American Ninja Warrior brings sudden fame to previously unknown parkour athletes and freerunners who are only in it for the love of the sport.
The television show American Ninja Warrior has bridged the gap between simple street tricks and sport, promising—and delivering—a measured degree of mainstream fame for popular YouTube antiheroes such as David “Flip” Rodriguez and Drew Drechsler.
Hopeful contestants now train year round, building their own obstacles in garages and backyards, climbing gyms, and CrossFit boxes. Kids recognize them on the street and buy clothing on their websites.
And it could all go away tomorrow if the show becomes unpopular. Made famous by a sport invented for television, the top American competitors risk their asses without promise of a paycheck. None are paid to be on the show. There’s no multi-season contract, no sponsorship. Their only link to fame is through television; without the show, there is no sport.
What becomes of a ninja without a cause?
American Ninja Warrior star “Flip” Rodriguez opens up about how abuse at the hands of his father made him stronger: The Man Behind the Mask by Mike Koslap.