Archive for May, 2012

My American Ninja Warrior Journey

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

With my region (Midwest) airing on Sunday night on G4 representing my third year competing in American Ninja Warrior, and this possibly being the moment where through NBC’s involvement American Ninja Warrior gets some mainstream popularity, I found myself reflecting a bit on my journey competing.  Below is a lazy man’s retrospective of that journey through highlighting the key blog posts in that journey in chronological order.

My first blog entry – “Do I Dare?” – from the moment when I first considered daring to compete.

A key moment of enlisting one of my best buddies to pursue this with me, Ron Friedman, my “Partner in Crime.”  Ron ended up only competing in one American Ninja Warrior (2) with me, but we had a blast training for it together and motivating each other over the last years.

When I asked my 4 year old, a huge Ninja Warrior fan, about the prospect of me competing.  I got a less than supportive “But You’ll Fall in the Water” response.

Once I decided to try and compete, I devised a basic 5 element “Training Plan” which I still basically follow today.  Many people ask me what I do to prepare to compete, and this is still what I largely tell them.

For American Ninja Warrior 2, I was “Jacked Up and Ready to Go” right before the competition, and then had a blast at the competition which I highlighted in “My Run at American Ninja Warrior” detailing my experience and eventual fall on my nemesis the Spider Wall.

For American Ninja Warrior 2, I had been told by production that they were going to feature my run on TV, and then they showed nothing.  I did get a short clip of me falling off the Spider Wall that was aired in Japan for Sasuke (Ninja Warrior Japan), so that was pretty dope.

After getting injured during American Ninja Warrior 2, I trained hard for American Ninja Warrior 3 and laid out my training plan in my State of the Union blog.

In what was unfortunately a glimpse of things to come, I was still dangling a week before American Ninja Warrior 3 about whether I would get an invite or not…”Competition a Week Away, Still Waiting for an Invite.”  Waiting for your invite just until the competition is the hardest thing about being an aspiring competitor.

My run at American Ninja Warrior 3 was the most disappointing moment of my experience.  I had trained hard and was in the best shape that I’d been in, but the rain and the wet Quad Steps proved too much for me and most competitors…Death by Wetuple Steps.  This is the moment where my wife started being less supportive of this quest…I was so distraught afterwards her attitude was that the whole thing isn’t worth it if it makes you feel badly.

Around the airing of American Ninja Warrior 3 I noted The Rise of Obstacle Course Competitions in the form of more specialized gyms like Apex Movement in Colorado and Tempest Academy in LA, and actual races like the Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race.  I think this is an inflection point in what I anticipate(d) to be a major surge in obstacle course fanaticism.

Despite my disappointment around my experience in American Ninja Warrior 3, I was more determined than ever to compete in American Ninja Warrior 4 which I chronicle in the cleverly titled “American Ninja Warrior 4, Here I Come!

After fearing that Ninja Warrior (Sasuke) was dead, we hear news that it not only was going to continue, but it was going to be bigger than ever and some major changes were on the horizon – The Ninja Warrior World Re-Aligns.

Unfortunately for me, for American Ninja Warrior 4 (this year’s competition) just one week prior to the competition I was still Waiting by the Phone for my invite, and as the days ticked pass I was In Need of a Miracle.

When I finally learned that I wasn’t going to be given a guaranteed invite, I packed up the wife and kids into the car and drove 3 days just so I could line up in the early morning for a shot at an elusive walk-on spot.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  “Without an Invite, Gonna Try for a Walkon

Then…victory!  I was given a walkon spot, which I detailed in my joyously titled “Mission Accomplished!  Got to Run in American Ninja Warrior 4!” blog, which takes me to this moment.

Hope you enjoy my run on Sunday night on G4 in the Midwest regionals (hopefully I’ll be shown!), and I’ll share some thoughts on my actual run after it airs!  Please let me know if you appreciate my journey and efforts, I often wonder if anybody is even reading this drivel I write about this wacky obsession of mine.

