One Night Judging Monster Jam

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El Toro Loco

El Toro Loco makes a wheelie attempt at Monster Jam. Photo: Tony Nunes

A couple of weeks back, I had the pleasure of judging a Monster Jam competition in my home state of Rhode Island. With my six-year-old daughter and a few family members in tow, we took our seats at the center of the action and plugged our ears for a night my ten-year-old self would have been proud of.

After we attended last summer’s Monster Jam at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts, my youngest daughter was hooked. When I heard Monster Jam was coming to the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence this past month, we couldn’t miss it. Then, I was asked if I’d be a judge for the event. How do you say no to that?

I’m not at all qualified to judge motor sports. NASCAR bores me to death, I’m the opposite of a gearhead, and I can barely change my own oil. Not to mention that I’ve never stepped foot inside a Monster Truck. Apparently, that doesn’t matter. Even though my fellow judges–one a mom-blogger, the other a local radio DJ–and I were total noobs, we were handed our giant score-pads and official judge’s vests and asked to score three of the night’s biggest events; donuts, wheelies, and the freestyle competition.

Monster Jam Judging
Ready for some Monster Jam judging. Photo: Tony Nunes

Our judging criteria was to award points based on variety of tricks, hitting the most obstacles on the track (including cars and dirt jumps), donuts, “wow” factor (something unexpected or seemingly impossible), saves (skillfully driving to avoid a roll over or crash), wheelies, sky wheelies, and combinations. Rollovers and stoppages result in deductions.

The drivers of these trucks are super skilled and impressive, but let’s face it, the stars of the show are the trucks themselves. Standing 12′ tall and 12′ wide, each weighs about 10,000 pounds, with tires that stand 66″ high and 43″ wide. Each truck is cleverly themed. There’s a Scooby Doo truck, a bull truck named El Toro Loco, and Zombie, an undead themed truck complete with extending zombie arms. Grave Digger and Max-D are the most popular in the circuit, though the Zombie truck drew the most applause and biggest fan-base at our event. My daughter was totally in the Zombie camp, so my points were a little skewed in its favor. Zombie inevitably won the night.

Grave Digger
Grave Digger suffers a rollover at Monster Jam. Photo: Tony Nunes

The big difference between the indoor, civic center Monster Jam events and the outdoor events like the once I attended at Gillette Stadium is the sheer size of the track. The tricks are a little less extreme inside, and the number of cars lined up to crush is greatly decreased to only two. That’s kind of a bummer, seeing as the quintessential image of a monster truck involves one crushing a row of cars.

When I suggested to my two daughters that we go to our first Monster Jam last summer, my youngest, then 5, was ecstatic. When I warned them how loud these events could get, my oldest, then 7, decided to pass. She just isn’t one for loud noises. Noise reduction is a pretty important consideration when taking the kids to Monster Jam. Monster Trucks can reach upwards of 110 decibels, so ear protection is highly recommended. I personally love the noise. It adds to the excitement.

Bigfoot_4_vs_Bearfoot_Arena_(2)
The legendary Bigfoot. Photo: Wikipedia

For me, that sound stirs nostalgia. It’s wonderful to share that with my daughter. When it comes to live family events, Monster Jam has been a perennial favorite of mine. There’s something about the power and look of the trucks that pulls me in. In the ’80s, the big name in Monster Trucks was Bigfoot. Bigfoot was everywhere. Beyond the events, there was an NES game, a Saturday morning cartoon, loads of toys (including the iconic Power Wheels Bigfoot), and even an appearance in Patrick Swayze’s classic 1989 film, Road House. I was an avid fan, and today, my daughter is as well.

The Monster Jam World Finals XVII will be held in Las Vegas March 17-19. Additional dates and information on upcoming events can be found on the Monster Jam website.

Disclosure: Feld Entertainment provided passes to the show. Opinions expressed are my own.

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