Thanks everyone for being patient! I've been working hard on a few of projects that I'm planning on unveiling soon™ and I procrastinated in taking time away from that to post this blog! Without further ado I'm back to blogging about this year's American Ninja Warrior 7 Special - USA vs. World special that aired on Sunday, January 31, 2016 on NBC. I'm happy to report that many of the things that made me RAGE in last year's special has actually been addressed! Not all.. but it seems the major issues that TBS officially protested last year were fixed for this year. A few stupid things remain but I'll point them out as I do the blog.
Yuusuke Morimoto 森本 裕介
LOL That was quite a sentence.. at first it sounded like Matt implied that a lot of Americans have competed in Sasuke. We know that's false (especially under NBC for the past 5 years). Also, Drew was in attendance to see Morimoto in person clear the Crazy Cliffhanger (you know.. the original one that has the jump that NBC tacked on) so he's not surprised he cleared it just a couple weeks later.
The other is that Matt sounds surprised when he shouldn't be.. last year on USA vs. World NBC SHOWED Morimoto clearing the original Crazy Cliffhanger クレイジークリフハンガー - those are NBC tags on that video.. Matt even went out of his way to mention it to everyone that Morimoto cleared it. So for Matt to sound surprised now just makes me shake my head and laugh. In fact at the time that was Morimoto's only claim to fame.. that and the fact that he competed in Sasuke when he was 15 years old.
Yuusuke Morimoto 森本 裕介 - STAGE THREE CLEAR!
Easy clear on the UCH wait.. did they dismiss Drew Dreschel? He cleared this UCH in ANW7! Why wasn't he on the list of Americans that .. oh.. because he didn't have a climbing background and didn't fit the narrative? Drew gets no respect... C'mon Matt.. you were there...
Because.. I'm BATMAN!
wait.. defeated Geoff Britten last night? Wha? What ever happened to ANW being "man against course?" Ah.. I'm beating a dead horse.. I can never expect ANW to be Sasuke. That ship has long since sailed.
You know.. it's a shame that after the nice words Isaac said here he had to change all that literally the day after with all of those interviews trashing Geoff in pursuit of being the ONLY American Ninja Warrior.
I guess I can just savor the moment and what was on screen. It's rare when I actually enjoy an ANW competition. I'm glad they fixed a lot of the problems that this show was plagued with. My hope is that they go back and fix more because everyone deserves a level playing field.
Ginyu Force pose ©Mike Bernardo
So another year and this time I actually didn't rage as much. I'm really happy about that. As usual the only major problems I had was with the depiction (or lack thereof) of Japan's Sasuke and its history. Everything else had to deal with the lack of training that Japan had but even then I was talked off the ledge by Team Japan. They offer zero excuses and don't blame what happened to them to their performances. I for one disagree. They arrived in Vegas and went to the course only to be turned away leaving Team Europe to continue to train on the course on their own. Japan didn't get a chance to practice on the obstacles. I was told that Japan didn't care simply because they weren't really allowed to do so any other year prior and in Sasuke you aren't allowed to touch them at all. It was good practice to go in cold - just like Sasuke. That said, I was infuriated since USA already competed on it the night before and all of that team would have to have been on the Third Stage to even be named to the team and Europe had a considerable amount of time and free reign on the course that morning. I personally believe if Japan knew about some of the obstacle quirks, they would have gone further. Each of them disagree with me for different reasons.
Team Japan at the airport ©Yuusuke Morimoto
The ANW vets are used to crap happening to them in the USA (long live politics within NBC corporate) so this didn't feel any different. The deck is always stacked against them, they know it and have made peace with it. The vets warned the others, just as the previous vets warned them last year that this was bound to happen. So already prepared, they were unfazed by the stupidity that was that morning's lack of practice. The new ones however got an education of a lifetime. Kong said his legs were shaking so hard during the event that by the time he got to the trampoline for the propeller bar his legs were made of jelly. Sasuke is a much different set. It's quiet. It's isolated. Between obstacles you can literally hear a pin drop. You can hear the sounds of frogs and even the motors of the smoke machines and camera equipment. ANW looked, felt and sounded like a raucous frat party with everyone drunk and screaming WHOOOOOOOOO the whole time. They were frazzled and overwhelmed. Classic stage fright under the hot lights of the Las Vegas strip.
