19 October 2004

A remnant of the colosseum days?

I am reading The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby by Tom Wolfe. He heralded new journalism in the 60s, I think. Sir introduced me to Wolfe and his work. I have consciously tried to follow the tenets of new journalism. Will write more about it tomorrow. But here is something interesting from the book: demolition derbies. I ran a search on AOL and paste below what I found:

The family that demos together, stays together

Some crash for money. Some crash for love. Some crash to feel what it's like to survive.

Demolition derby is an Industrial Age ritual of redemption and resurrection — born, possibly, out of a drive to take things broken beyond all rational hope of repair, and let them live again... The basic premise of demolition derby is simple: the last car able to move is the winner. However, to become a winner is anything but simple. To win a demolition derby requires a combination of preparation, skill, strategy, and luck.

Demolition derby competitions generally consist of four to eight heats whose winners advance to the feature event. To begin each heat, ten to twenty stripped-down, wildly painted cars rumble into the arena with introductions from the announcer and heartfelt cheers from their supporters in the stands. Drivers line up their cars opposite one another, or around the perimeter of the arena, generally with their vehicle's rear end facing the center. Concrete highway barriers, telephone poles, or huge heavy-equipment tires laid side-by-side are used to delineate the area of competition, which is wet down to create a muddy "playing field." The mud serves as a safety factor and creates an added challenge to the competitors, as it keeps vehicle speeds low, and makes navigation difficult. Upon the judge's signal, the crowd counts down. When the checkered flag drops, drivers ram the pedal to the metal. Chaos ensues for a few minutes, and then the action slows down as the cars batter one another into submission. Tires and radiator hoses pop in resounding resonance, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd. Thick clouds of blue exhaust and white steam rise and hang ominously over the arena. One by one the cars lurch to a halt, some due to mechanical failure, others from structural damage. The last two cars moving are declared the heat winners, and the judges or fans select a third car to also compete in the feature event at the end of the evening.

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