Recently, applications closed for the upcoming Spartan TV show and a casting call went out to elite obstacle racers. With Facebook feeds buzzing with casting videos and requests for teammates to join up for the forthcoming show, it has been the talk of the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) world.

The show lists very few details on what you are applying for besides that there will be teams of two males, two females and one elite athlete competing as a group over a specially designed Spartan course. As a competitive athlete, several of my friends inquired about the status of my application. I, however, purposely did not fill one out because I am wary about the new show…and here is why.


Not Enough of a Character

The first reason I did not apply is because I do not think I fit the criteria for interesting TV show contestant. By this, I mean myself along with most other well trained, mentally strong athletes make for boring television. When things get hard, and I am suffering, my face turns stoic, I put my head down and continue at a slower pace. I do not stop, sit down or cry about how I cannot go on. This type of behavior is unexciting for viewers. Just look at any reality show on television today. If you cannot tell, they select competitors based on a mix of traits including some athletic ability, but also people with unyielding personalities, people who overreact and people who create drama, you probably should open your eyes. The bottom line is if you are not selected, your calm personality might be one of the causes of you not meeting the criteria.


Show Focus

Second, I am worried the show is going to be full of human interest stories and not focus on athletic ability. Even one of the hardest competitor shows on television, American Ninja Warrior, is mostly human interest stories. American Ninja Warrior only airs about three episodes per season that focus on athletic ability (two episodes for Stage 1 and one episode for stages 2-4). The majority of the city qualifying events focus on human interest stories, something that I do not have a desire to be a part of because I do not like airing all my personal business to a national audience.

What makes me think they are going to select athletes based on human interest and not athletic ability? Three things definitively stand out. The first is historical precedence of every reality show.

One of my Facebook friends tried out for Tough Enough and stated he felt like tryouts were designed to make people look stupid to create compelling television. The second is the producers for Ninja Warrior will also be the producers for Spartan “The Program”. The third is Spartan has the opportunity to have “casting” sessions almost every week.

If they were looking for the best athletes, they could just say, “Top 50 people at the World Championships have priority for the show”. If they were looking for a range of abilities, they could select athletes based off age group placing at the Spartan World Championship, which happens to line up well with the closing of the application window. Another option is to have a unique race that is designated for casting for the episode.


Show Format

Finally, I am concerned the show will be more like mini, team based Death Race, than actual OCR. Frankly, watching people do tough team building events will probably be more exciting than watching pure OCR. After all, this show is put on by the same company that helped found Death Race.

Hopefully, I will read this article next year and regret my decision not to apply. Maybe this show will be what takes OCR to the next level, and I will have missed the boat because I am skeptical. If my skepticism and assumptions I made turn out to be wrong, I am sure you will see my application online for Season 2. I hope Spartan proves me wrong and this turns into the next big thing. I think what Spartan has done for the OCR world has been fantastic. With their extensive series of races of all distances and televised races at NBC Sports, they have truly helped bring racing to the masses. I just hope this show presents OCR in the best light and does not turn into another human interest driven reality show full of mentally unstable competitors overreacting.

Editor’s Note:

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Did you apply to the show? 

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