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Old 06-08-2017, 03:24 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Hawaii
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[Will hash out USA vs. The World 3 later. It's getting late and I'm really not up to it right now.]

“It started with 28 teams. After 7 intense weeks of competition...there are still 14 teams that are still in it. That’s right, half. Hey, it’s a reality TV show; of course it’s going to milk everything to death! Fortunately, we’re going to do away with 7 more teams For Reals This Time, so the chance of a team that stunk it up in prelims riding a lucky hot streak to the championship is actually quite small! And even if it does happen, we all checked out years ago, so scream all you want!” - Not the actual intro, but it should have been.

TEAM NINJA WARRIOR 2 - PLAY-IN ROUND, FIRST HALF

Labreckfast Club (5-2): Noel Reyes, Jesse “Flex” Labreck, Jon Alexis Jr.
Superhero Squad (4-4): Sean Darling-Hammond, Rachel Goldstein, Jamie Rahn
The Ballers (3-4): Lorin Ball, Meiling Huang, Paul Kasemir
The Wings (2-4): David Yarter, Melanie Hunt, Thomas Stillings

Man, this is some pretty thin gruel. Subpar teams in contention is nothing unusual for professional leagues, but usually they at least have winning records. Labreckfast Club, the “at large” team, looks like they have a pretty good shot, but Alexis Jr. is a giant (no pun intended) (seriously ) question mark. Can he shake off his humiliation at the hands of Paul Kasemir and become the force his team needs to win?

Fifth obstacle: Swinging Spikes - A series of hanging rods. Both competitors get their own set for the start and finish, but the four in the middle are shared.

Ninth obstacle: Final Climb - Same as Invisible Ladder, but with a long rope.

= 1st match: Labreckfast Club vs. Superhero Squad =
__L: Reyes vs. Darling-Hammond - Reyes has a small lead after Sonic Swing, then a very big lead after being clean through Ring of Fire while Darling-Hammond lands in both gaps. It’s over soon after when Darling-Hammond tries to midhop Floating Tiles, misses the second solo with his right foot, and somersaults into the drink. Reyes/distance
__W: Labreck vs. Goldstein - How long do you think they’re going to bray about this “fantastic four” business? I completely forgot all of them except Labreck by about the second Cityfinal. Also: “He is flying!” “Labreck is flying!” “That team is flying!” “Their legs are flying!Get a damn thesaurus, you boobs. This one’s not much of a contest, as Labreck is simply too powerful. She does make it interesting for a bit when she falls on the cables between the second and third rows of Floating Tiles, but she simply picks herself back up and continues. Goldstein isn’t so fortunate, losing her footing after the third row and taking a dive. Labreck/distance
__A: Alexis vs. Rahn - No one’s feeling the heat more than Alexis; if he can’t lead his team to victory over this sorry field, he’s going to be living it down for a long time. It’s a terrific start as both men set a quick pace and are clean through Ring of Fire. Rahn seems to find another gear after Swing Jump and shoots to the lead. Both successfully midhop, and Rahn maintains a slim lead going into Swinging Spikes. Alexis, never all that impressive with upper-body obstacles, can’t keep up the pace, and Rahn makes his victory charge unopposed. Rahn/finish

Oh crumpets, here we go again. Leadoff guy kicks butt, woman kicks butt, anchor gets left in the dust and then they realize they have next to no chance of winning the money heat. I haven’t been keeping track, but it seems like the team that wins the first two legs ends up losing the tiebreaker a lot. Which goes back to the point I made many, many times before, and I’m not deliberately trying to bore you, so let’s just get it over with.

__T: Reyes vs. Rahn - Rahn takes the early lead. Reyes gets too weak a swing on Sonic Swing and needs a second go, and this one’s all but over so long as Rahn avoids mistakes. Rahn is on Ring of Fire...HE’S DOWN! HE’S DOWN! He hits the second gap and can’t hold on! Now all Reyes needs to do is avoid the same catastrophe and he’s got this! Avoids the first gap...caught in the second...taking his time getting out...and he’s out, and he sticks the landing! Reyes/distance
LABRECKFAST CLUB WINS

Well, sometimes you’re Stupor Duck, and sometimes you’re the submarine that blasts Stupor Duck with a torpedo. (Oh, just go with it, I got work tomorrow. )

