Photos by Max Becherer / Staff
Mcgruff the Crime Dog monster truck
driven by Rod Wood leaps a row of cars Friday night at
the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.
Road Kill Racing team member David Baker
lights up a flame thrower which is mounted in
the team's demolition derby car.
Pat Gerber of Bakersfield, Calif.,
jumps over a line of cars.
If you go
* What: Monster trucks,
* When: 7 tonight
* Where: Tucson Rodeo Grounds
Tickets: $10 at gate
It's crude, loud, extremely dusty but
In yet another glimpse into the decline of
civilization, about 1,500 people paid $10 a ticket
Friday night to watch the Tournament of Destruction at
the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.
It began with the temperature about 100 degrees, dust
as thick as fog, led by Demolition Derby car No. 4,100,
equipped with a large Confederate flag, police lights
and a flame-thrower mounted on its hood.
"Let's hear it for the Demo Derby beauty parade,"
said the public address announcer, who, in lieu of a
performer, tape or music, sang the national anthem
It wasn't ballroom dancing.
A man sitting in the front row, wearing a
"Progressive Roofing" T-shirt, had bright yellow plugs
in each ear.
"Why don't you sit in the back row and take out the
ear plugs?" I said, fishing for a quote.
"What's it to you, dumb a-?" he replied.
No, it wasn't the Ice Capades.
According to the crowd's reaction, the night's
highlight came when Pat Gerber of Bakersfield, Calif.,
revved up the 1,200 horsepower Monster Truck engine in
"Shocker" and fractured neighborhood noise ordinance
laws from South Tucson to Oro Valley.
Gerber has spent well into six figures on Shocker
(and its elaborate travel trailer) and in doing so,
created a 3-D body that comes off as a cross between a
San Diego Chargers helmet and something out of Batman.
Really cool stuff.
"How tall are those tires?" I asked.
"Sixty-six inches," he said. About as tall as Will
Bynum, for instance.
"How much do they cost?"
Friday's show - Pickup Trucks on Steroids - will be
repeated tonight. Same place. Same time. Same
car-crushing, ear-splitting, behavioral deficits.
LeAhnna Baird,top left,
and Shannon Baird, with 2-year-old Chloey Baird,
cheer on the action in the demolition derby.
America's obsession for entertainment has created far
more than a Friday night of Monster Truck
racing/Demolition Derby/Motocross Madness in Tucson.
What's the attraction? Well, what's the attraction of
the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
In a culture that insists upon, and supports, more
than 100 cable TV channels, the Tournament of
Destruction is simply another channel. It's no different
than several thousand fans lounging on a beachfront
somewhere in California as Miss Budweiser, a superboat,
soars across the lake at 105 mph, nothing but a blur to
the human eye.
It's better than staying home and playing pinochle.
In the 1960s, we had bumper cars and a wrestler
wearing a mask matched against a bear. Monster Truck
racing has become our bear-wrestling of the 21st
True story: In 2001, 17 of the 20 largest crowds for
sports events in this country involved racing (car or
truck) or some sort.
Not baseball or football.
The Learning Channel, a distinguished cable TV
outlet, has regular features of "Daredevils" and
"Junkyard Wars," which are all about car and truck
ESPN2 would go out of business without car racing.
The History Channel, which is educational if nothing
else, features car and truck racing in its regular
programming of "Modern Marvels" and "The Secret World of
I confess: as entertainment goes, it's a step up from
the Insight.com Bowl.
Out at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds on Friday, there were
no secrets. Moms and dads broke away from the ballfields
to bring their kids to watch Motocross daredevils
soaring over dirt mounds at ridiculous speeds,
side-by-side with other drivers. The audience
demographic wasn't any different than at a Little League
It was, frankly, captivating.
It was hot and dusty, and the guy next to me blew
enough cigarette smoke to give me stage 5, second-hand
But there's something about watching "Kongo Kong," an
11,000-pound Monster Truck, put some serious tread over
the hood of an old Buick that you can't get anywhere
else, except maybe the Jerry Springer Show.
It makes baseball come off as a spelling bee.
All content copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
AzStarNet, Arizona Daily Star and its wire services and
suppliers and may not be republished without permission.
All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution, or
retransmission of any of the contents of this service
without the expressed written consent of Arizona Daily
Star or AzStarNet is prohibited.