Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Glads’ come back to America

Steroids have gotten a bad rap recently. Not to look the other way and completely ignore the fact that steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs have their health drawbacks and have forever caused sports fans to think twice whenever any achievement of note is accomplished, but it seems like steroids are being blamed for just about every problem under the sun.

But steroids and users weren’t always so ostracized.

In a simpler time of teal and purple, San Jose Sharks sleeveless T-shirts and mullets, spandex, and Garfield cartoons on Saturday mornings, stars that seemingly were far more juiced than the average suspended minor league baseball player were held up as models of physical perfection.


Instead of undertaking an assault on all-time records, they played Assault. Instead of breaking through offensive lines to conquer quarterbacks, they played defense in Breakthrough and Conquer. And instead of hanging tough in front of Congressional hearings, these guys (and gals) swung on rings in Hang Tough.

I’m speaking, of course, of the American Gladiators.

Back before a "game show" meant "America" voting over text messages to decide which second-rate singer’s crappy rendition of a real musician’s song was best, an American Idol would be declared by competitors running the gauntlet — that was "American Gladiators."

In case you lived under a rock for your childhood or haven’t turned on ESPN Classic anytime after 9 p.m. in the last year, American Gladiators was a physical challenge game show from the early '90s in which challengers squared off to accumulate points while competing in several different games against gladiators. The contestants were your average gym rats in great physical condition; the gladiators were larger than life behemoths with bulging muscles that may have, you know, been achieved through some extra-gymnastic measures.

Anyway, "American Gladiators" was just about the coolest show on television.

Anyone who didn’t try to use the "Let’s play American Gladiators" line as an excuse to knock around the kid brother in the basement and throw Nerf basketballs at him really missed the boat.

Who didn’t want to joust Nitro with a padded pugel stick high above soft mats, climb a wall with Ice following close behind or run the Eliminator? I still wish I could.

It turns out that chance is still out there. NBC announced last month that it was bringing the show back.

There is so much potential for this, it is unreal.

Not only will the male 18-to-35 demographic eat this stuff up, an entire new base of fans is out there ready to eat up "AG." Plus, with pro wrestling starting to struggle, American Gladiators could step in and take part of that market.

There are just a couple adjustments NBC should think about implementing to make the second go-around of Gladiators even better than the first.

Make the gladiators bad guys

Take the approach that pro wrestling took and make the gladiators villains. Fifteen years ago fans might have liked rooting for gladiators, but nowadays, fans need some sort of forced rooting interest. Create some story lines to follow the gladiators around and the challenger versus gladiator story a true good against evil subplot.

Add some new games

The classic games (Assault, Atlasphere, Joust, Powerball) should stay, but there are opportunities out there for some really cool new games. Anything involving a trampoline that could cause powerful, potentially injury-resultant mid-air collisions would be a good start.

That said, NBC shouldn’t mess with the winning formula too much.

Another thing for them to consider is adding a twist where a random member of the studio audience is selected to go one-on-one with a gladiator in several events. How funny would it be to see the most out-of-shape, 300-plus pound guy in the place get picked out to try and climb The Wall with a gladiator right on his heels?

There still needs to be an announcing crew with a former football player to conduct awkward interviews with challengers and gladiators. My choice would be Jerome Bettis. He’s already under contract with NBC as a studio analyst for their NFL coverage, and he’s a fan favorite that viewers would identify with, much like former Miami Dolphin and Gladiators analyst Larry Csonka. Mike Adomie needs to be brought back to be the host, too.

Above all, "American Gladiators" needs to stay true to its roots. Let’s hope NBC doesn’t butcher a classic by having viewers determine the winners of matches or have some stupid panel of judges go on and on about other pointless stuff. Keep it real athletic competition that young kids dream about playing in.

Most importantly, require every person that appears on the show to have a permed mullet and every fan in the stands to wear either a Starter jacket or a Vancouver Grizzlies shirt. For oldtimes' sake.

Ben is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. Contact him to talk about setting up Madison Gladiators at [email protected].

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