Mon­ster Jam

Max-D, Grave Dig­ger and com­pany were at my mercy

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - WORDS BY ANDY LEU­TERIO

Is there any­thing more in­tim­i­dat­ing than judg­ing the event? We’re hop­ing the driv­ers don’t re­mem­ber how we look.

‘Mon­ster Jam is like the big cir­cus has come into town’

Let me start by telling you one fa­therly tru­ism: All dads worth their salt want to be a hero in their son’s eyes. In my kid’s eyes, I am not just the schmuck who pays for his tu­ition, his school bus ser­vice, or his next Nerf gun. I am his coolest friend and pro­tec­tor, his guardian an­gel, and the ‘fun’ side of hav­ing par­ents. Mommy, of course, is the one who wor­ries about his stud­ies (booor­ing!), whether he needs to get new school pants, and if he’s get­ting enough veg­eta­bles in his diet.

So, you see, when Dada comes home and tells his son that he’s got tick­ets to Mon­ster Jam 2016 and—whoosh—will also be a judge, well, that just makes me a fuck­ing rock star in his eyes. For a gen­er­a­tion that’s sur­pris­ingly adept at us­ing iPads and Kin­dles, en­gages in be­wil­der­ing amounts of time watch­ing MineCraft, and ap­pre­ci­ates the un­bri­dled ec­stasy of see­ing mon­ster trucks get ‘blowed up real good’ (thanks, Roger Ebert) on YouTube, be­ing a part of some­thing as big as Mon­ster Jam (as op­posed to just be­ing a spec­ta­tor, which is al­ready a spe­cial thing) is

worth brag­ging about.

Armed with tick­ets in hand, we ar­rive at the Arena by 11am for the Pit Party, and see­ing the Dragon, Max-D and Grave Dig­ger is like see­ing your old friends af­ter a long time. Well, it was only a year ago that they first came here, but that was long enough. We prac­ti­cally run to the first truck we see to get in line for the pic­tures with the driver, but that isn’t such a great idea for my wife be­cause I’ve ne­glected to tell her not to wear heels at the dirt-packed venue.

We make the most of the Pit Party by tak­ing as many pho­tos as we can and chat­ting up the driv­ers. The driv­ers are noth­ing like the su­per­rich, su­per-elite For­mula 1 sus­pects. They’re clas­sic Mid­dle Amer­ica types with south­ern drawl and gen­uine smiles, and they seem truly pleased to have come all the way from their neck of the woods into ours to put on a show.

Thirty min­utes be­fore the show starts, I have to leave my fam­ily to get to their seats be­cause I have to go to the Judges Row. There, ‘Didi’ from the Mon­ster Jam crew briefs us on how we will be work­ing. We are to rate each driver on a scale of one to 10, one be­ing ter­ri­ble and 10 be­ing frick­ing awe­some! But given that the show has sev­eral events lined up in the pro­gram, we will only be judg­ing the Wheelie and Freestyle com­pe­ti­tions.

Crit­ics of Mon­ster Jam con­tin­u­ally bring up the ‘venue is too small’ gripe. True, the venue isn’t big enough to do the re­ally crazy stunts you’ve seen on YouTube, but that doesn’t make the ex­hi­bi­tion any less im­pres­sive for its dis­play of me­chan­i­cal awe­some­ness and driv­ing skill. With a big mound in the cen­ter that grad­u­ally de­grades in firm­ness as each truck bounds and re­bounds and spins on it, driv­ers have their work cut out for them as they try to catch big air and twirl and pirou­ette with­out break­ing their ma­chines or ram­ming into the walls. And re­ally, the sound of a mon­ster V8 at full tilt must be like King Kong clear­ing his throat.

My wife’s con­cerns about the lower box seats not be­ing high enough for safety con­cerns are com­pletely ig­nored by our son Max, who is scream­ing and yelling and laugh­ing at the top of his lungs as each truck does its damnedest to put on a show of awe­some­ness. Zoom­ing into the cock­pits through my cam­era, I can see a fren­zied ac­tiv­ity of arm move­ments as the driver wres­tles the truck around the arena. As each driver stops at the end of his round to await his score, I halfcringe be­hind my lam­i­nated judge’s score cards as I can only think the same thing he must have been think­ing: “What the fuck do you know about driv­ing a Mon­ster Truck, eh?”

It’s a re­lief on my part when­ever a driver does par­tic­u­larly well, be­cause then I have no qualms about giv­ing him an ‘8’ or a ‘9’ or, in some cases, even a ‘0.’ But some­times, maybe the driver just isn’t at his best or he doesn’t have the heart to wreck his truck for our car­nal ben­e­fit, so the best I can give is a ‘6’ or a ‘7.’ Them’s the breaks. Even the crowd fa­vorite, Grave Dig­ger, per­haps try­ing a lit­tle too hard to throw him­self around the track, stalls his en­gine mid­way. Once he gets go­ing again, flames are vis­i­ble in his rear dif­fer­en­tial, but he just can’t seem to get the power down at the right mo­ment to wow the crowds like he did last year.

In the end, Max-D wins the freestyle com­pe­ti­tion, which is just per­fect for our son Max be­ing his name­sake and all. At just a lit­tle un­der two hours, in­clud­ing ATV side races and mo­tocross ex­hi­bi­tions, Mon­ster Jam is the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of the cir­cus come to town. No, the trucks don’t smash them­selves against each other, and yeah the Arena shows just how much (or how lit­tle) you can get away with for a mon­ster truck ex­hi­bi­tion, but on the whole, it’s a supremely en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence for par­ents and chil­dren alike. I’m pretty sure ev­ery par­ent who has saved good money to bring their kids to the show now feel like a hero, too!

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY IGOR MAMINTA

You can’t play fa­vorites when you are in this box. Talk about stress!

We dare rule break­ers to coun­ter­flow against Dragon. Good luck We still don’t un­der­stand what is go­ing on here. Kids love Max-D, though Ev­ery dog will have its day, they say. Too bad Scooby didn’t per­form

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