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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Monster Jam leaves the TCC in its dust

    Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Monster Jam 2009 at the TCC Arena.  Grave Digger wins.
    Mike Christy
    Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat Monster Jam 2009 at the TCC Arena. Grave Digger wins.

    Ah – the ever-changing Tucson Convention Center.

    Glancing down the event list taped to the box office window this past weekend felt like reading through the variety held in a TV guide.

    Indian tribal dancing started the day, a Broadway musical finished it, and plopped in between was the ear-splitting car-crushing power of Monster Jam.

    Following a herd of horsepower junkies and wide-eyed toddlers up the ramp on the backside of the convention center, the monsters came into view for the first time, parked outside waiting for the show to start. They weren’t just trucks; they were characters.

    There was “”Monster Mutt”” complete with flapping ears and an antenna-like tail, “”Superman”” draped in the familiar red cape, “”El Torro Loco”” equipped with two bright yellow horns and of course “”Grave Digger,”” the crowd favorite that has become the face of the monster truck world.

    “”‘Grave Digger’ will conquer everything in its way!”” the dad walking ahead of me growled to his somewhat startled-looking son.

    Inside the arena, people scurried past sections of empty seats before finding their own. By the time the show started at least a quarter of the seats remained vacant.

    I was standing in line at a concessions stand when the lights dimmed. The ground started to rumble and it sounded like a fighter jet from Davis-Monthan had landed outside.

    One by one the trucks, perched on tires big enough to house a small family, rolled in through the tunnel. A kid to my left grabbed his unprotected ears and tried to drag his stubborn father towards the exit. Another to my right had a smile so big it stretched from ear muff to ear muff.

    Two rows of four small cars sat on opposite sides of the oval shaped track. An old, red van with a Jack in the Box logo acted as the centerpiece. After a quiet national anthem and a 10-second countdown, all hell broke loose. Each truck took a turn circling the arena and crawling over the helpless cars, crushing them into scrap metal.

    The announcer was completely drowned out while attempting to explain what was going on. Apparently the initial action was some sort of competition with judges and a point system, but no one seemed to care. It was all about the show.

    A ground crew looked like airport traffic control on crack, directing the trucks to smash into things and encouraging chaos.

    “”Superman”” hit the throttle as it approached the line of demolished cars, launching its nose towards the ceiling at a 90 degree angle. “”El Torro Loco”” flipped trying to pull the same stunt, bringing the high-octane opening act to a close. Then I waited.

    A claw-like vehicle went to work on “”El Torro Loco,”” using a chain to flip the truck right-side-up. And I waited.

    The grounds crew scoured the crash site for debris that included a horn that had snapped off the truck in the crash.

    Twenty minutes into the show I had seen about five minutes of action. And that was the case all afternoon.

    Bright spots of roaring engines and awing power were few and far between as gimmicky sponsor-driven competitions and completely random quad races interrupted the show far too often.

    By the time exhaust replaced the oxygen in the arena, it was obvious the TCC simply wasn’t big enough to house these monsters. Before the show, I’d seen clips of trucks launching off ramps clearing dozens of small cars, but in Tucson that wasn’t the case. The set never changed, and the same eight cars repeatedly fell victim to the same six trucks over and over again until the scrap metal could act as nothing more than small speed bumps.

    Competitions included one-on-one racing, doughnuts, and freestyle, but they all blended together into a repetitive show that seemed to drag on forever.

    After two hours I’d experienced 30 minutes of action, couldn’t breathe, and was temporarily deaf. If the arena had big-air potential it might have been worth it, but this show fizzled after a promising start at the modest TCC.

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