It was a redneck heaven, plain and simple. Which made it hell for me.
It was a gift. For my amazing husband, who has been so very sweet since the wedding, and whose life story means he rarely got to enjoy the simple, American pleasures most of us take for granted.
He had worked that morning, not unusual for a Saturday, but still not ideal. We had ridden our motorcycles in the afternoon, through a nearby town, enjoying the sort-of-country-and-sort-of-suburbs of it all, the March crosswind rattling us around a little bit. And then in the evening, we met up with friends, drove to the PNC center, where our local hockey team—the Hurricanes—has been winning games, making friends and wooing Triangle fans. But tonight the ice was hidden—no sign of it in sight. Instead, we were greeted by a bare dirt floor, tarps draped across the first eight rows of seating, and crushed cars arranged in a pattern in the center. This, ladies and gentlemen, was no hockey game. This was MONSTER JAM 2013!!!
The ultimate American experience. I had no idea it was such an American experience, until I was there, and the Monster Jam announcer kept telling me. It's always good to have these things clarified.
We watched as the four-wheeler teams—North Carolina vs. South Carolina—warmed up, zinging their open-bodied, four-wheeled vehicles around the track. We listened to the emcee interviewing the "captains" of the two teams, and thought of wrestling matches, the way they have over-the-top villains and heroes. Totally ridiculous. But then, it happened. The emcee's voice shifted in tone—it was time to start the event.
He had been engaging the crowd—barely a third of the arena—during warm-up, and now he came out and talked about America, about pride, and about patriotism. He had members of the armed forces stand up, listing each branch of our military, and then veterans. And then he called on firefighters, police officers, doctors, and EMTs. He did not, of course, mention nurses, teachers, or social workers, but I'm sure he meant to. But he had them all stand and the crowd applauded, and I did too, because cheesy or not, I am indeed happy to honor those who serve our communities. And while we applauded, his speech dropped off, and the music turned up. "Proud to be an American" came loud and strong through the arena. (Thank the gods for good sound technology as we could actually hear and understand everything said that night.) And as I sat at the PNC Arena, and "Proud to be an American" floated dulcetly through the air, the jumbotrons in the center of the space showed pictures of the American flag, images of patriotism, and, yep—there it is—MONSTER TRUCKS POPPING WHEELIES and jumping and smashing cars. Monster trucks getting great air and BAM! dropping on CARS. PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN, people, where you can SMASH cars, and pop WHEELIES, and dammit! This is MONSTER JAAAAAAAMMMMM!!!!!!
And so went the evening, with loud pumping music, crazyloud vehicles tearing apart the space and crunching metal, and the crowd screaming loud and proud. At one point, Matel toys arranged a major give-away event to a lucky fan. The spotlight found a cute cute kid in the crowd, and the emcee made his way over. He promised he would give the child as many toys in the bag as the crowd cheered for, and so then there was pressure—we had to scream or the kid wouldn't get any toys. And so there we were, cheering for the little guy so he could get every toy in the bag!! We cheered and screamed—and why?? Really. We were a quarter-mile away, but still, we screamed and joined the sounds of the cheering crowd, all to make sure the little boy got his remote-controlled, car-smashing, stone-climbing bit of America.
I do have to say that I really love the monster trucks. The sound is unbelievable, and the over-the-top craziness of it is hilarious. The tires are enormous, and the engines whine so loud, you can feel your cochleae shattering and your cilia shriveling such that you'll never hear again.
And then. After intermission. It was here. Lowered from the ceiling. Settled carefully on the ground. Here it was. I'd seen commercials for it since I was a child. And now, in front of me, unbelievably, I would see it live and in person.
The Sphere of Fear.
The steal bubble cage, into which one can ride a motorcycle, and, if one is skilled enough and talented enough, and has balls big enough, one can ride the interior of the sphere and achieve the impossible—ride upside down.
And the announcer made a big fuss about this Sphere of Fear, and he told us—and this part was very important—the motorcycle in the Sphere of Fear is fueled by our cheering! We must cheer loudly to keep the motorcycle operating safely in the Sphere of Fear. And then the very daring Mr. Flores came out to the arena, he zoomed his motorcycle into the Sphere of Fear, and then he was locked in it. Locked in!! This was very important to the announcer, who said it many times—Mr. Flores was locked in the Sphere of Fear. But really, they just shut the big metal door, and now it was a true sphere (of fear!) and the daring Mr. Flores could zoom zoom zoom his motorcycle in big circles, first sideways and then—and ladies and gentlemen, this is really amazing—upside down!! But this is not all!! Soon there were flames shooting up from the center! Mr. Flores was inside the Sphere of Fear, and there were flames!!!
And then the daring Mr. Flores exited the Sphere of Fear and was safely, once again, on the dirt floor of the arena. Imagine our surprise, then, when his beautiful, 15-year-old daughter rode her motorcycle into the arena, and then… then… into the Sphere of Fear!! She also got locked in, rode in swooping circles, with her one hand waving us on to cheer her, and then… and then… upside down!!!
But wait!! What is that little motorcycle there? Is it? Could it be? Yes! This is Mr. Flores' son! He is only ten years old! He is the youngest motorcycle rider to ride in the Sphere of Fear! He is only ten! He also got locked in to the Sphere of Fear and rode in swooping circles, first sideways, and then upside down!!!
After much hoopla and cheering – to fuel the ride – the entire family was in the Sphere of Fear, and the whole thing was on fire, and it was cool, fueled by our cheering.
But the best part was definitely the end of the evening, when the monster trucks engaged in their freestyle "competition." There are "judges" and the competition is "scored," much like wrestling, which you can imagine, is a major eye roll for me. However, I do have to say, it's fun to watch the trucks express personality—and they really do!—as they smash cars up. I mean, what's not to like????
Seriously. I loved it. And we're so going back next year!!!