Brian Kretsch with Team Japan ©Brian Kretsch
Hioki and Tomo never left the country before and this was their first trip to the USA. No one on Team Japan are professional athletes competing as a career to be the best at a particular sport. None quit their jobs in pursuit of being awesome at a TV show. Everyone has a regular job and have lives with Sasuke being a side hobby once a year. Heck, Morimoto only trains 20% of the time devoting 80% to real life. Even ninja competition-wise, neither Tomo or Hioki competed in international events (Yuusuke and Kenji did so in Malaysia and Ryo built and tested in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia). They simply got overwhelmed by the grandeur of the USA and frankly.. choked. Hioki's story was both sad and funny. He wanted to know when this aired but he didn't want to see it because he was embarrassed.. but his wife wanted to see it so he had to ask. LOL He was happy to see it because it's everyone's dream to be on American television. He just wish he did better. Tomo felt he did okay given the circumstances and I happen to agree. Even then he profusely apologized for the team's performance. They re-calibrated and brought a taller more accomplished team but still fell short. They take full responsibility for their failures and apologized profusely for being overwhelmed by their surroundings. They felt they should have just coped and done better. "Everything in the USA is so biiiiig!" Hopefully with more competitions under their belt they will get that competition experience that the rest of these teams have. Japan is going to send a team to Vietnam this year and we also await the announced Sasuke World Cup to actually be organized. This will only make the competition stronger. I look forward to it! ♥
Morimoto excited that he got the World Champion's autograph OMG! ©Yuusuke Morimoto
That said that nagging feeling still remains like a pit in my stomach that if things were even this would have been a glorious 3-way competition.. even better than what was to be last year. Some remember the bitter disappointment from last year and so this year they were gunning to do better. I also asked Morimoto if he was bothered that he wasn't called Sasuke Champion here in the USA and he laughed .. "what are you talking about?!? I was yelled at "CHAMPION" everywhere I went on the Vegas lot! I had to tell them to lower their voices because Sasuke had not aired in Japan at the time and didn't want to cause trouble (TBS aired it 2 weeks after Vegas taped). I asked again recently now that the USA broadcast finally aired and he didn't care that they didn't refer to that in post production. Sasuke doesn't air in the USA anyway and despite what NBC does, nothing erases that moment in time in Japan when he defeated Sasuke 31. He also was at least happy that they showed all of his Third Stage run because he was particularly proud of that. He doesn't fret over things he cannot possibly control. He's got a more mature attitude about it than I do! That said, as a fan of Sasuke, it's my duty to yell when they won't. They know the politics and they know they are guests representing their country on foreign soil. Plenty would enjoy being in their shoes and they respect the fact that they were given the honor to represent Japan. So while personally they wish they did better both individually and as a team, they still left the USA with wonderful memories. Better memories than in years past. With each passing year they learn to adapt so they can pass on that knowledge for future generations. They enjoyed their trip to the USA and they love meeting the other competitors. Those small moments they did manage to get are the highlight of their trip. Thanks to all of those stealthy ninjas who managed to support them and acknowledge their contribution to this sport. I wholeheartedly salute you. ♥ If any regret lingers, is that they wanted to be able to meet more fans. They are just as much fans of them as they are being the objects of affection. (note the silly grin on Morimoto's face to meet THE Sean McColl)
2015 Ninja Warrior Champions! ©Yuusuke Morimoto
ANW7 - Isaac Caldiero , Sasuke 31 Yuusuke Morimoto and ANW7 Geoff Britten
