Broadcaster/reporter Jenn Brown (NFL Network) serves as a co-host on American Ninja Warrior, the popular competition series which starts its sixth season tonight (NBC, 9 pm et/pt). Although no U.S. participant has conquered the seemingly indomitable Mount Midoriyama, people continue to work hard for their shot at glory. It’s a pretty inspiring journey for any person who tries to overcome their fears and personal obstacles, and much of our brief chat with Brown centered on this very aspect.
Do you think one of the reason for the show’s success lies in the actual stories behind the competition?
I think you hit the nail on the head because it is a great competition show and you love to see different athletes come out and put their physical prowess to the test, but I think what really the viewers enjoy about watching the show is these storylines. You kind of watch the show and find someone you can relate with and be inspired by. You’re sitting at home, and maybe you’ve had a loved one pass away from breast cancer and you’ve been inspired to run a marathon. Or maybe you’re a little overweight and you’re looking for that little incentive to get back in the gym so you can be more healthy and play with your kids.
There’s kind of something for everybody to identify with and find someone to root for. A lot of the other shows out there – the competitors are pitted against each other for the most part. With (American Ninja Warrior), there’s a lot of camaraderie between the competitors. It’s really them against the course.
Why is there such a demand to compete in American Ninja Warrior since no one has yet to complete the entire course?
Like you said, we haven’t had anyone had success. Not any Americans, at least. It’s amazing that year after year, we’re having more and more competitors. The level of playing field has increased.
Every year a competitor makes it further. The fact that we are seeing the skill level stepping up and we are seeing competitors making it further each season. When you sit back and take an analytical look at it, you are a bit surprised that so many people want to come out and try their chances.
Maybe it’s just even getting here. Who knows if they actually really feel if they can successfully make it to Mount Midoriyama. But to have the payoff of that journey – training for that marathon, bike race, triathlon or playing a full game of tee ball with your kids. Whatever it is that you set your mind to, I think that’s what inspires people to come out and compete.
I’m sure it’s not hard to find workout motivation from interviewing people on American Ninja Warror or even the NFL Network.
I’ve been very blessed to work with athletes from across the board. From the highest level of sports to even the 69-year-old grandmother or Grandpa ninja (Kelvin Antoine) on our show, it is inspiring. It certainly makes me (motivated) on days when I just want to sleep in.
Even with American Ninja Warrior – we shoot from 6 pm to 7 am and we’re back at it. So it certainly pushes me. I tell my mom that all the time. We have a grandpa out there who has a six-pack. He may even have an eight-pack. So I don’t want to hear any complaining! You just watch our show and you see people pushing themselves to their limits. So it’s certainly inspiring.
As a sports broadcaster, you have a very natural and relaxed manner. How much hard work did it take to get to that place?
In terms of my craft, it’s something that I work hard on every day. For me, my driving force is always being prepared. My biggest fear when I started in this business was to come across like I didn’t know what I was talking about. Women have a little bit more scrutiny in terms of talking about sports.
That was the expectation I always put on myself to make sure I was never in a position wherein I was caught off guard and didn’t know something. For me, there’s a lot of hard work and preparation in getting to the point of when I’m on the sideline or when I’m on American Ninja Warrior talking to the competitors.
In terms of the comfortableness, I love to talk. My mom used to get notes that I couldn’t stop talking in class and couldn’t sit still. I’m certainly the kid who liked to talk and was very comfortable talking to anyone and anywhere. My mom said I never took naps. I’m just really interested in people and their stories and I love being able to tell stories.
Quick football question – are you surprised Johnny Manziel dropped down to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Draft?
It did shock me. I didn’t see him making out of the top ten. I was really surprised and I think a lot of people were surprised. He’s a playmaker and he’s someone who’s going to go out there and we’ve seen what he’s done in college. I know people are questioning whether that translates in the NFL but look at Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. These are playmakers who can get it done. I hope the Browns organization will take advantage of using that skill set because it would be a shame for him not to be able to go out there and show what he can do. I’m a Johnny Football fan, for sure.
To hear Jenn Brown talk about the importance of mental toughness on the show, check out the audio clip below:
Check out American Ninja Warrior, which also features co-hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja Biamila, tonight on NBC (9 pm et/pt)