And then it happened.
Three-year competitor Issac Caldiero was the first to ever complete the dreaded Stage 3, and then a few minutes later sophomore ninja warrior Geoff Britton also completed the task. It was a truly epic evening watching two truly awesome competitors do the seemingly impossible. Of course, after completing Stage 3, the warriors still needed to "climb Mt. Midoriyama," the final challenge of climbing a 75-food rope in less than 30 seconds. It would be a challenge, but we knew they could do it. And then, just before the commercial break, the hosts of the show dropped a bombshell by revealing a seemingly never-before-known-or-announced rule: the winner of the $1million prize would be the person who "scaled the rope the fastest." Many of us were dumbfounded as the commercials ran, thinking, "What?" (or even "W-T-F!?")
After seven years of not awarding the cash prize (which was only a half million previously) and title, many viewers imagined that NBC could, would, and should "pony up" the prize for both winners. At the very least, second-place finisher Geoff Britten could have been given a smaller cash prize - like perhaps the $500K that was the previous award. Considering other shows give out million dollar cash prizes every year, it seemed like not an unreasonable expectation that NBC could compensate both winners. Considering NBC is a mega-corporation with yearly revenue of $26 billion, and they have earned copious revenue from the advertising over seven seasons, the Powers-That-Be like producer Kent Weed could have compensated Geoff Britton for his brilliant performance. And, while POM Wonderful is not the financial behemoth that NBC is, the fruit drink maker does share some responsibility as the primary sponsor. POM has been conspicuously silent. But the fans haven't, as the outpouring of support for Geoff and seriously lobbying for some cash for him has blown up Twitter. One group has even started up a GoFundMe site for Geoff with the intent of average fans paying him something if the corporate kings won't.
For those who compete and for the fans who follow the competitions, American Ninja Warrior is much more than an obstacle course or a reality show. This competition is about the pursuit of excellence. Period. It is an ideal deeply embedded in our culture, and it harkens back to the days of the early Olympics in Ancient Greece or the stories of epic heroes like Odysseus and Beowulf. This is about being the absolute best and beating the challenge just to prove that we can. American Ninja Warrior is a contest of human greatness, and in the words of Geoff Britten, "I didn't do it for the money." And, that is what makes people like Geoff and Isaac and thousands of others all the more impressive.
And, now, with the course finally conquered, it's time for Ninja Warriors to ask:
For Isaac Caldiero, the answer is easy: "A tougher course."