By Alan Pergament
Luck ran out for Western New York newlyweds Katie and Max Bichler Sunday night, as they finished second in the final leg of the popular CBS reality show "The Amazing Race."
In a way, it was an all too familiar Buffalo ending.
After cruising to their third straight victory in the opening leg of Sunday's two-hour finale, the Bichlers fell out of first place in the second hour after Max was unable to quickly spot the phony spy who was going to exchange briefcases that contained the next clue. It wasn't easy to find him since 50 potential spies were walking around with briefcases.
By the time Max found the guy who knew a secret phrase that revealed he was the spy, the Bichlers were overtaken by the team of professional hockey players, Bates and Anthony Battaglia, who were lucky enough to find their man with a briefcase first. The Battaglias maintained that lead through a few more challenges to win the $1 million first prize.
The Bichlers didn't go away empty handed. For winning the third leg, they added a week-long trip to a resort in the Dominican Republic to their previous winnings of two new cars and $20,000 cash. And there have been unconfirmed reports in the past that second place finishers also get some prize money.
The Bichlers, who used their smarts to win the three previous legs, looked understandably disappointed but sounded upbeat in their brief interview with series host Phil Keoghan after they finished second.
"We're still married, we made it around the world," said Katie of a journey of more than 30,000 miles in 10 countries that ended in Washington, D.C.
"The race really enforced that we are a really, really, solid, power couple and when we put our minds together we can do some really great things and I think in life we're going to continue to do some great things together," said Max.
Before that very serious assessment, the program had its share of comical moments.
The Battaglias provided many of them, especially during a challenge in which Anthony kept on making mistakes when giving Bates dishes to serve a table of people on a ship in dry dock that was modeled after the Titanic.
"He'd be off the team in hockey right now," cracked an exasperated Bates at Anthony's expense.
When Bates learned that a future clue was going to be given out in a bar, he cracked: "I like our chances at finding a bar. That seems to be something we're good at."
Max also had his share of amusing commentary when Katie had to swim through a muddy bog in Scotland for a challenge, noting that his wife prefers tanning on the beach to swimming.
"Not so much swimming," said Max. "Not so much swimming in a bog."
Max also brought up a serious topic when he thought he and Katie were going to have their picture taken with President Obama rather than a cut-out of the president.
"It is a bit of relief," Max said after discovering he wasn't going to meet the president. "I respect the office. But I am an unapologetic Republican."
By the way, Bates Battaglia briefly played for the Rochester Americans a few years ago. Durng the telecast, he alluded to be being a member of the Carolina Hurricanes who lost in the Stanley Cup finals to Detroit in 2002.
"I don't want to feel that feeling again," said Bates, shortly before he and his brother won.
The Bichlers undoubtedly ended up with a feeling that Western New Yorkers know only too well in Stanley Cup finals and Super Bowls.
Speaking of race results, there was more evidence that Buffalo is a big horse racing town Saturday. Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate, finished No. 6 among metered markets in the ratings for Orb's victory in the Kentucky Derby. Channel 2 averaged a 15.9 rating, which is higher than any NBC prime time series gets locally during the week and five times as high as several of its series. The only markets nationally to beat Buffalo were Louisville, Ft. Myers, Cincinnati, Knoxville and West Palm Beach.