It’s the doubled-sided sword that’s called marketing. You want to promote the show, get people watching, but you don’t want to spoil anything either. This year the buzz about the possible conquering of Mount Midoriyama was a little too loud to just be possible. It was going to happen. And it did.
American Ninja Warrior gets a small update every year, in terms of appearance. But the show still uses David ‘The Godfather’ Campbell in their blue-colored backgrounds. Maybe it’s time for a makeover next year and shift focus. I have nothing against Campbell, but there are a lot of newborn godfathers; this past season the show’s been packed with extraordinary talent. From Popeyes to Panthers, and from Cowboys to Bulls.
And Then There Were 8
So, the last one of the three-part finale has come. No less than 38 contestants made it to Stage 2. You always lose a few because of slipups, breaks of concentration, a wet shoe, cramped hand, but the obstacle responsible for kicking (or swinging) most out of the competition was the ruthless Roulette Row. In the end, only 8 were able to finish the course.
Almost everyone got through the first obstacle, Rope Jungle, easily. Brent Steffensen, however, not that easily. He grabbed the wrong rope, chose the wrong way, maybe tried too hard to live up to the expectations, whatever it was, he got hung up. Much of his energy and grip strength was wasted on swinging forth and back and forth again. He paid the price on the Unstable Bridge.
The only one who got out as soon as he got in, was Dustin ‘Hobbit Soldier’ McKinney. Such a driven guy, with a passionate personality, but on the third rope his hands slipped and his 5 seconds of fame were up.
The Ones Coming Back For More Next Year
There were more favorites taking plunges. I mean, most – if not all – of the 38 left standing were favorites, so each time one of them kissed the water it was a bitter goodbye. You’re really rooting for all of these guys (because Mount Midoriyama’s not particularly kind to women, pushing them all out in Stage 1). They’re not running against each other; they’re collectively trying to beat the course. And they’re all such nice guys.
The ones we had to say ‘better luck next year’ to: J.J. Woods, Lance ‘Ninja Cowboy’ Pekus, Flip ‘Unmasked’ Rodriguez, Jamie ‘Captain NBC’ Rahn, Anthony ‘Human Panther’ Scott, Tremayne ‘Black Hulk’ Dortch, Dan ‘Moves Like Yager’ Yager, Neil ‘Gold Paint’ Craver, Ryan ‘Call of the Wild’ Stratis, and the oldest runner tonight, Travis Rosen.
This would be Rosen’s last attempt. At 41 years of age, he felt there wasn’t a whole lot left in the tank. It was his last chance and that’s how he’d been running. But giving your all doesn’t guarantee victory. Standing next to Kristine Leahy, soaking wet from defeat, he said he’ll be looking for ‘redemption’ next year.
The Alpha Wolf
The contestant who held the record – he almost finished stage 3 two years ago -, who dedicated his life to and quit his job for American Ninja Warrior, Brian Arnold, couldn’t get past Roulette Row. Training doesn’t prepare you for everything, apparently, no matter how many hours of the day you put into it. I suppose that’s why this show is so great. The unpredictability of sports, the tiny mistakes an athlete can make. Tiny but causing huge consequences. The other two members of the ‘Wolfpack’ did go through, though. Ian ‘The Quiet One’ Dory and Isaac ‘Buddhist Ninja’ Caldiero.
Only 8 appeared at the starting line of Stage 3, but that’s still a record. With the stages getting tougher each season, the contestants get even better. They all reached the fourth obstacle, the Ultimate Cliffhanger, but it proved to be too big a match for many. Abel ‘headband’ Gonzalez, Jeremiah Morgan, Kevin ‘who’d ever thought we’d be cheering for a stock trader’ Bull, and also Joe Moravsky, who unsuccessfully tried to do a mid-air turnaround, jumping between two very narrow ledges, all hit the water. Drew Drechsel managed to get further – but only by a little. He took a leap of faith from off the Hang Climb onto the bar, but just missed it. Ian Dory got through all of that, to the point where the finish line was at his fingertips, but the horizontal Salmon Ladder got the better of him.
Recording Sporting Events
If you’ve counted correctly, you know there are now two contestants left. Isaac Caldiero went first and made it look so easy. As a rock climber, he had some advantages, but advantage doesn’t really mean anything on American Ninja Warrior. He did reach the finish – the first one ever to cross that excruciatingly difficult Stage 3 off his list. But don’t stop your cheering just yet. He showed Geoff ‘Popeye arms’ Britten how it’s done, and the cameraman who’s usually only recording sporting events also destroyed the course – by the skin of his teeth.
Caldiero had the fastest time and he decided Britten should take on Stage 4 first. ‘Stage 4’ sounds bigger than the rope that it actually is. One red rope, reaching into the sky. 30 seconds to get to the top and hit the buzzer. Britten climbs as fast as he can, but still needs the full 30 seconds to reach the end. He’s just in time, with only 0:00.35 left on the clock. Did Caldiero make the right choice to go second?
Damn right he did. Don’t ever challenge a rock climber to a game of rope climbing, because you’re going to lose. Caldiero, living a quiet, basic and peaceful life – not materialistic at all, suddenly has a million dollars to spend. When the excitement’s worn off, are the relationships within the Wolfpack going to change? Money can become a fatal attraction, like the ‘one ring’, especially in large quantities, but I think these guys aren’t in it for the financial payoff. They just want to have fun, get better at it, and achieve the ultimate prize, which is standing on top of Mount Midoriyama. With or without a bag of money.