Sunday, January 26, 1997

Monster Trucking

I had never been to a Monster Truck show until yesterday. I have seen them on television, in newspapers and magazines, but never in person. Also, up until now my only hearing problem has been some high frequency hearing loss in my right ear (plus some accompanying tinnitus). Sean, my eleven year old, had seen some ads on tv for a monster truck show at the Providence Civic Center and asked if we could go. I must confess to having enough of a male fascination for noisy machines and raging horsepower to be a little curious about one of these shows. So, after some suitable admonitory remarks about the importance of being sure that all homework due this week was completed and submitted on time, etc., I agreed to mounting an expedition to Providence. (Calling it an expedition is just my attempt at being a real Rhode Islander.... Rhode Island being such a small state, the definition of a long trip is shorter than it is in larger states... a true Rhode Island native would expect to pack a lunch if he were to travel more than fifteen miles.)

The arena was, at a rough guess, 80% to 85% full. This was the 2pm Saturday show, to be followed by an evening show. There had also been a Friday evening show. Tickets were $15 for adults and $8 for kids under twelve. Hmmm, guess there's some money in this business. This does not count the Wheezers being heavily promoted (two demonstrators showing off on the arena floor for at least half an hour before the show and during intermission, constant pitching by the announcer, vendors hawking them up and down the aisles)'s sort of a light plastic wheel that when thrown, if thrown by someone with appropriate expertise and practice, will return just like a boomerang. I don't know about the many little kids who persuaded their parents to part with six bucks, but my son is outside right now learning that it is not that easy when struggling against a brisk January breeze. There was also a pitch to find out all about the latest competition information by calling a 900 number. And, of course, when the drivers on the monster truck circuit need to call home, they use 1-800-COLLECT, or at least so the announcer informed us many times during the course of the afternoon. Oh yes, there are also various Big Foot t-shirts and memorabilia available for purchase by fans, beginning at only $16. (Big Foot is the most famous superstar Monster Truck, but I assume that devotees of other trucks could also find images of their mechanical idols emblasoned on shirts and caps.)

The audience was predominantly male. Although there were a few moms and daughters, this was primarily testosterone city, kind of like a fathers-and-sons performance of Sesame Street Live. This is Tim Allen Tool Time. Grunt Grunt Grunt

The opening act was for the little kids... a pair of vehicles that turned out to be giant versions of Transformers toys. A white van transformed itself into Galacti-something, a defender of good and opponent of evil, come from outer space to protect us from the bad guy, a red and black sporty-looking vehicle that transformed into the evil Reptor or Raptor something ... It was getting difficult to hear exactly what the announcer was attempting to shout over the rumbles of engines and the bangs of the pyrotechnics as the good and evil robots engaged in a very noisy shootout across the length of the arena floor.

After a few minutes of explosions, Good defeated Evil, and we moved on to the main show.

There were three different sets of competitions: monster trucks, motorcyles, and quad-runners (sort of like go-carts, they replaced three-wheeled off-road vehicles when the three-wheelers got banned a few years ago because too many idiots were managing to kill themselves zipping through the woods, destroying sand dunes, and other such active outdoor stuff).

The arena floor was covered with damp dirt, arranged to form a series of bumps and jumps. The motorcycles and quads raced around the mud in large outside oval. The monster trucks followed a path just inside that oval (yes, with a set of four smashed cars on each long straight-away).

Motorcycle racing. Multiple heats. Around and around. Sometimes they would dump. At least one racer limped to the sidelines after a spill. Looks like it could hurt. The ultimate winner was a local racer. Cheers from the crowd.

Quad Wars... well, that's what they billed the quad-runner racing as. I assume, given a lack of evidence to the contrary, that the motorcycle racing was on the level, although having a home-town victor was a little suspicious. The quad competition was straight out of the world of WWF.

What, you've never been to a professional wrestling exihibition? Hmmm, if you've ever watched it on television, you have the idea, except you are in for a couple hours of it...gets boring rather quickly...but the audience, ah, the audience at wrestling matches... you look around and realize that many of the people surrounding you take it seriously... they actually believe it is real... These same people, many of them looking as if they could have auditioned as extras if the film Deliverance had needed any crowd scenes, I mean obviously the result of many generations of in-breeding, these people would actually be driving home afterwards on the same highways you would be on. (Some of them might actually have drivers licences that were not suspended.)

No, that does not describe the audience at the monster truck show, or at least not the majority of the audience... but the promoters were obviously influenced by a WWF mentality when they put together this Quad Wars "competition."

There were two teams of four racers each. The team wearing black shirts was named "Team Green Bay" and the team in white was named "Team New England" and... yeah, you get the idea... The bad guys, uh, I mean Team Green Bay won the first race and the good guys, uh, I mean Team New England won the second race. New England won the third race and, thus, was the winner for the afternoon. However, the bad guys disputed the results, almost tried to settle the matter with a fight had they not been separated by race officials, but settled for a two-on-two challenge grudge match race... with one of the bad guys taunting the audience, encouraging a rain of paper cups and popcorn containers. (What kind of idiots were these promoters? And how could the Civic Center management allow them to get away with encouraging such conduct?) Oh, yeah, a good guy won the challenge match, just managing to pass the bad guys in the last turn before the finish line...

Oh, the Monster Trucks... Well, I kind of liked the looks of Towasaurus-Wrex, which had originally seen life as a 1946 tow truck. (Of course these five ton, $100,000+ monsters, burning 60 gallons of alcohol to the mile, do not much resemble anything you would ever see on a street...nor ever want to...) They roared around and around, crushing cars and bouncing and popping wheelies.... decibel levels reaching pain threshold if you did not cover your ears or wear ear protection... The winner was either Big Foot or Thrasher (which featured a jet of flame spewing out the back as well as strobe lights flashing over the engine block)... one took first and the other was second... Scoring is mystical... and the noise level such that you can't really understand what the announcer is saying...

The show also featured the Sphere of Death... motorcyclists driving around inside a metal ball...I've seen them perform with Ringling Brothers a few years ago (at least I think it was the same family act, although there seems to have been some changes in the individual performers, one was now a 17-year-old girl)... and now having been to the Providence Civic Center, I'm looking forward to returning there to see the circus this year. (I love the circus!)

That was my Saturday. It is a chilly, but sunny Sunday outside. I think I'm going to go out and get in a nice four mile run as soon as I get this entry loaded to my website.

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