Born for battle
Competition-minded Sanford grad keeps mum on outcome of 'American Race' gig
Mr. Competitive -- otherwise known as Dan Honig of Wilmington, who along with his college roommate will battle for $1 million on "The Amazing Race" this season -- says that if The Sanford School taught him anything, it was that it's OK to lose.
Which is not a hint about how the show comes out.
It's just a fact.
"I'm extremely competitive," Honig says from Washington, D.C., where he's just started a new job as a hotel-management trainee with Hyatt. "I hate to lose."
He's been a sports fan his entire life, and played a lot of tennis, including being the Delaware singles champion during his junior year at Sanford.
"We had a great tradition at Sanford in athletics, and that was my foundation for my competitive spirit," Honig says.
Honig, 23, will compete with his Arizona State fraternity brother, Andrew Lappitt, 22.
Honig is the son of orthodontist Gordon Honig of Greenville and remedial reading teacher Joy Honig of Wilmington.
During the third week of November last year, he noticed on "The Amazing Race" Web site that video applications were due the next week.
He turned around to Lappitt, his roommate at the Alpha Epsilon Pi house, and said, "Hey, you want to go for this?"
"We had no hope of anything happening the way it did," Honig says. "We just wanted to say we did it. I don't like to not try things."
They quickly decided to tape their own "amazing race" -- to the 7-Eleven.
Honig says their video was designed mostly to show who they were: the outgoing and action-oriented Honig and the quieter, more deliberate Lappitt.
"We had to be ourselves," Honig says. "I knew that they would not be interested in a scripted thing with music and all that sort of stuff. I knew that we should just sell our unique personalities."
They slapped the video together, sent it in and promptly forgot out applying.
"I had a lot on my plate," Honig says.
Three months later, as Honig was getting ready to graduate and hit Europe for two weeks with a friend, they got a call back from CBS asking for another video.
"We took them on a tour of the fraternity house and then we went to a bar in Tempe, Ariz.," Honig says. "Andrew was trying to put his moves on a girl, and we had a video of him getting absolutely shot down. It wasn't set up at all. We just asked a random girl. He was using these lame pick-up lines, and I was just looking at him like, 'What are you doing?' You couldn't have scripted that."
The excitement of not knowing
As soon as the frat brothers were accepted, they and all their family members had to sign contracts that they wouldn't tell anyone that Andrew and Dan were on the show. If the contracts are violated, the friends lose any prize money.
The first time anyone was able to publicly acknowledge Honig's and Lappitt's roles on the show was Tuesday, when CBS announced the cast.
Host Phil Keoghan has said that he particularly liked the fraternity brothers, partly because they are such different personalities.
"There's definitely tension between the two of them while they're making decisions during the race," he told Associated Press.
Joy Honig wasn't surprised her son and Andrew were chosen for the show.
"You have to know Danny to know Danny. But, when Danny gets his mind on something, he can accomplish whatever he wants, and Danny loves traveling," Joy says. She's planning a big premičre party at Kid Shelleen's in Trolley Square on Sept. 28, when the show debuts.
Honig and Lappitt left for the show in mid-April, starting at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The race covers 30,000 miles in 23 days to countries including Brazil, Bolivia, Russia, India, Cambodia and Kazakhstan.
But, before they left, Honig and Lappitt had no idea where they were going.
"It's very exciting not knowing what lies ahead of you, what kind of culture you're going to be seeing," Honig says. "The surprise was so much fun. I just wanted to start so badly; I had so much adrenaline."
He's traveled a lot with his parents and on his own, but Lappitt had never been out of North American.
"So again, he was on the opposite side of the spectrum from me," Honig says.
Honig put off a job search while waiting to head out and start filming, but he started dieting and working out every day, losing 30 pounds in the days leading up to the show.
"I wanted to put my best foot forward," Honig says. "And 30 pounds sounds like a lot, but I didn't have anything else to do while I was waiting. I was literally going to the gym every day. It was real easy for me to be motivated by this kind of experience. How can you not be?"
Lappitt, meanwhile, was still in school and working to boot, so he had little time to train.
The hardest part for both of them was keeping the secret, especially when they seemed to disappear from the planet for three and one-half weeks starting in mid-April.
"It was really hard," Honig says. "You're in so many social situations where you'd love to bring up the topic, and you can't. I was very mentally disciplined. And I lied. I made up a complete story about where I was. I told people I was doing Habitat for Humanity in the suburbs of Mexico City."
When he 'fessed up this week, his friends were shocked, amazed even.
"They can't believe my face is plastered across the CBS Web site and I'm going to be in this. It's just complete and utter shock and disbelief," he says.
The pleasure of not telling
On the day the big announcement was made, he was looking forward to going back to work. Nobody he worked with had any idea of the truth, he says.
"The important thing for me was to go about my life in a normal capacity," Honig says. "I got this job at the Grand Hyatt in Washington about five weeks ago. It's a really good opportunity to be with a good company in a good city, and I feel fortunate to have landed the position."
He and his family always liked "The Amazing Race," which is in its 13th season. Honig enjoyed watching people react to the situations they were thrown into, and seeing how the dynamics of the relationships changed. And he liked that it wasn't scripted.
While he can't say much about the filming, he can say, "They never told you what to say. There's so many times you forget that cameras are in your face. The adrenaline is going. You're just trying to get to this place as fast as possible."
While Honig and Lappitt were away filming, the families had no idea where they were.
"We were really in the dark," Gordon Honis says. "We weren't allowed to know where he was, how long he was still in the race. We were called by producers just letting us know that he was safe and he was OK."
Dan Honig seems to enjoy not giving any hints, sort of gleefully enjoy not telling.
"I want people to share this ride with me," says Honig, who hasn't seen any of the show yet. "Not only would it be unfair to CBS to say something, but it also would be unfair to myself and everyone else. It would be like watching a football game on TV when you already know the score. I want people to go into it blindly."
And then he drops another teaser.
"I like trying things to see what happens. If you don't try, you never know," he says. "I tried my best. If it wasn't good enough, so be it."http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080822/LIFE/808220303