American Ninja Warrior, a game show, albeit one that is physical, is my latest guilty pleasure on the tube. A copy of the Japanese version, Sasuke, the premise is simple: There is an obstacle course, fastest man through it wins. I caught one of the Japanese shows on G4 a few years back, but didn't get into following it. (I say "fastest man," although the competitions are open to both men and women. I haven't seen any women make it past the first cut, or even all the way through. There's a reason for that: competitors need tremendous upper body strength, especially gripping power. Not to say there aren't such women: Luci Romberg, a stuntwoman, made it as far as the pipe-slider, a lot farther than a lot of men, but ...)
The American version, in its fourth year, has some differences, and the way it currently works is that there are regional competitions to choose the fastest hundred players, who will go to Las Vegas to compete for the grand prize, a cool half a million bucks.
The course in Vegas this years is apparently the one used in Japan, called Mount Midoriyama, and this is the first time it's been held here.
The course varies slightly among the three regions, but the basic obstacles are the same or similar. They have names like quad steps, bridge of blades, spinning log, devil steps, warped wall, salmon ladder, and if you get to the last one, you face a long climb up a cargo net, at the top of which is a stop-plate you hit to get your time.
The game favors parkour players, rock climbers, and gymnasts–a lot of the time you are hanging by your hands, holding onto ropes, metal hoops, stairs, or bars. There are pro football and basketball players, cyclists, martial artists, and it isn't just about strength but also dexterity and timing. The biggest guy I saw complete the course was 6'4" and two-fifty, and he was strong, but slow. The little guys do better.
A fast time is around two minutes, the average is slower. If nobody completes it, you get credit for how long it took you to get as far as you did, and the top finishers get to the finals.
There are things you watch on the TV and you sit back in your chair and think, "Huh. I could do that." Not this. I don't think I could make it through the course if they gave me all day and ten free falls. Even the best players look exhausted when they get done after two whole minutes.