Reality TV offers lessons in adventure

Reality TV continues to dominate the evening network and cable lineups, with the spring finales giving way to the summertime schedule.

Shows from “Survivor” to “The Amazing Race” can make celebrities out of ordinary people, while the likes of “Dancing with the Stars” can revive the fading careers of B-list celebrities.

But one hot commodity of the reality genre continues to be the professional athletes who seem more than willing to step out of their comfort zones and tackle new challenges in new arenas.

“Dancing with the Stars” continues to lure sport stand-outs to the ballroom; Baltimore Ravens returnman, Jacoby Jones and Olympic gold medal gymnast Alexandra Raisman are among the final five this season.

Meanwhile, in a nearby pool, “Splash” took reality TV to new heights, and not all in good ways, while featuring a cast of celebrities, including several from the world of sports.

NBC Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, soccer star Brandi Chastain and extreme skier Rory Bushfield learned basic and intermediate dives from legendary Olympian Greg Louganis, then tested their talents against former child stars, comedians, a Baywatch blonde and even a beauty queen who caught the eye of Brent Musburger during college football’s national championship game.

This reality show was different from the others. Unlike ballroom injuries or travel mishaps, “Splash” proved to be seriously dangerous week in and week out.

Abdul-Jabbar suffered a concussion, Bushfield a ruptured eardrum and Suh actually hit his face on the bottom of the pool, begging the question, is reality show money really worth it? Or could there more to these experiences?

Most of us can relate to the sheer fear of jumping off a three-story platform, not to mention trying to add flips and twists before gracefully entering the water. In this competition, failure not only meant a lower score or mild embarrassment, but could also result in serious pain from a belly flop, even worse, a back flop.

The show, while often corny and overly dramatic, did foster a true appreciation for the sport of diving and even awe for its world-class athletes.

Week after week, the celebrity “divers” met challenges, set goals, and triumphed over their fears, all while supporting one another, creating a bond through common experience, much like an actual sports team.

Along the way, Abdul-Jabbar raised awareness as a cancer survivor, and “Splash” champ, Rory Bushfield drew attention to the foundation which honors his late wife. Dedicating his performances to skier and women’s sport advocate Sarah Burke, who died in a training accident in 2012, Bushfield urged audiences to “go big” and “live every day to the fullest.”

While the daring dives are not something we should try at home, the athletes of “Splash,” and other silly reality shows remind us to seek out new adventures and new challenges – for leaving your comfort zone can take you places you never thought you’d go.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.