My Night at Monster Jam

There’s something uniquely American about attending a monster truck rally. Aside from a NFL stadium filled with dirt, looking through the stands you’d think you were at a Brad Paisley concert. That is, until a huge truck blows over a jump with a deafening sound.

In early June, my friend Aaron and I took our significant others to the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam “Path of Destruction” tour in Baltimore. Since it was Maryland, driving was nightmarish, and because it was Baltimore, parking was even worse.

We got to our seats a little late, only to find they’d been occupied by a teenager with a mustache bigger than I could ever grow. Fumbling for our tickets, he realized he was in our seats and moved down. The entire two rows in front of us were a large extended family. He must have been the black sheep, that, or he drew the short straw.

I wondered — are there any liberals here? Sure, being Maryland, there were Democrats, but real, ultra left liberals? The beer guy came, so I ordered a cold one and asked him how many liberals came to these things as best he could tell. “5 percent tops,” he said, “and that’s being generous.” Beers were cheap at $7.75, but cotton candy was $15. Probably because it came with a Monster Truck hat.

Why would liberals want to see big trucks destroy cars? Then I remember they loved cash for clunkers! Surely liberals would love to see these gas guzzlers destroyed by even bigger gas guzzlers. Monster Jam for the environment!

I set out to find a liberal.

Monster truck rallies usually start with racing. A few rounds of monster trucks doing two laps around the field, interspersed with ATV racing where about 40 ATVs divided into two teams, each representing a state. This time, it was New York and Maryland — New York took two of the three. On the third race, Maryland won and the captain thanked all the Maryland fans. Obviously, they don’t have teams set up for each and every state, they probably just change the team names everywhere they go — doesn’t everybody here know this is fake?

Apparently not. The family in front of us had custom made “Captain America” signs and, unlike Mitt Romney’s campaign staff, they could actually spell America. Hot Wheels, Wolverine, Monster Energy Drink, Spiderman, and the Avenger were all sponsored trucks. And each had loyal fans. Some kids in our row dyed their hair green and and some even sported green M’s in their hair.

After the races, which were boring, loud, and uneventful, we got to the main event: the freestyle. Caterpillar bulldozers emerged from all corners of the stadium like medics on Omaha beach. They dismantled the race course and set it up for freestyle, complete with old cars and RVs. (They also flip over the trucks when they crash.)

I leaned back to the group behind me and asked, “do you think many liberals come to these things?” They looked at me suspiciously. Maybe it was because my friends were all dressed up (by that I mean wearing normal clothes) and I was wearing a Dale Jr. Hendrick Motorsport shirt, a Bass Pro hat, and my big “ears” from the shooting range. I think they thought I was a poser. And I was a poser, since I had to google which driver’s number was on my t-shirt, just not a liberal poser. The guy answered the question like it was a matter of fact: “No, not really.”

Me, in disguise, grabbing a beer beforehand.

Waiting in line for the bathroom, I was next to guy with a mohawk. Since there was a truck called “Mohawk Warrior,” I asked if he was a big fan. He said “No, I didn’t even know there was a truck with a mohawk. I’ve never been to one of these.” I wanted to ask, “do you think many liberals come to these?” Fearing he was one of the violent occupy protesters, I just let it slide and assumed he was a punk rocker who didn’t vote.

Returning to my seat, it was time for freestyle. Everyone was excited, including me. The first few trucks only had a few cars and vans to destroy. Less loud than racing, it was better — who doesn’t love seeing a Ford Econoline van getting destroyed by one of these monsters?

After round 3, they brought out an RV to loud hoots and hollers. It dawned on me, this is set up just like wrestling! Nobody seemed to notice or care except me, probably because a big truck with the likeness of a hearse and the name “Grave Digger” was about to make mincemeat of an RV. It was one of legacy trucks, and everybody loved it. And it was totally awesome to watch.

As time went on, I came to conclude something different. It wasn’t “set up”, but rather, the advantage was given to popular crowd pleasers. My favorite truck, Monster Mutt, looked like Lloyd and Harry’s truck from Dumb and Dumber. That, and any good Cleveland Browns fan must cheer for the Dawg in the home of the much hated Baltimore Ravens. (Fellow Brownies will be happy to know that I gave a double middle finger to M&T on the way out and yelled “Go Browns!”)

For a few rounds, the Mutt held first place until the more popular trucks came along. More RV’s came out on the chopping block when the popular trucks did. Coincidence? Probably not. Unlike wrestling, where it’s easy to choreograph an actual plot, these trucks need to drive and compete to win, so at least there’s skill in the thing, even if I think the scales are tipped. One truck’s tire blew off and it didn’t stop the guy from continuing on. The crowd went wild. Another flipped over and caught on fire for short spell. One truck’s tire popped completely off.

Even if this didn’t seem like a fair competition, at least the competition between the popular trucks had some semblance of it.

By now, I had stopped caring about whether or not liberals attended this event. I think the beer guy was right, and he should know. There probably weren’t many, if any, there. All I cared about was whether or not the next truck was going to complete the infamous backflip. (Spoiler: He landed on his roof, the monster truck equivalent of the belly flop.)

There were fireworks at the end. I breathed in the acrid smell of carnage and thought: “this is America.” 

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