Is this what you mean by ‘manly things’?

Last night after football (ugh) Gina and I renewed our faith in a childhood television classic: American Gladiators (yay). This wonderful show, now being hosted by Hulk Hogan, is really about the renewal of the American Dream: showing your stuff and physically and mentally dominating others. While I don’t normally go for tough talk or shows that encourage participants to verbally or otherwise abuse each other, somehow this show is the exception to the rule. Perhaps it’s the facade of safety measures that makes the whole thing seem more fun: all the padding on the contestants and the gladiators seems reminiscent of physical challenges on Double Dare (Did I mention Mark Summers went to my high school?). And I will say, I have been able to try the joust before, and it was pretty fun. Kinda like a pillow fight on stools.

Still, the second episode we watched was a display of just how ridiculous and violent the show really is. First off, some guy who tried out for the original AG came in with a big mouth. He also got a little rough on the first even, knocking the helmet off of one of the gladiators (for which he was penalized). So, even if there’s lots of padding, said padding can always be removed. Also, they have giant squishy looking padded wrecking balls that the gladiators swing at the contestants as they try to cross a bridge. It looks just like really slow ungainly dodgeball – until you see one of the contestants knocked of the bridge by one of the 100 lb things. The contestant, upon being asked about what went wrong for her on the event, said she thought she could deflect the ball. Alas.

It was this same crazy Marine girl who reminded me of yet another American trait – dogged ridiculous persistence.  On the eliminator, there’s a new ‘flame’ section – contestants must dive and swim beneath a section of piped gas flames.  Our poor little girl was a little disoriented in the water and swam into one of the pipes hard enough to set her back several seconds.  What she didn’t seem to realize was that she had also gashed open her forehead.  She kept chugging along, unable to regain her lost ground, blood streaming down her face.

I can now say it was probably only a superficial cut – face wounds bleed quite a bit, and it was streaming, rather than pumping.  Still, there is something innate in my gene code or upbringing that says bleeding face = seek medical attention.  Sure, you’re already bleeding on TV and looked stupid banging your head into a steel pipe, but that’s no reason to keep pushing your body, making your blood pump out faster.  I really don’t know whether I feel proud of this girl’s persistence, or ashamed of her irrational pursuit of TV fame.  Maybe a little of both.

Ultimately, being caught up in at least two hours of AG has taught me one thing.   I may make big talk about being concerned for the greater good, and not being amused by more plebeian humor.  But at some level I’m still a Roman, expecting my circus.