By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnist

This is the true story ... (True story!) ... oh, wait a sec ...

Eight strangers were brought together in New York City, divided into two teams and let loose on a monthlong, cross-country version of a scavenger hunt on steroids. The challenge: Be the first to complete 10 (out of 40) sports-related tasks and get to Alcatraz. And, oh, by the way, they have nothing but the clothes on their backs and their wits.

That's why it's called "Beg, Borrow & Deal" (Tuesdays on our mothership, ESPN). And that's why Page 2 will be tracking their progress each week.

Episode 1: Let's meet our contestants!

Jason Sehorn
Jason Sehorn graciously gave Team Cobi a lift.

Green Team ("Team Cobi")
Current status: Completed two tasks -- they got their picture taken with an Olympic medal (courtesy of Summer Sanders), and they each caught a 35-yard pass from an NFL QB (courtesy of Jesse Palmer). They are currently in New Jersey, but have a ride back into the city promised from Jason Sehorn.

Josh

Top quality: Most glib of any contestant
Lose it: Dot-com era glasses; the '90s are over, guy!
Best move: Calling other team to talk trash after completing first task
Worst move: Nearly sunk team with inability to catch a football
Overall: Quickly emerged as team leader and strategy honcho
Big question: Could he grope Juliet and Kelli any more?

Juliet

Top quality: Connections to sports world
Lose it: Unabashed perkiness
Best move: Hooking team up with Summer Sanders for first task
Worst move: Claimed to be athlete; also couldn't catch a football
Overall: Gold-medal effort in earning team quick task win
Big question: Does she know Jason Sehorn is married?

Kelli

Kelli
Kelli

Top quality: Flirting skills
Lose it: Lack of confidence in strategic-thinking ability
Best move: Convincing strangers to buy her a disposable camera
Worst move: Not taking charge in hotel search
Overall: Her ability to manipulate random guys gives her the team's most valuable specialization
Big question: When will she assert control of team commensurate to her value?

Bubba

Top quality: Low-key
Lose it: Sexist strategy collaboration with Josh
Best move: Using Southern connections to get into hotel room
Worst move: Started very slowly; figured him for free-rider
Overall: Episode MVP for scamming team into phat Jersey hotel suite
Big question: Will he go ga-ga every time they meet an athlete?

Team analysis
All is cheery for Team Cobi after a first episode that saw them knock off two tasks. The group hugs are a little much, though they had reason to celebrate. It will be interesting when this team hits its first bump in the road trip. The other squad has already had its fair share. ...

***** ***** *****

This week's "BBD" likability ranking
1 Bubba: Southern hospitality
2 Kelli: Flirting forte
3 Julian: Needs help
4 Juliet: Kapowski klone
5 Josh: Mr. Smooth
6 Katie: All talk
7 Aubrey: Freakin' out
8 Tony: That patch!

Red Team ("Team Dysfunction")
Current status: No tasks completed. Stuck in Elmira, N.Y., five hours out of the way from Manhattan, at a friend's house of one teammate, who insists that she can get the group a hoops run at the local prison.

Julian

Top quality: Quick to come to solutions
Lose it: Gets run over by teammates
Best move: Volunteers friend's apartment as first stop ...
Worst move: ... doesn't check to see if friend is home first
Overall: Nice idea to go to friend's, but lousy follow-through
Big question: How soon before he flips on crazy teammates?

Aubrey

Top quality: Most assertive of any contestant
Lose it: Propensity to get weepy
Best move: Handling Josh's trash-talk phone call with class
Worst move: Wasting team's time looking at her website
Overall: Unafraid to speak her mind, but obviously not strong enough to offer the team desperately needed leadership
Big question: How many more crying jags will we get?

Katie

Top quality: Really wants to prove worth to team
Lose it: Inability to manage team expectations
Best move: Calling parents to help team out
Worst move: Dragging team to Nowheresville, N.Y.!
Overall: So far, she's all talk, no action. And what's up with that rag on her head?
Big question: What happens when she can't come through on her promises?

Tony

Tony
Tony

Top quality: Certainly enthusiastic
Lose it: Where to start? The soul patch? The annoying cap?
Best move: Talking Aubrey off her emotional ledge
Worst move: Selfish shopping spree as team waited for him
Overall: Big mouth, big attitude, low value-add
Big question: How many cities until his team leaves him behind?

Team analysis
It was almost painful to watch this team flounder for most of the first episode. As great as the other team did, this squad did badly. They took no time to think about a strategy, so now they're stuck in upstate New York, about to offer up Tony to the prison-hoops league. No group explosions yet, but you just know they are coming.

Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2. Check back each week for a review of the latest episode of "Beg, Borrow & Deal."




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