Jerry Eaves is up for almost anything.
Even at age 61, the former N.C. A&T men’s basketball coach is a competitor who keeps himself in shape and keeps busy as the host of a sports radio talk show and as coach and athletics director at Simmons College of Kentucky.
But when his son, Frank, asked him to team up with him on “The Amazing Race,” the elder Eaves said, “I thought he’d lost his mind.”
The first episode of this season of the CBS reality series airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday on WFMY. All 12 episodes were shot before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted travel.
“I was like, ‘Frank, I’ve seen the show and the commercials’ and I’m about 58 at the time,” Jerry Eaves said. “I said, ‘Frank, have you gone crazy? ‘ He said, ‘I’m telling you, Dad, somebody’s going to call you.’ I was like, yeah, right, sure. But next thing you know we’re making a few videos at the house.”
The journey began when Frank was in Las Vegas doing an overseas basketball camp and he was introduced to the producer of the show by the owner of the Louisville Audi dealership where he works in sales.
“We were just talking and she said, ‘Hey, would you and your dad want to be on The Amazing Race? ’” said the former Page and Appalachian State basketball standout. “I thought she was joking at first.”
Father and son had to shoot some videos at home in Louisville, where Jerry played on the Cardinals’ 1980 NCAA championship team, as an audition. It didn’t take them long to get into the spirit of things.
“Frank’s got no personality, so I had to carry it,” Jerry said jokingly to laughter from his son during a recent phone interview. “I had to turn on my charisma for my Denzel Washington role, and the next thing you know we’re in Hollywood.
“We were at CBS’ studios looking at each other like: What have we done?”
What Jerry and Frank Eaves had done was sign on to participate as one of 11 two-person teams in the Emmy Award-winning series, which CBS’ website describes as "a trek around the world. At every destination, each team must compete in a series of challenges, some mental and some physical, and only when the tasks are completed will they learn of their next location. Teams who are the farthest behind will gradually be eliminated as the contest progresses, with the first team to arrive at the final destination winning 'The Amazing Race' and the $1 million prize."
“You have to be ready to go,” Jerry said. “ ‘The Amazing Race’ is no plaything. It’s for real.”
The 32nd season of the series began at the Hollywood Bowl and took the teams, which included former NFL players, pro volleyball players, Olympians and reality TV stars to Trinidad and Tobago, France, Germany, Kazakhstan and Brazil, among other locales.
Father and son had to prepare themselves for the physical demands of their journey.
“When I heard we were going to be on the show, I kept my same regimen,” said Frank, 25. He increased the amount of cardio work and “got in the sauna a lot more. If we were ever going to be someplace really, really hot, I wanted to be acclimated to a warmer climate. I was in the sauna before and after pretty much every workout. In the end it helped my flexibility.”
The preparation was a little bit different for his father.
“First thing I did was go to my doctor’s office and make sure these parts were all together,” Jerry said. “I started walking with a weighted vest on 30 minutes a day and got up to 45 minutes, started riding a bicycle a bit.
“I just tried to do things I could do. I’ve had both of my hips replaced and had knee issues. It wasn’t like I could take off and start running, and there was a lot of running on the show. I tried to prepare the best I could without breaking myself down before we got on the show.”
One thing Jerry and Frank Eaves didn’t have to work on was competing as a team.
“That part was easy,” Jerry said. “When we went through the interviewing process, they ask you a lot of questions and they want to see how you’ll handle adverse situations. We just told them, even in our videos that we sent them, the Eaves family is going to do things the right way, bottom line. We’re going to compete the right way and do things the best we can. If you’re looking for the craziness, you’re not going to find it with us.”
That calm in the face of pressure and competition was something Frank learned from his father.
“He being a coach and being his age had a lot of poise, even through situations where it could have been a little bit more hectic,” Frank said. “I’m very poised myself, but having someone who understands things maybe even a little better than you do helped a lot during the race. It’s knowing that you’re in it with someone who’s been through adverse situations. It was comforting.”
We won’t know for weeks – maybe months – how Jerry and Frank Eaves did on this season’s edition of CBS’ “The Amazing Race.” What we do know is they had an amazing experience competing on the show.
“So many people have asked me about the race … and what I tell them is this: There’s not enough money in the world to make people to do what Frank and I had an opportunity to do together and with a group of other teams that we got to know. … I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Frank said competing on the show with his father taught him not to “get caught up in the race.”
“My dad did a good job of stopping sometimes and saying, ‘Just look around. This is wild that we’re doing what we’re doing.’ … I wake up every morning thankful and I take every moment for what it is and just try to be in the moment.”