Pop Culture

Is The Bachelor the Fastest-Growing Professional Sport in America?

The Bachelor is not a reality show about finding love. It’s a professional competitive sport, where isolated players in peak mental and physical condition must survive a 10-round game of attrition against 25- to 30-some competitors.

At least, that’s the thesis of podcast hosts Lizzy Pace and Chad Kultgen, whose Game of Roses seeks to redefine ABC’s long-running, popular reality-TV show. To them, The Bachelor is a game with its own stats, point system, and pool of prior and current players, who—between the competition itself and their social media accounts—provide enough content to justify an ESPN-style post show, complete with a jargon all its own.

A “PTC,” for instance, is a “personal tragedy card,” deployed when players reveal a past trauma. A “huju” is the “hug-jump,” in which a female player runs, jumps, and wraps their legs around the male lead. (The term, popularized by Game of Roses, was recently used by former Bachelorette contestant Tyler Cameron in an E! News interview; Cameron did not credit the podcast.) Kultgen and Pace have even calculated “rose quotients,” or “R.Q. scores,” which basically illustrate a player’s ability to get roses outside of a Rose Ceremony—one of several in-game stats they created to quantify players’ skill levels.

Pace said in an interview that she and Kultgen spent two months watching every single episode of The Bachelor, from 2002 to the present—except for the elusive season nine, for which they could only track down the first episode—in order to “catalog every play that have ever made to generate a meaningful statistical model of the game’s history and structure.” They’re revealing their findings in their podcast and their upcoming book: How to Win The Bachelor, out in January 2022.

Pace and Kultgen became friends while working on NBC’s Bad Judge, which Kultgen cocreated. Even before starting the podcast, they weren’t casual Bachelor viewers; Pace was writing intricate recaps of the show, while Kultgen was making 10–20 Bachelor-themed memes a week. Their version of sports-inspired Bachelor lingo evolved as the podcast did. At first, said Kultgen, “It was a little tongue in cheek. But then we started looking at the numbers and were like, oh shit, this actually makes sense. This does actually define who’s a good player and what the game is about.”

Just as sports coverage reports news on plays made on and off the field, Game of Roses also puts The Bachelor in a greater context. Each week, Pace and Kultgen release two episodes: a recap of the show’s latest installment and a news episode that opens with a segment titled “Bachelor: State of the World.” There, the hosts directly relate what’s happening on The Bachelor to events like Black Lives Matter protests or the insurrection at the Capitol, often leading to examples of how the show perpetuates racism and sexism. It’s part of a growing series of Bachelor-focused podcasts that aren’t afraid to criticize the show, or to analyze it as a product manufactured by producers—a list that includes 2 Black Girls, 1 Rose, Chatty Broads, The Blckchelorettes, and Date Card Pod.

“I think that GOR is leading the change on how we consume this show,” said Game of Roses fan Jasmine Robinson, 27, a doula in Long Island, New York. Before the hosts get to fun stuff, “you have to get through the tough shit first—where they talk about, ‘this is what white people have done to America today’ and ‘this is how The Bachelor is a part of that white nonsense.’”

“In an era where we’re just coming out of a four-year presidency with a reality-television show host as president, I don’t think anyone can ever say reality TV is frivolous and meaningless anymore,” said Kultgen. Other Bachelor analysts agree: “The franchise has established such a reach that it is essentially an American pastime and staple in American culture for millions of Americans,” Justine Kay and Natasha Scott, the hosts of 2 Black Girls, 1 Rose, wrote in an email. “With that level of power and influence, they absolutely should be scrutinized, held to a high standard, and held accountable.”

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