= 2nd match: The Ballers vs. The Wings =
__L: Ball vs. Yarter - Yarter is clean through Ring of Fire while Ball gets hung up in the second gap. They set virtually the same pace through Swing Jump and Floating Tiles, with Ball midhopping but unable to close the gap. Yarter gets on the...no he doesn’t! He reaches for the second and third spikes, completely misses with both hands, and takes a dive! Ball hesitates briefly before starting, knowing that time is on his side, and he completes the crossing with little trouble. Ball/distance
__W: Huang vs. Hunt - Hunt takes absolutely forever to get through Ring of Fire; Huang is already looking at Swinging Spikes by the time she gets out. Huang, who has questionable stamina, struggles a bit with the spikes but gets to...what’s this? Just past the solo row, she grabs both sides and goes right for the dismount! She lands on the very edge...falls on her side...and...and...stays dry! She made it! And of course Hunt has to spoil it by collapsing on Swing Jump, but whatever. Huang goes up the wall and looks exhausted but highly satisfied. Huang/distance
__A: Kasemir vs. Stillings - Both men are dead even through Sonic Swing. Kasemir is clean through Ring of Fire while Stillings hits the second gap; he manages to dismount from there but has fallen behind. He runs hard, but Kasemir is rock-solid and never gives any kind of opening, and Stillings faltering at the end of Swinging Spikes closes the door. Kasemir/finish
THE BALLERS WINS

After barely sneaking into the relay two weeks ago, Kasemir and company look like they’re in the driver’s seat. Could there be a second time? (Well, they certainly hope not, because the first time Kasemir utterly bungled...ah, not gonna rehash it, you saw what I saw. )

= 3rd match: Labreckfast Club vs. The Wings =
__W: Labreck vs. Hunt - 3WA’d and pushed up. Hunt, who’s contributed absolutely nothing to her team up to this point, throws in yet another clunker when she stumbles on the starting platform of Swing Jump and falls all the way into the water. Oh, and Labreck hits the buzzer, but c’mon, anyone can hit the buzzer when there’s no pressure. Labreck/distance
__L: Reyes vs. Yarter - Baj notes that Reyes is 4-0 up to this point, and given the miserable track record of jinxes in NW, owing mainly to the fact that they don’t exist, you have to like his chances for a high five. Both men look impressive at the start, completely clean through the first three obstacles and setting a very fast pace. Reyes is first to the tiles and...oh no. You cannot just stand there and watch your opponent sprint off into the sunset! You’re not Wile E. Coyote! I don’t care if the tiles are shaking a bit! Reyes capitalizes on his opponents’ cowardice and hits the buzzer with plenty of ground to spare. Yarter does the “spite hit the buzzer” and shouts in frustration. Yikes. Reyes/finish
__A: Alexis vs. Stillings - Stillings battled his way to the relay once, but now he has to pull double duty to repeat that feat. Meanwhile, it’s the moment of truth for Alexis; beat the opposing anchor and get to the relay or forever hold your peace. Alexis gets off to a fine start, sweeping through Ring of Fire at a remarkable speed, then wasting no time on Swing Jump. Stillings gets a fantastic swing, but his feet hit the water. Could this spell trouble? Both men midhop the tiles; Stillings is more agile on the exit and is catching up fast. Alexis gets on the second spike; Stillings...soars all the way to the fourth spike! He then proceeds to get to the solo row first, and that’s all she wrote: Stillings nimbly dismounts and sprints up the wall while Alexis can do nothing but watch. Stillings/finish

Alexis, after a very nice win over Ryan Stratis, has lost four in a row, and not one of them was close. In all honesty, he hasn’t been horrible, but being the anchor requires a helluva lot more than “not horrible”. He should consider himself incredibly lucky if anyone at all is interested in him for the next TNW. (Or perhaps incredibly unlucky.)

Well, it’s pretty obvious who it’s going to be for the tiebreaker, so the story is a perfect record and a 4-0 day on the line and an anchor’s first real test. It doesn’t get much better than this.

__T: Reyes vs. Stillings - Stillings is first out of Sonic Swing. Stillings makes a successful second-gap dismount...AND REYES GOES DOWN! He hits the second gap and can’t hold on (stop me if you’ve heard this before )! Stillings/distance
THE WINGS WINS

Wow. Looks like the pressure of carrying the team on his back finally caught up to Reyes. He gets his first blemish, Joe Moravsky remains alone on the mountain, and The Wings pull another one out of their tailfeathers. Even the triumphant Stillings looks shocked by what happened.

All right, I don’t normally spend much time on postmatch interviews, but this is just too perfect to pass up.

Curry: Most importantly, this was an unbelievable performance throughout this entire competition for Labreckfast Club. Flex, you have to be happy with your team here.
Labreck: Yeah, definitely happy with my team. We put it all out there; that’s all you can ask for.
Curry: Guys, let’s give it up for Labreckfast Club! Congratulations on a great effort, you guys.

Good gravy. That was a...Girardian level of spin there. Gotta give Labreck credit for keeping her composure. If the man I picked to be the star ended up almost singlehandedly wrecking the team, I’d have difficulty feeling anything other than burning rage or mortifying embarrassment. Maybe both, just to be on the safe side.

