directions but you guys stopped at a bar. Was it just because you didn’t see the museum or did you think locals at the bar might be able to give you better directions?
MW: No we came out of the Berry Farm and you could either go left or go straight and we decided to go left because going left would bring us into the town and then we found a parking lot. We didn’t ever see the museum. We immediately said that we would never go to a museum because we assumed it as a historic Viking brooch and we were correct. You just have to be careful with your assumptions because they can lead you down a wrong turn.
We a found a sign that said ‘Museum Parking.’ Initially, we had no intention of going in the bar. Also, we didn’t go in and ask drunks. There were no stool bums. It wasn’t people who were falling over in their vomit. These guys weren’t on an all-day drinking binge. We talked to the bar owner. The three people that we spoke to lived on that island and lived there for a substantial time. They were fixing furniture and they were getting ready for the crowd later and this guy gave us the whole history of everything. Everyone says ‘oh, you went to a bar for directions?’ but if we had gotten the right directions in the bar, we would have been fine. And he did give us the right answer but it wasn’t exactly correct for what we wanted.
SS: It wasn’t precise enough. He gave us a shot and he didn’t know! [Laughs].
MJ: Scott, in the first episode, you seemed to really clash with the realtors Lisa and Michelle. What is your relationship like with them now?
SS: They are dynamite. I wish America got to meet them for a longer time. Lisa and Michelle are dynamite people. They are really nice, they are hardworking people and unfortunately that is the nature of competition. This Amazing Race really had some competitive teams and it was just the nature of it. I think things got desperate towards the end and people kind of saw how it played out, but they are excellent people and I am a better person now that I know them.
MJ: Michael, in that same first episode, you decided to take a penalty with the Realtors and Team Nashville and narrowly escaped elimination. This week, Scott wanted to take the penalty again but you stopped him. Did you not want to tempt fate with a second penalty?
MW: No it wasn’t fate the first time. It was tactical. I knew Scott could outshovel the other teams. When I proposed taking the penalty to him earlier, it was just to get ahead on the four-hour start. I knew those people weren’t going to continue. Even though they are wonderful people, they didn’t have the physical and mental stamina at that time. They were wiped out. That task had gone on for days. They were dehydrated. Wiped out. No sleep.
Scott said he could dig for tonight, tomorrow and the next day so that wasn’t the issue. When we got to the sheep, I saw that it was winnable. We had an uncooperative brood of sheep but clearly we were down to just one other team. If we took a four-hour penalty, we were guaranteed losers and I think it was really just Scott venting out loud but you have a microphone so everything can be heard. He had also rolled his ankle a couple of more times, so it was just frustration.
At that point, I just said to grab a post because I knew we could complete it. Four hours would have been crazy and he knew that. He was just kind of speaking outloud. I understood where he was coming from. I know he didn’t sincerely mean it.
SS: Mike and I… the way we work as a team is we like to talk things out if things aren’t totally working. I think about 5 minutes after I mentioned potentially taking the penalty, we realized that there was food that we could transfer from the original gate to where we want to put the sheep in and that food might have coaxed them out a little but more. It’s really just improvising and adapting to whatever. It comes down to thinking critically.
MW: Murtz, we were told that we could change pens if we wanted to and we said ‘you know something? The wrestlers came right in and got right out of here!’ This is a great group of people, but luck is playing a big role for a lot of people in this game. We said ‘let’s go over there, we can get those sheep in in 10 minutes’ but what was holding us up with the sheep was having to run them through the white fences. We also had a couple of problem children sheep who were juvenile delinquents and just refused to listen to their teachers!
MJ: Scott, I am fascinated by the dentists, Misti and Jim. Were they that competitive when you were racing against them or does Jim only play that up in his interviews?
SS: Well yeah, they definitely are competitive duo. Everyone there is a competitive person and I think he just is more verbal than everyone else. Maybe it’s just due to some insecurity. I don’t know. He just kind of was always more verbal than everyone else. Hey, if they are successful and things are working out for them with that technique, then hats off to them. But in the end it’s just a different style than we are and that’s for sure.
MW: Murtz, what you see is what you get on this show. It hasn’t been altered or edited. People can kind of get a feel for people and they get a team they like or dislike and there are reasons why. Because people’s personalities come across. Scott and I got along with everybody. We try to be friends with all and honestly you need people on your side. You don’t want to become a target or an enemy.
But people can see through and read between the lines. Sometimes their judgment calls are correct and sometimes they aren’t, but I think Jim is just a different kind of animal from the rest of us, I think, but not a bad guy.
MJ: And Michael, finally, you are both city guys. What was it like going around the world and seeing everything that you did?
MW: I am standing in the middle of downtown Boston right now in the doorway way so you don’t hear all the sounds around me but hey it was amazing … the name of the show is great. It is an Amazing Race. It’s amazing to see everything, to come across wonderful people around the world with a good heart who are helpful to you. A laugh and a smile and good manners with people goes a million miles.
The memories and the adventure were really phenomenal. Priceless. Priceless eternal memories.
MJ: Scott, what is next for you guys?
SS: Well like I said, Mike and I we are back to work and we are already going through some critical calls. A big part of the reason why Mike wanted to do this was to thank Boston for the support during the Boston bombing which went on. We also wanted to help and continue to help the veterans that come back to this country and it means a great deal that we were able to express that and we are still supporting the veterans.
We ask a lot of people out there to do the same. It means the world to support these people and try to bring some good and some learning stuff from it. It is like what Mike said. It was one of the greatest experiences. I met top-notch people from The Amazing Race from every producer and the camera guys and camera girls and all the hardworking people. So it was just an amazing situation. We were truly blessed to have it and we are going to continue to try to provide good care to people and do our jobs the best we can.
MW: We were just doing a little adventure of our own and we went out to the premiere party and learned how to surf out in southern California. We drove around this convertible and drove it through the desert to Las Vegas. So Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make life an adventure. Get out of your living room! We can’t thank people enough because without the viewers and their support, none of this would have been possible.
Honestly as Scott alluded to, I was kind of involved in some of the things that happened here in Boston a year and a half ago and my personal reasons for going were to thank the people in the world who stood by us, who prayed for us and gave us their support and honestly from the bottom of my heart I want to thank them for that.
MJ: Amazing guys. Well it was great talking to you thank you so much. Hopefully our paths will cross at the finale.
SS: Keep us in the loop!
MJ: Awesome talk soon. Thank you so much and have a great day.
The Amazing Race airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on CTV and CBS.
Tags: murtz, Murtz Jaffer, The Amazing Race