Grave Diggers and Love Rollercoasters: A day in the life

Ohio Players in Tampa

I consider myself to be a pretty adaptable fellow.  I’ve been rich.  I’ve been poor.  I’ve been a minority.  I’ve been a majority.  I’ve lived in both huge cities and small towns… and I’ve made it this far to tell about it.  So when I was confronted with another case study in culture shock last weekend, I jumped at the opportunity.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone to cover a motocross race for Red Bull.  I followed that up with a trip to the annual Florida gun show later that afternoon.  Good times.

While motorbikes and handguns might seem to go hand in hand to some, this time I thought I’d stretch the parameters for a little more contrast:  Monster truck rallies and old school funk with the Ohio Players.

Not to resort to stereotypes but one would imagine that the Ohio Players doling out the funk at the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, a weekend celebrating the legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., would consist of a crowd that looking slightly different from that at the Monster Truck Jam later that evening.

I was right but SportsChump is all about celebrating diversity so off I went.

Ohio Players HoneyFirst stop was the concert.  When I first heard the Ohio Players were playing a free concert in downtown Tampa, I immediately circled that date on my calendar.  After all, I’m a seventies guy and the Players, and their sound, symbolized dirty, gritty seventies funk.  Their songs “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster” both hit number one on the Billboard charts.  Their album covers were suggestive to say the least.

While many of the original band members have passed on, those performing still gave the crowd a spectacularly funkified performance.  Fortunately I brought my boogie shoes for the occasion.  As the sun set behind the stage a mere feet from the Hillsborough river, the crowd danced until the final note, partially to stay warm in the uncharacteristically cold Florida weather but more so because the Players’ music was skin tight.

SportsChump drinks at Bud at the Monster Truck RallyOnce the funk fest had subsided, it was off to Raymond James Stadium to see supersized trucks go vroom.

Raymond James seats around 65,000 fans, just not during football season as the Buccaneers have struggled to put butts in the seats the last few years.  Perhaps they should consider bringing in a few monster trucks on NFL Sundays because the stadium was pretty damn crowded on a VERY cold evening.  I’m not sure whether it was the near freezing temperatures or the truck show demographic that brought out the collection of camouflage hats and jackets but it looked like the Army-Navy winter selection had just pulled into to town.  At least everyone was prepared for their deer hunting excursions afterwards.

As the night progressed, I sucked in the overwhelming smell of fossil fuel through my nostrils, converting it into visible breath with each exhale.  The frigid temperature, however, did not stop the crowd from fervently cheering on their favorite machines.

The event began with trucks racing around the dirt track, followed by a freestyle demolition competition, none of which occurred to an Ohio Players soundtrack playing in the background although that would have been cool.  In fact, I’d place a wager that my buddy Felicia and I were the only two people to attend both events that day.

Kid in a tranceIf you’ve never been to a monster truck rally, it’s a sight to behold: huge trucks flying through the air, spinning around in circles deafeningly at top speeds, occasionally flipping over and wrecking their entire frames if they landed from a jump imbalanced.  The show’s Scooby Doo, Iron Man and Captain America trucks definitely catered to a younger audience.  Kids everywhere played with trucks their parents had bought them.  I watched as one face-painted youngster kept his nose buried in the program, peeking up only when he heard the next truck rev its engine.

Funk music is most definitely an art form, a derivative of jazz and R&B but… is monster truck racing a sport?  I couldn’t help but think of the rally as professional wrestling with engines.  It’s cheesy and popularity-based like professional wrestling which can’t be considered a sport by any stretch of the imagination despite the (athleticism?) of its participants. I don’t think it’s rigged quite like wrestling although the fact that Grave Digger wins every time out is a little suspicious.

Scooby FliesWould a monster truck driver consider him (or her)self an athlete?  They race for points, and fame, and recognition, and money.  Driving those things obviously requires some sort of skill.  Is drag car racing a sport?  Is Motocross?  I think the growth of the X-Games over the years has answered that question for us.  So where do we draw the line?  What defines a sport?

Whether you consider any of these a sport or not, I can tell you the truck rally packed the house.

And somewhere among those two sets of crowds, one kid heard a type of music he’d never heard before and will want to pick up an instrument.  Another kid down the road who had never heard an engine roar that loud will want to grow up and entertain an audience the same way he had just been entertained.

And when good old funk and monster trucks finally come together in a cross-cultural explosion, all I ask is that I be named the event’s Grand Marshall.



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22 Replies to “Grave Diggers and Love Rollercoasters: A day in the life”

  1. Pingback: Grave Diggers and Love Rollercoasters: A day in the life - BallHyped Blog Network, Auto Racing | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. Stepping out of my comfort zone has happened numerous times , but the first time was on my very first visit here (US). I was in Butte , Montana . Let’s just note , I felt out of place as I was shall we sa,y the only “brutha ” I spotted in town during a two hour stop , while my buddies on I on our bikes, bought some food and drinks . All I can say about the day , I am glad that the sheriff wasn’t Chief Gillespie from the movie <a In The Heat of Night (starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger) from the Oscar nominated drama .

