SnowBog - LARS BLACKMORE

A mechanized burlesque show of testosterone-fueled mock jousts and show-downs, this was to winter sports as women's topless mud wrestling is to athletics. That is not to say it lacked appeal – quite the contrary. The appeal just lay outside the realm of what many would consider good taste and common decency. The mostly overweight, camo-clad and heavily tattooed crowd in Bradford had no time for any such elitist snobbery; they came for – and got – some unadulterated, raucous and unapologetic fun.

A monster truck show is intended to stimulate (or assault, if you prefer) all your senses. The smell of high octane fuel wafts across the track, mixing with the scent of Newports being chain smoked in the stands; you feel mud and snow spray across your face as trucks roar past, the background drone of patriotic country music briefly interrupted by the guttural cry of thousands of pounds of torque released for the sheer hell of it. An entire concession stand had been dedicated to sweet and savory pies right next to “The Road Hawg BBQ” where a dozen variations on saturated fat cooked in more saturated fat could be inflicted on your taste buds.

As with any daredevil spectator sport, part of the thrill here is the perceived danger by proxy; another part came from the fundamentally naughty nature of the whole concept: you get to vicariously drive a loud, obnoxious truck with reckless abandon, violating the rules and regulations of daily life.

There is little room for nuance or subtlety here: bigger is better, and bad is best. Tires the size of teenagers carry chariots emblazoned with names like “The Exterminator” and “No Mercy.” The brute force and ingenuity can't help but resonate with your inner seven-year-old: this is what we pretended our toy cars could do in the sandbox; only now the fantasy is being realized by burly, ballsy men with scary scars, dirty fingernails, and mischievous Dirty Harry glints in their eyes.

It's called a show rather than a competition, because the drivers know full well that whether they win or lose, the primary goal is to entertain us. And the show was excellent, choreographed to meet the demands of even the shortest attention span. The non-stop action was fast and void of distracting complexity or uncertainty. The commentator not so much announced as narrated a tale of bravery, and he invited his audience along for the ride, egged on the competitors on the field, and encouraged and applauded acts of valor and perseverance. All very good natured, and all in good fun.

And so, at the end of the day, it mattered little who won or lost. The crowd in Bradford loved all of it. It didn't hurt that it was a very intimate affair: the audience was able to walk around and touch the trucks and shake hands with their drivers. Most of them were local, and most of them were birds of a feather: blue collar boys with an urge to let loose.

When at last the track had been thoroughly trashed, the crowd filed out through knee-deep puddles to their cars. They seemed satisfied, spent – any pent-up anger dissipated. And they largely ignored the concession stand near the exit selling confederate flags and switchblades made in China. Nobody needed any of that, because they already got what they came for: they had seen gladiators prove themselves in battle, watched mountains of muddy snow squashed beneath the studded tires of monster trucks and the belts of snowmobiles. Mayhem accomplished, but no real damage done.

It's certainly not for everyone, but a monster truck show is a one-of-a-kind experience. As long as you bring along a seven-year-old – be it a real one or just your own inner kid – it's guaranteed to please.

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