= 4th match: Superhero Squad vs. The Ballers =
__L: Darling-Hammond vs. Ball - Darling-Hammond gets tied up in the second gap while Ball is clean as a whistle, and that’s all he’d need. Darling-Hammond manages to catch up on the middle spikes, but Ball duplicates Huang’s long-distance dismount, and he completes the wire-to-wire victory. Ball/finish
__W: Goldstein vs. Huang - No idea what that wiggly-fingers thing is and don’t care enough to look it up. Huang does another one of her plane-crash Ring of Fire dismounts (some YouTuber has to make a compilation of these) but gets up as always and takes the lead. The position stays largely the same by the time Huang begins Swinging Spikes. The strain is clearly visible on her face, and she’s only made it to the solo row by the time Goldstein begins. Regrettably, that's all the drama there’d ever be, as Goldstein isn’t an upper-body terror either, and Huang has no trouble hitting a second buzzer. Credit Goldstein for completing the obstacle and staying dry, though...honestly didn’t think she would! Huang/finish

__A: Rahn vs. Kasemir - Rahn is off to the races, and Kasemir is pumping hard to keep up. Both blitz through Ring of Fire, and the gap stays the same. Rahn midhops the tiles...and he falls on the landing platform...but doesn’t go down! But Kasemir is catching up fast; he midhops and...falls in the exact same place! Rahn pulls ahead on the spikes and never looks back. Rahn/finish

Things just can never be easy for Superhero Squad; all four of their matches this event have gone to a tiebreaker. Now it’s Decision Time. Does Superhero Squad give Rahn a fourth run, which was exactly what doomed Reyes a short while ago, or do they give it to Darling-Hammond, who’s been unimpressive and might not be able to handle the pressure of a tiebreaker? Do the Ballers go with Kasemir and risk wearing him out for the relay or go with Ball and risk coming up short?

__T: Rahn vs. Ball - Yes, Ise, “captain vs. captain”, that’s exactly what the significance of this matchup is. Rahn shows his superior speed by taking the early lead. Rahn is clean through the Ring of Fire...oh my prelim #7, it’s happening again! Ball hits the second gap, gets turned around, and falls straight into the water! Rahn, seemingly oblivious to his fate, goes all the way to the buzzer. Well, if he was worried about wearing himself out, he wouldn’t have agreed to run a fourth heat, now, would he? Rahn/distance
SUPERHERO SQUAD WINS

One of these days I have to go back and tally up all the results for the teams that started the day 5-0, because it seems that going full Chernobyl after that and missing the relay seems to happen way more than it should. On a somewhat related note, I noticed during this broadcast that Ise and Baj have completely given up the “Winning the first match gives you a huuuuge advantage because you take on a weaker team in the knockout round!” narrative that they’ve been banging more or less nonstop from the first prelim. Given what happened today, it looks like they jumped off that particular sinking ship just in time.

I’ll forgive Ise’s factual blunder. I mean, at this point it’s like strapping a firecracker to an atomic bomb.

So it’s a 4-9 team against a 7-9 team in the final. Baseball only wishes it had this kind of parity.

= Final: The Wings (Hunt, Stillings, Yarter) vs. Superhero Squad (Goldstein, Darling-Hammond, Rahn) ==
Did Baj actually say “Elite Eight”???? Damn, you’d better hope no one from CBS is watching this! You’re going to get flooded with hate mail, and it’d be incredibly bizarre and sad if that was what triggered it!

Goldstein takes the early lead but is slow up the steps to Ring of Fire, and both women start at the same time. Goldstein finds the second gap; Hunt the first. Goldstein has a better handle on this obstacle and gets out quickly, while Hunt takes a while. Goldstein struggles on the net but makes it through for the tag...

Uggghh. GodDAMMIT, Hunt. This was arguably worse than her last splashdown on Swing Jump. That at least was caused by a stumble, whereupon she has absolutely no excuse here. She Tarzans it despite her incredible, incredible lack of skill (out of “why don’t you use the bar” stuff to say...that’s the problem with seeing the same dumb mistakes over and over and over) and manages to get all of halfway across before she's deep-sixed. Wait, since Goldstein...yeah, the 10 second penalty begins after Darling-Hammond has already begun.

And that's all she wrote. Stillings flying fly-flies as fly as he fly, and Yarter upper-bodies like a boss, but it’s hopeless. Rahn is at the 20’ mark by the time Yarter begins, and despite slowing a bit near the top (hey, it’s been a busy day for him) hits the buzzer with a Golden Lasso to spare. (C'mon, I had to put in a Wonder Woman reference somewhere. )
SUPERHERO SQUAD WINS

MVP picks: Reyes, Huang, Rahn. Labreck was strong as always, but Huang gets the edge for needing to work harder. And that dismount. That was pretty cool.