Submission Video for American Ninja Warrior 4

Monday, May 21st, 2012

With my region (Midwest) getting teed up to be aired this Memorial Day weekend, thought I’d give a little coverage to my submission video for this year.  If you want to skip over my blabbering and get right to the action, jump to the 1:17 mark.  Not the world’s best submission video by any stretch of the imagination, but not bad for a 40 year old dad!  Check it out and let me know if you appreciate my crazy-ass obstacle course obsession.

Southwest on Deck

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The season of American Ninja Warrior 4 starts tonight on G4 and continues tomorrow night on NBC showing the Southwest regional and regional final rounds.  The Southwest region is chock-full of legitimate ninja studs and is arguably the strongest of the six regions in this year’s competition.  Including top competitors Levi Meeuwenberg, Shane Daniels, Luci Romberg, and Brian Orosco from the LA-based Tempest Academy, as well as other top guns and fan favorites like Kelvin “Grandpa Ninja” Antoine, Brent Steffensen, Dorian Cedars, Michael “Frosti” Zeroniow, Ryan “Cloud” Cousins, and Evan “Rocket” Dollard….the Southwest region episodes are sure to amaze, inspire and shock!

Click LIKE if you are eagerly anticipating, watching and/or digging the Southwest region episodes this week!  I’ll post some results and commentary when everything is aired and public.

The Calm Before the Storm

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Just a few short days before launch of American Ninja Warrior 4 this Sunday night on G4, followed the next night by its network debut on NBC, I find myself in a reflective mood about the state and fate of this quirky crazy fun obstacle course competition as it perhaps stands on the precipice of mainstream awareness.  This season represents the moment when American Ninja Warrior gets called up to the major leagues of network NBC as a prime-time summer series from its previous minor league status as a cult favorite the past three seasons on the niche G4 network otherwise notable only for its video-gaming and Cops-rerun-watching audience.

Like a lot of competitors who have been longtime fanatics of Ninja Warrior in Japan, I feel a sort of possessiveness about this competition and some sense of ownership of it.  Whether there is any merit to it or not, I perhaps feel more ownership than most because I envisioned this very moment, this very threshold, of when American Ninja Warrior might be embraced by the mainstream American public and become a cult phenomena, driving kids and adults alike to jump, climb and swing around on any obstacle they could find.  I envisioned this even before American Ninja Warrior was created, rushing out to buy the domain name for $10 from GoDaddy in a moment of inspiration 5 years ago when I was SURE it would one day be a hit here in America, thinking “how could it not?” because it was so transparently awesome to me.  And I wasn’t buying the domain name for financial speculation, I was buying it because as a middle-aged guy I wanted a platform to voice my passion to compete that would hopefully translate into a ticket onto the course so I could measure myself against those unforgivable obstacles I grew to love sitting on my couch.

Now with American Ninja Warrior three seasons into its existence with a growing fan and competitor base it’s poised to take a quantum leap into the mainstream awareness with its extensive coverage on both NBC and G4 this summer, and I find myself wrestling with a mix of excitement and concern.  This was the moment I foresaw 5 years ago, so you would think I would be gratified by its arrival, but I fear that this is also the moment where it might cease to be the private obsession of mine and my small cadre of ninja brethren, and we irrevocably lose our ownership of it to network producers and the teeming masses.

While I am sentimental (clearly), I am also a realist.  If ratings disappoint, NBC will not hesitate to kill American Ninja Warrior in the cradle, and I might not ever get to run again or see my beloved ninja brothers again.  If it is a success, which I believe it will be, NBC will wrest control of it away from us and whip it to whatever frenzied success it can create, leaving we early competitors behind in its wake.  And make no mistake about it, we competitors (with the exception of a small group) are largely just rats in the maze to the producers and are totally replaceable and interchangeable.  Maybe that is the root of my anxiety, my fear that if American Ninja Warrior blows up in popularity and becomes a big mainstream success there were be a tidal wave of applicants battling to compete and myself and my early ninja buddies will no longer be invited to play, kicked out of the party right when it really starts to get roaring.  Yes, that is the root of my fear, and the thought of it makes me sad.