    Ohio Players , EWF (Earth Wind & Fire ) , Parliament , Funkadelic and Heat Wave were incredible bands . A high school buddy and I were recently reminiscing about the music of GSH (Gil Scott Heron ) , Curtis Mayfield , Isaac Hayes , Marvin Gaye , Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye . Can’t really find quality music of that type at all nowadays . Perhaps there might be one or two exceptions such as John Legend , Jahaeim and Tank .

    Responded to your comments concerning the piece on the damn meaningless Pro Bowl game . Given the choice of watching that and paint dry . I’ll take paint drying over a bunch of self absorbed athletes giving less effort than Kellen Winslow at ease with himself , while seated in a stationary SUV. .

    tophatal ……..

  3. Chris

    Knicks’ fans are excited because ‘melo went off for sixty-two points .a last night ? Even that douche Stephen A Smith got an erection , because of the performance . The Knicks were playing the Bobcats for Christ’s sake . I mean where was the test in terms of the contest ? The Bobcats are one of the worst defensive teams in the entire NBA .

    The New York based franchise are still playing sub – 500 basketball and it shows in terms of their overall performances so far this season . Simply look at where they stand within their division , conference and as a league wide standing (23rd out of 30 teams) . , That is enough of a damning indictment I believe . So let’s see where Stephen A can get his rocks off on this ! Making comparisons to other game high performances in this case , is simply asinine if you’re not prepared to also look at the opposing team as well .

    Orlando unloaded on the Lakers last night and the Los Angeles’ based team looked really bad repeatedly in the contest .

    Tobias Harris and Oladipo were tremendous for the Magic .

    tophatal ……….

  4. The NFL settlement $765 million is now beginning to unravel as the families of the late Dave Duerson and Junior Seau have discovered some disturbing information concerning several of the plaintiffs’ lawyers and their actions leading up to the negotiation of the settlement . There were fans out there , believing this deal to be amicable and fair ? Even Roger Goodell went so far to suggest that . We know how much of an @@shole the guy remains at this juncture !

    tophatal …………….

  5. Won tickets at a Hornets game a few yrs back to Monster Trucks in the Superdome– Dome was packed, and yes, pretty cammo’d up. Folks in the South don’t normally have a wide array of warm gear but agree it’s not the classiest look. Best of all one man brought both of your audiences together that day…northern LA’s own Karl Malone and his b-ball rimmed monster truck “Power Forward!” Respect…

  6. I had that Ohio Players LP. Hadn’t seen or recalled the cover in years until I saw it here. Seventies guy as well, forced to go across the bridge to Jersey to obtain alcohol at the discos while watching the Trammps, Major Harris, Gladys Knight, etc. Saw Wild Cherry at Great Adventure when it was brand-new…as I practically was back then. As for Monster Truck racing as a sport I think there are so many skills we have transferred into the category of sports it has a place. Some folks dismiss all forms of racing simply because you’re seated and driving a vehicle, which you would normally do to go somewhere…but would fight to include snowboarding as a sport because of its more physical nature. I don’t have too big a problem with Monster Truck racing or any form or racing being called a sport…but Chess? Game, set, match…not a sport.

  7. The revolution will not be televised, Al.

    I remember one time, years ago, I was flown to Oklahoma City for some company training. I ended up at some country bar that reminded me of the one Reggie Hammond walked into in 48 Hours.

    Kinda scary.

    Yeah, pretty impressive performance by Carmelo the other night. He’s gonna have to do a lot more of that, however, if the Knicks want to make the playoffs. They’re currently 17-27 and would be the tenth seed if the playoffs ended today.

    How is that even possible?

    And speaking of bad, I actually thought the Magic would be a little better than they are. They’re horrid. Think they’re tanking for a top draft pick?

  8. Power Forward. I love the name of the truck, Jefe.

    Although really? A picture of himself on the truck? What else should be expect from the mail man though, right?

  9. Chris, you just highlighted two more things that fascinate me to the extent people televise them. I don’t have an issue with participation, but on tv and sports tv at that. Yet, the most amazing thing I see on sports television is car auctions. I’d never have bid on that…

  10. Car auctions? Can’t say I’ve seen that, fortunately.

    And I know that pawn shop all-stars, or what’s the one where people bid on storage warehouses full of shit people left behind?

    Not quite sure how shows like that become so popular but they are, so what does that say about us?

  11. Chris

    Here’s the idiocy of ‘melo’s feat and those with limited memories . The Knicks were playing the Bobcats a team owned by Michael Jordan who knows something about singular game scoring feats . Carmelo Anthony’s 62 point performance may well rank amongst the top ten singular game performances in recent NBA history . The night Kobe went off for eighty one (81) over the Raptors , does anyone remember that ? Or the fact that Hall of Fame . center David Robinson scored seventy plus against the Clippers in 1994 ? And even if the rules have changed , how about the triple-digit score of Wilt Chamberlain and his 100 for the Philadelphia Warriors against the Knicks ? The stats in that contest say something about Chamberlain and he succeeded in doing during the game.

