A Few Amazing Aspects of This Season of American Ninja Warrior

One of my favorite competitions, American Ninja Warrior, typically films in the spring and airs throughout the summer. But the first half of 2020 was no ordinary time–hardly any sports were active during the spring. So I assumed ANW wouldn’t happen this year.

Then, a few weeks ago, a new episode appeared on my Tivo. To my surprise, it really the first episode of a new season. There were no spectators, and it appeared to be filmed inside of a stadium instead of outside. In fact, it wasn’t just any stadium–it was the old Rams stadium in St. Louis!

Sure enough, instead of assembling and taking down the massive obstacle course for a road trip across the US, the producers of ANW established a home base in St. Louis for presumably a few weeks in August/September. The various ninjas converged on the city, following careful quarantine and self-isolation guidelines, and the recorded a season of the show.

Like the NBA, instead of in-person spectators, family and friends were able to watch and interact with their favorite ninja via big screens set up around the course. One of the great things about this–combined with being inside a football stadium–is that they could film during normal hours instead of between midnight and 6:00 am like they have in the past.

The show usually includes some walk-on competitors who wait in line for days; instead of that, they worked with well known ninjas to select “teams” comprised of 3 total contestants (including both veterans and newcomers). They combined that system with a new use for the head-to-head matchup between the fastest competitors at the end of each day–if you win that matchup, you get to bring your entire team with you to the next stage.

I absolutely love all of this. While this is far-fetched and completely biased, my hope is that American Ninja Warrior takes up permanent residence in the old Rams dome here in St. Louis. I think it makes sense on a number of logistical levels, and there are so many more seats in the stadium than the bleachers they set up in the past.

Have you been watching this season? Do you think there’s a chance they’ll settle down in St. Louis rather than continuing with the traveling format used in the past?

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