By Seth Daniel
On television, he might look more like a hockey player or a surfer, but under the long hair and the razor stubble is none other than the normally clean cut Revere Police Sgt. Joe Covino – and he will bring his temporary look to ‘The Amazing Race’ television show on March 30.
“No one knows anything about anyone else going in,” said Covino this week, back in Revere and back on the job. “You make assumptions about who people are and what they are simply by how they look. For that reason, I disguised myself a bit. I had longer hair and wasn’t so clean cut. Later, when people found out what I did, that I was a police officer, they were shocked – especially the other three police officers that were on the show. People thought I was a hockey player.”
The popular television show on CBS covers the world in its season from March 30 to mid-June. It appears at 10 p.m. every Thursday night, and takes viewers through nine countries, 17 cities and 36,000 miles of races and challenges.
Of course, Covino, 46, could be booted from the show in any particular week and may not make it that far. However, he could also be the newest millionaire on the Revere Police Department, as the award for winning The Amazing Race is a $1 million prize.
But he can’t say anything about that just yet due to rules of disclosure by the show.
The premise of the long-standing CBS reality television series by the COPS show founder, Bertram van Munster, puts 22 strangers together on two teams of 11. Pairing up two-by-two, they compete by trying to be the first to perform tasks, physical challenges and small missions all over the world. Covino said it was filmed over about 25 days last June.
The most interesting part is they pair contestants up with total strangers. He said contestants are challenged to work with a partner who may be nothing like them, who may have radically different political views or who may have a very different background. Through it all, partners in the contest are expected to work hand-in-hand on some of the most difficult and exhausting activities in totally foreign places.
“A very interesting thing that is worth noting is that I found my partner brought out the best in me and I brought out the best in my partner in the same way,” he said. “The thing about growing up in Boston, everything is separate. There is an Irish neighborhood, a Latino neighborhood and an Italian neighborhood. In this, you go to this place and you bring nothing. You have to work with a stranger. There’s no Googling, no cell phones, no messaging or no money…No one knows anything about anyone.”
Some, Covino said, are big fans of the show, known as Super Fans, while others are there to compete for the $1 million prize money. Covino is really neither of those. He wasn’t a big fan of the show beforehand, but relied upon the encouragement of his co-worker, Lt. Amy O’Hara – who was on Survivor! some years ago and Family Feud.
“Amy likes that stuff, but I’m more of a private person,” he said. “I work hand-in-hand with her and she encouraged me to try. There are thousands of applicants and it’s a very long vetting process. I was fortunate in the end to be chosen.”
Covino routinely plays hockey and has run nearly 20 marathons in his lifetime, along with keeping fit for his duty on the Revere Police, but still he said the challenges and physicality of the Race were demanding.
“The physical tests were some of the most challenging things you’d ever be faced with,” he said. “I am in law enforcement and I still play a lot of hockey and have run close to 20 marathons. Still, there are a few things on the Amazing Race that were just harder than all that. You also have someone else counting on you – your partner. You make a physical or mental mistake, and you both go home. You never know, they may be Super Fans or they may be on the show because they really need the prize money.”
Throughout the extraordinary travels overseas and within the United States – places he cannot yet reveal – Covino said he was routinely brought back to Revere, thinking constantly about his three children and his wife.
When he was in a country he had never thought of going to – seeing some amazing new landscape, or experiencing a completely new culture – he said he kept thinking that he had to bring his family there so they could see it.
Though no one knows yet how Covino did, he said he came back much richer than when he left – though he’s not talking about money. He said he came back to Revere and to the Revere Police Department a changed man.
“I’m not kidding when I say this was a life-changing event,” he said. “This was an experience like none I’ve ever had in my life…The first thing I did when I got back was I slowed down. I wanted to spend a lot more time with my son and my kids…There are so many times during the Race that I thought about times my kids wanted to hang out with me and play and I was busy chasing a job or a buck to give them a better life. I was working more and more. I made it a priority to stop that. I think my time and attention is more important than getting them that extra toy…That’s the biggest thing I brought back with me.”
Covino said he invites the local community to follow his progress on the show throughout the next several months, and he’s excited to share the experiences he had with the Revere community.