Champs vs. Pros turned out to be the NBA All-Star Game that we all needed. Last night during the finale we saw things that we would never see in a regular Challenge season. Players willingly giving up their spots for their friends. A final with nobody breaking down during it. The sharing prize money. These things just don’t ever happen–this was special. Let me break it down for you:
1. These are very literally the All-Stars from the Challenge. Everyone on the Champs team has won a season before. And everyone is some version of a “fan-favorite” or “fan-favorite villain.” The Pros side featured a group of professional athletes, all with an impressive level of success in their personal fields. But really, all that was promised to us was the “Pros” part and that’s what we got. I’d argue that this was a much more successful delivery than say Dancing with the Stars whose version of a “star” is an actor from twenty years earlier, a long retired athlete, and someone who was on tv a little bit that one time.
2. Most players in the All-Star game are just happy to be there for some time off. They get to play with the best players, who are usually their competition and mess around and mostly nobody cares about winning the actual game. All of Champs vs. Pros we’ve seen a willingness for players to vary from their traditional game strategies. Wes put himself in to make a choice easier for CT last week. Now, this week after CT put up a dud in the eating competition to make the final (a competition he is usually way better than everyone else at), CT graciously stepped aside so that Wes could play for his charity instead. I’m not saying they don’t care about their charities, I’m saying it’s different that playing for money that goes into your own pocket. Except…
3. …even in the All-Star game you have a few competitors who can’t turn off that switch and still want to win no matter what. That is your Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook. Nobody gets mad at you, or questions your legacy if you make an All-Star game, play for seven minutes, score 4 points, and enjoy the rest of your paid vacation. But then there are another level of players, who are determined to be the best ever, who know that winning on this stage, and grabbing an MVP elevate your career in such a way. That is Darrell. Do I believe that this final was hard? For sure. They ran an obstacle course put together by people whose whole business is built impossible courses for lunatics who want to pay money to do them. Do I believe that this final is as difficult as running one that spans three days and you don’t get to sleep in between and you have to climb the broad side of a mountain for a full day? Definitely not. Does Darrell take being in one as serious as being in the other? Absolutely. And that’s what separates him as a competitor. That, and he literally picked up Cara Maria and ran with her over his shoulders to make up a time difference. In my mind, Darrell aways has been and currently is the best ever. This victory takes him one closer to Johnny’s record of wins (which originally was Darrell’s record before Johnny passed him a couple of seasons ago). And I know in my heart, that had Darrell not taken seven years off, he’d be ahead in that category. It was also dope for him to win with Cara Maria, since they were partners on Fresh Meat all those years ago and were the first to go home.
4. They shared a lot of money. I thought this part was super cool. Spread the winnings around to some of the charities that didn’t get anything. Cara Maria was giving out $5000 chunks like they were participation trophies. You get this all the time in the All-Star game: where’s the defense? Why aren’t they trying to win? The game as is isn’t exciting to fans. But deep down, I think it’s what most people want. I’ve seen the Challenge folk hang out outside the show. And yes, some of the rivalries are very much real. But for the most part, they’re a big family of oddballs who like spending time together. This mini-season showed some of that, which was a nice glimpse behind the scenes. I don’t want every Challenge season to be like this. And they won’t. But it was a cool break from the standard fare.
Also, a shout out must be given to Lindsey who invented a new move to win a contest. She threw up on her plate during the eating competition. But it also went onto Louise’s plate and Louise very wisely decided to not eat her vomit-covered cake so she had to quit. It was disgusting and dirty and also brilliant. Good job. When Darrell said she had that “cuckoo blank” in her eye, he wasn’t lying.
Here’s looking to Dirty Thirty—the new Challenge season starting July 18th!