    Jacque Vaughn and the Magic’s coaching staff have a great deal more than they collectively handle . Oladipo and Tobias Harris are two talented players but really , Jameer Nelson is being seen as the veteran leader on that team ? There is no common sense within the front office of the Orlando Magic organization . Rich de Vos has been , clueless and remains dead from the neck up , has been for years . Idiot fans have become use to the continued apathy and simply choose not to voice any type of disapproval . Anal retentive and I will leave it at that !

    The meaningless Pro Bowl game . I hear next season , Viagra and Aricept (memory loss) will be on tap , as the two opposing team captains will be John Madden and Don Shula .

  12. I think it’s safe to say, Al, that the Jameer Nelson experiment is over and done with in Orlando. Do you realize this is now his tenth year with the Magic? It’s probably about time they head in another direction. With all the talent in this upcoming draft, the Magic are bound to have a high pick. Here’s hoping they choose wisely.

    I was watching the Grammys last night, Al, as I had absolutely no interest in the Pro Bowl.

  13. Chris

    High pick or not , do you honestly have any implicit faith in Magic Rob Hennigan and the rest of the front office will do what’s right for the franchise ?

    When was the last time that franchise had a draft pick that made a difference for the organization over a prolong period of time ? Other than Shaq and Dwight , that has been about it and even then their stay with the franchise wasn’t that long.

    I perused your all Gladiator team and I believe that they would have a hard time taking down the Showtime Lakers , Bulls’ 95-96 team and the Celtics’ teams that featured Bird , McHale and Parish !

    Let’s put it this way , Goodell was trying to suggest that Sunday’s game in the Pro Bowl was one of the best of recent years . Roger Goodell has brought absolutely nothing to the NFL , other than his utter stupidity ! I wonder if fans are aware , that the rules of a regular season game are not applicable to a Pro Bowl contest ? And that moron of a commissioner and an idiot in Michael Strahan have suggested that the game is competitive ?

    I’m about to leave a response to your comment to that most recent piece .

    Gladiators in the arena would state we who are about to die, salute you . Today’s NBA has no gladiators , merely characters and a little scripted drama thrown in for good measure

    tophatal ………………

  14. Hello Triple SC,
    Well…I am still not interested in going out to see monster trucks, but I definitely was craving honey after that pic in your post;)
    Get your mind out of the gutter!
    Biscuits n honey for dinner!
    Dee Dee

  15. Al…

    Henigan’s new to the franchise. He’s supposed to be cut from the Presti cloth. You don’t actually think he’d intentionally make a bad draft pick, do you? He seems to have done his research with Oladipo even though Michael Carter-Williams seems to be a shoo-in for ROY.

    Drafts are crap shoots. The Cavaliers drafted damn Anthony Bennett. Unless you’re getting a Shaq or a Dwight, you’re crossing your fingers, and let us not forget there was a tough decision to make between Dwight and UConn’s Emeka Okafor who won a national championship with UConn. Magic seemed to make the right pick there.

    I’m just not buying into the fact that the Magic would intentionally make bad draft picks. The office is still wet on Presti’s office walls. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Magic are currently Rome’s ghetto.

    What does it say for a team when Aaron Afflalo is their best player? He’s a castaway, a band-aid.

    Oh, and the current all-gladiator team I left in response to your post was only to show you that there is talent in the league. By no means was I comparing them to two of the greatest teams ever.

  16. Chris

    Hennigan will be hard pressed to be half as good as John Gabriel . Rob Hennigan has been with the Magic for a while, but he got the promotion as CEO Alex Martens and Rich De Vos believe him capable to succeed Otis Smith . .

    How you can exclude Russell Westrbook from an All Gladiator Team . as your point guard , by choosing Steph Curry and Kyrie Iriving . I would like to know what medication you were prescribed ?

    The Cavaliers remain a mess ! I mean the owner , Gilbert> Dan Gilbert founder of Quicken Loans is a damn klutz ! Remember , it was Gilbert , who stated that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win a title before LeBron James and the Miami Heat would reach a finals and win an NBA title . Look at the Cavs’ record and that of the Heat’s during the time-span (2010) since James departed from Cleveland .

    Left you a further response concerning the NBA and the tenure of David Stern , who steps down in his role as commissioner after the All Star Game . I hear that they already have a bust and plague already placed in his honor at the Hall of Fame , in Springfield , Massachusetts ?

    tophatal ……………

  17. In that case, we have a problem, Al, because I didn’t think John Gabriel was all that good either. If you want to take a look at some lousy draft picks, take a look at Gabriel’s over the years.

    Good call on Westbrook. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. When he’s on the floor, and not injured, he’s one of the most entertaining players to watch.

    And speaking of Cavaliers, that just goes to show you what swinging and missing on a number one draft pick can do to a team. Anthony Bennett needs another sandwich.

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