Wednesday, May 23, 2012

(Insert Japanese Drums in This Post Here)

Here's another example of the term that I love to hate--sports entertainment.

Now that I'm done gagging, I am going to talk about something that you wouldn't think I would ever talk about in a sports blog: reality television. No, really, I am. You would be shocked to see what most critics and writers are considering 'sports' in the world of reality television. In this post, I'm going to talk about an underground sensation that nerds and freerunners all over the country are absolutely gaga about.

This structure is known as Mount Midoriyama, a mountain that only the strongest and most determined of competitors have scaled.

This is the passion of the people that take part in what Americans call "Ninja Warrior." Known as SASUKE in Japan, it's a semi-annual competition in which 100 men (sometimes women) attempt to complete three obstacle courses in a specific time to reach Mt. Midoriyama and scale it to become champion. It started about fifteen years ago and began American broadcasts on the G4 network a couple of years ago.

Since the beginning of the American broadcasts, it has gained a following among different American athletes. Even U.S. Olympic gymnasts Paul and Morgan Hamm have taken part in the competition. In the past three years, numerous American freerunners (those parkour guys) have taken the competition by storm, impressing even the big guys known as the "SASUKE All Stars" of the competition. Now, a newer "Mt. Midoriyama" has been built...for American competitors in Las Vegas called American Ninja Warrior.

How do I know this?
It was on NBC this week, all with cheesy music, graphics, and an even cheesier announce team.
The kicker among all of this is when I haven't seen an ounce of advertising for it. I stumbled across the darned thing by accident. That's how much I think NBC Universal actually cares about it. Remember the revamp of American Gladiators? I'm surprised that lasted as long as it did, brother! Basically, they have four regions in which competitors do a full obstacle course, and the top fifteen competitors go to Vegas to compete for $500,000 and the title of American Ninja Warrior.

But anyway, to my point....

Japan is definitely known for having a crazy niche of having some crazy ideas that have a tendency to work in American markets. (NINTENDO. That is all.) The world of reality television has indeed taken a priority in American markets over the past fifteen years, as most are cheaper in budget as opposed to sitcoms, and most have a particular draw: ridiculous concepts that people will actually subject themselves to in order to get money and fame. Shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race have been on television for years and years and years because of their uniqueness and their capability to draw people to see different sides of humanity when it comes to survival (and the reward of money, of course).
In the case of SASUKE, it's an athletic competition that not only gets the draw from seeing physical feats, but watching people from comedians and celebrities, to fishermen, college students, and law enforcement officers take part in this.

That's pretty much the only place where the similarities are: the draws.

The main difference in which something like this won't fly in the United States is that athletic/survival competitions are really a thing of the past. The only reality TV shows that exist on American sets (aside from game shows like Jeopardy and The Price is Right) now have to do with either dancing, singing, fashion, weddings, New Jersey, or Kim Kardashian. Japan is a smaller country in which they enjoy competition in their programming, especially when it involves an Average Joe doing some hidden talent for all of their people to see.

It's sad that I don't think that American Ninja Warrior will do well as far as ratings go, but like I just said, the concept is kind of old and it's been dying a slow and painful death for several years. Plus, the advertising hasn't been great at all. Do I think something like this is a cool concept? Definitely yes. The reason being is that it's something different for people from different academic and athletic fields to come and show off their hidden talents and athleticism. Heck, maybe stuff like this would aid in the obesity problem because people would go: "I wanna do that" or something else. It would also make the audience appreciate the people who do lower-class jobs a lot more. I just don't think this is what America wants right now, which is sad.

Seriously guys, YouTube some of the SASUKE competitions or watch it on G4. This stuff is surprisingly fun to watch.

Makoto Nagano, a fisherman who won in 2006. Mad respect for this guy.
It's entertaining, and since it requires some sort of athleticism, it is considered a sport in it's own respect. Too bad most Americans have turned a blind eye to it so far.