A substitute for the Olympics

I'm not a big sports fan.  I'll watch a fight now and then (boxing, Muay Thai, or MMA), but that's about it.  I don't have favorite teams and I don't follow the careers of individual athletes.

However, I do make an exception for the Olympics.  Every other year I become an avid sports fan for a couple of weeks and watch as much coverage of the Olympic games as I can.  And I don't really even care what the events are, either.  I'll watch everything from racing to curling - anything I can find.  Because, for me, it's not about the sports per se.  It's more the atmosphere of (usually) good-natured competition between nations.  It's a chance to celebrate the success of individual athletes while simultaneously cheering for your "team".

Sadly, this year the Olympics have been postponed due to coronavirus.  However, my wife found an acceptable substitute on Netflix in the form of the Ultimate Beastmaster.

I know that probably sounds crazy, but stick with me.

If you haven't seen the show, the basic premise is that it's a game show where contestants have to run through an obstacle course.  They take turns running the course and get points for getting past the obstacles.  Whoever ends up with the most points wins.  There are multiple "levels" to the course and the game is run as an elimination tournament to get to the final level where the winner is determined.

So how is that like the Olympics?  Well, for starters, there's a meeting of nations.  Each episode features six teams of athletes, each representing a different country.  And I say "athletes" rather than "contestants" because that's what you have to be to get through this obstacle course.  Like the Olympics, the course requires some strategy and is very physically challenging.  Actually, that's an understatement - it's not "challenging", it's absurdly difficult.  The course varies between seasons and episodes, but I swear some of them are borderline impossible.

But more importantly, the Ultimate Beastmaster has very much the same vibe as the Olympics.  There are two announcers from each country represented, and yes, they talk a lot of crap to each other, but they keep the overall mood very positive.  Everyone roots for their team, and when their team is eliminated, they root for the another team.  The sportsmanship and camaraderie, both from the athletes and announcers, is inspiring.

So while it's not the Olympics, Ultimate Beastmaster gives me a lot of the same things - global community mixed with national pride, intense competition, and celebrating great personal achievements.  If you're missing that Olympic feeling this summer (and you're a Netflix subscriber), then give it a try.

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