But all weepiness aside, I’m still proud of American Ninja Warrior and proud to be a three-time competitor in this awesome competition, and proud to be called friend by the amazing people who I have met that share my passion in this crazy quirky fun obstacle course that maybe, just maybe, America is about to fall in love with as well.

The very first moment I ever stepped onto the American Ninja Warrior course. Quad Steps in ANW2 in Venice Beach, 2010.

American Ninja Warrior 4 TV Schedule – UPDATED

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

This season’s American Ninja Warrior will premiere on G4 on Sunday May 20 at 9 pm ET for 2 hours. In what is an unusual airing schedule between G4 and NBC, two of the properties of the Comcast/NBC conglomerate, every Sunday night starting May 20th G4 will air a 2 hour slot followed the very next night (Mondays) with a one-hour slot on NBC (prime-time baby!). In a clever structure designed to cross-pollinate viewership between the niche G4 channel and the mainstream network NBC, American Ninja Warrior 4 will show the “opening round” of a given regional competition on Sunday night for 2 hours on G4, and then the next night (Monday) will show the finals of that region on NBC. I think this structure ensures that for a given region people will feel more vested in the 30 finalists that advance (meaning they are more likely to remember them) when they get to watch the regional finals the very next night on NBC. The success of Ninja Warrior in Japan and around the world largely developed because viewers got to know and root for the “regular people” who competed and there was some continuity of competitors across seasons, so I’m glad that G4/NBC recognizes this critical viewer dynamic.

Below is the official schedule for the summer according to the best information I have to date, with my notes next to it about what will likely be shown according to fairly reliable sources. Keep in mind the overall structure of the American Ninja Warrior 4 competition this year, which is different from past years. Things to remember: 6 regional competitions held in 3 cities (2 regionals in Venice, 2 in Dallas, 2 in Miami). Each regional competition had an “opening round” with about 150 competitors (to be shown on G4) where the top 30 advanced to the regional finals (to be shown on NBC the next night). The top 15 competitors from each regional final advanced to the finals in Las Vegas on the new uber-course built there (6*15 regional finals means 90 competitors, plus 10 “wild-cards”, to equate to a tidy 100 finalists in Vegas).

Sunday, May 20: 9 p.m.-11pm ET on G4 – Southwest Regional

Monday, May 21: 9 p.m.-11p.m. ET on NBC – Finals of Southwest Regional…this slot is 2 hours for presumably more background segments to setup the season

Sunday, May 27 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET on G4 – Midwest Regional (this is where I, your humble host, compete)

Monday, May 28: 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on NBC – Finals of Midwest Regional

Sunday, June 3: 9 p.m.-11p.m. ET on G4 – Northeast Regional

Monday, June 4: 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on NBC – Finals of Northeast Regional

Sunday, June 10: 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET on G4 – Northwest Regional

Monday, June 11: 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on NBC – Finals of Northwest Regional

Sunday, June 17: 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET on G4 – Midsouth Regional (also called South-Central)

Monday, June 18: 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET on NBC – Finals of Midsouth Regional

Sunday, June 24: 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET on G4 – Southeast Regional

Monday, June 25: 10 p.m. -11p.m. ET on NBC – Finals of Southeast Regional

Sunday, July 8: 9 p.m. -12 a.m. ET on G4 – Las Vegas Finals, Stage 1, Runners 1 thru 88

Monday, July 9: 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on NBC – Las Vegas Finals, Stage 1, Runners 89 thru 96

Monday, July 16 9 p.m. -10 p.m. ET on NBC – Las Vegas finals, Stage 1, Runners 97 thru 100 & Part of Stage 2

Monday, July 23 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on NBC – Las Vegas finals, Stage 2, 3 and ??

That’s the best information I have coming from a pretty reliable source. Set your DVRs!