- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I am a little bit giddy today. ESPN Classic just announced that it will begin showing re-runs of “American Gladiators” at 7 p.m. every weeknight beginning on April 2, and will air a seven-hour marathon of the show this Saturday.

For those who are unfamiliar with American Gladiators, you must know that it aired during the early 1990s and was The Greatest Show in the History of Television.

It had the following premise: two contestants of each gender compete in a series of gimmicky athletic challenges, all the while battling large, muscular “Gladiators” with fake names like “Nitro,” “Viper” and “Blaze.”

Some of the most entertaining events included:

Powerball, which required contestants to fight through a small army of Gladiators and score points by stuffing large yellow balls into cylinders.

Assault, in which contestants were asked to run from station to station and fire various weapons in an attempt to hit a target, all the while dodging tennis balls being fired by a Gladiator at more than 100 miles per hour.

The Wall, in which contestants tried to scale a rock climbing wall with a Gladiator chasing them.

Atlasphere, which required contestants to roll around in large, spherical metal cages and maneuver them towards “scoring pods.” In this event, two Gladiators were in spheres of their own, trying to knock the contestants off course.

The basic point of all these events was to rack up points, and the contestant with the most points got a head start in “The Eliminator,” an obstacle course event that decided the winner.

Obviously, all of this seems incredibly silly, especially when you factor in that the Gladiators wore tight, red white and blue spandex outfits and everyone had early 90’s mullets. But it made for great Saturday morning television because it was pretty slickly produced and there was nothing else like it on the air. And it was hilarious to watch the contestants and hosts Mike Adamle and Larry Csonka — yes, Larry Csonka — treat the show like it was the NFL Playoffs.

Because of the scoring format, any contestant could still win going into the last event. As a result, there were some genuinely dramatic moments; I will always remember the final event from season three, when contestant Mark Ortega (I had to look up the name. Thanks, Wikipedia) dove over the over the finish line in The Eliminator to win by about a half-second.

Thanks, ESPN Classic, for resurrecting this treasure of a sports show.

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