Ultimately my biggest problem was with this picture. It is a microcosm of everything that went wrong on the NBC broadcast. NBC just didn't handle this whole triple champion situation right. A day after the ANW7 Final and only crowning one American champion, they had no idea of the fan backlash that would happen months later when they finally aired that on television. To this day they have no idea why people are so angry and often appear baffled that their assurances fall on deaf ears. Especially because changing this year's rules don't erase what they did to Geoff and they won't erase those scathing words out of Isaac's mouth. They can now add the thousands of Sasuke fans who felt that great Sasuke snub yet again with Morimoto's image. NBC had no idea that by the time they got to June, 2015 THREE NINJA WARRIOR CHAMPIONS would be crowned in the same year, present on THEIR television lot and there sharing the SAME TITLE. Unlike ANW, Sasuke doesn't mind Co-Champions as evidenced by Kunoichi's Co-Champion situation from a few years back. It's a badge of honor to have multiple champions on their show. More people to spread the Sasuke gospel as far as they are concerned. The competition in Japan is about man vs. course but ANW has evolved over the years into Man vs. Man. That philosophy has repercussions and the perfect storm hit that Vegas lot at once. Luckily enough American fans of Sasuke were there to support all three of the Champions even though NBC didn't see fit to do the same. Japan felt that love and were happy that Morimoto was at least acknowledged by the rabid Sasuke fanbase. NBC wasn't prepared and it showed.
Finally, I had only hoped that NBC showed this Final. After USA won the event another small event took place shortly after. As a token of good will towards Japan who didn't get points (and what many considered a gimme to Morimoto since he did the best here and was recently crowned Champion in Sasuke - but I can't confirm that last part), NBC allowed a Final climb off with Morimoto on one rope and another from Team USA (since they won the event). This wasn't for points or money, it was a gesture of goodwill. Team USA chose Ian Dory since he was touted as the best rope climber from the team (even moreso than Isaac). Ian and Yuusuke went head to head up the Final Tower in front of the live audience. Morimoto won. Don't ask what were the times because I don't know. Morimoto doesn't remember either just that when he got up there he realized he won. I wish I could have seen that. I think it would have softened the blow of how he was portrayed as that "kid with potential" during the broadcast instead of current champion, the current FACE of the sport and the future of Sasuke Japan. We never will because NBC didn't want to show it. It would break the image they created these 3 hours on network television. It would also share the limelight with Isaac on the show and they can't have that. ANW waited 7 years for a champion and they were willing to sacrifice the Japanese Champion (and even another American) for that pedestal. After seeing how they edited the show, diminishing a lot of Japan's efforts and stature.. it's honestly not surprising. They would have had to explain why Morimoto was there, why so many fans were happy to see him, but they weren't prepared to do that. I just wish they did. I expect too much. LOL To be honest, whenever this was mentioned, most of the criticism shifted to "wait.. why didn't they do a Champion climb off with Isaac instead?" LOL Another opportunity lost.
In upcoming weeks I'll be doing several blog reports and formally announce (finally) a couple of projects I've been working on for the past year. In addition to those huge projects, I'll be doing other odds and ends. In addition to finally finishing my Sasuke 31 travel vlogs, I'll be traveling not far from my home for another Ninja event! I'll be doing a report (not sure if it will be a special episode on the podcast, or my Youtube, or Williams Youtube or all of them!) on the National Ninja League Finals in Hainsport, New Jersey. It's going to be a CRAZY weekend with over 180 competitors - a literal who's who in American Ninja Warrior back to back for 13+ hours! I'll be heading up there this weekend and pray I survive! LOL I'll also be announcing a crowdfund for a return trip to Sasuke now that the Sasuke 32 official announcement has been made! I pray that lightning strikes twice and I'm able to return. So lots of stuff, lots of videos, blogs, vlogs and podcasts coming up on Rambling Rican. Thank you so much for your support and please continue to follow this blog and my Twitter for more updates on a lot of exciting Sasuke related events, etc. on the horizon! So nice to be back on Sasuke Season! WHOOT! Omg.. I have a book to write this year too.. GAAAAAAAAAH