So how exactly does one win at monster trucking? This question has been keeping me up at night lately, and it all started a couple days ago when I was watching TV. I was bored and desperately trying to find quality mid-Monday afternoon programming when I came across the Speed channel and what appeared to be a three-story truck spinning in circles while being cheered on by a stadium-packed crowd. I knew it was a monster truck rally, and I was intrigued. After doing doughnuts for about 20 minutes, the monster truck proceeded to vault off a combination of dirt and rusty cars before landing on a school bus that looked like it was salvaged from a post-apocalyptic world; in fact the entire “arena” looked like it could double as the movie set for the next Mad Max movie.
What happened next was something I had not adequately prepared for: I actually sat through and watched the rest of the program, and I have come to the conclusion that monster trucking is nothing more than redneck figure skating. While “choreographed” might loosely describe the graceful act of jumping 50 feet over piles of wrecked cars, monster truck drivers do have their fair share of specialty moves they can perform to woo the crowd.
One particular specialty is that of the double axel, which is performed by the truck gaining enough speed to jump so high that the landing rips both axles from the truck’s gargantuan chassis. The completion of this move is usually met with thunderous approval from the audience.
The main thing that bothered me was the nagging question in the back of my mind: how hard can monster truck driving be? There are three steps to being a professional monster truck driver: drive in a straight line, jump off a ramp, and let gravity run its course. Approximately half the time the trucker is at the complete mercy of gravity; that fact alone makes me think monster trucking on the moon might be the number one reason to go back there.
After watching the program, it got me thinking about current “sports” that are enjoyed by Americans. Come to think of it, the level of technology present in a particular sport is inversely related to the education level of the audience. Monster trucks are marvels of engineering, each truck representative of the complete mastery of automotive physics, metallurgy and many other complex sciences. Despite this, the average viewer works with technology no more sophisticated than a pocket calculator on a day-to-day basis.
On the flip side, sports enjoyed by the fabulously wealthy usually involve the most primitive of devices: sticks, balls and smaller sticks. Just look at golf, a sport where the instructions can be summed up as follows: hit the ball with a stick until it goes into the hole. How about croquet? Hit the ball with a stick until it hits another stick. Polo? Hit the ball with the stick while riding on a horse. Most sports enjoyed by the upper class can be boiled down to some derivation of hitting a ball with a stick.
Now think about lower-class sports. Although horribly tainted by the sweating, un-deodorized bodies of 50,000 rednecks, the typical NASCAR event is the culmination of decades of automobile research manifesting itself into a race, pushing man and machine to the absolute limits and the outcome can be decided by fractions of a second. Somehow this sport is seen by millions as simply unfit for the praise of its fans, and some dare say lower class.
So how do you get racing accepted by mainstream Americans, and dare I say the upper class? Simple: add balls and sticks. What better way to spice up motorcycle racing than to give the drivers chains and pipes and tell them that in addition to racing, they must also hit little plastic balls into a goal.
While the notion of hitting a ball with a stick is a draw for those with names such as Montgomery or Fenwick, the potential for complete annihilation of both motorcycle and driver will draw those with names such as Jeb or Buford; it’s a compromise we can all agree on.
So remember, the more you act like a Neanderthal when you play sports, the wealthier you appear to be.