No, really: This orgy of auto carnage is the perfect spectator sport for people who hate sports.
Nobody seems to believe me when I say that Monster Jam (formerly, I think, Monster Truck Jam, and now actually/alternately the Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour and USHRA Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, but I digress) is amazing. It is. How could huge trucks crushing piles of cars not be amazing?
The annual event takes place this year on Jan. 19 (7 p.m.) and Jan. 20 at (2 p.m.) at the Rogers Centre; it costs $15 to $50ish, unless you want a $130 total-access pass for Saturday (that includes a private meet-and-greet with the drivers), or to go in on some confusing Pizza Pizza Monster Jam Meal Deal. (Call me?)
This kind of event is maybe unappealing to people more used to traditional city events like baseball or rock shows or the symphony, and surely part of the reason that I get so much static around Monster Jam is because a monster-truck rally is synonymous with a sort of base maleness (and it’s true that the Rogers Centre will inevitably smell like some horrible cauldron of stadium nachos and exhaust fumes and “boy”), with lowbrow culture, with Homer Simpson-ism. And maybe, from the perspectives of some of those baseball/rock-show/symphony-goers, it reeks of class tourism. I get it: One girl recently tweeted me that she goes to Monster Jam dressed up in “white trash costumes,” which is truly noxious.
But, here is what’s up, why it’s so good, and why I go every year: I don’t like or understand sports; I’m not sure if I want to, either. I don’t know the rules, and the reasons to like or not like particular teams or players seem arbitrary and bizarrely, counter-intuitively emotional, and all within a foreign context of stats and playbooks, winners and losers. Monster-truck rallies and their similars have their own rules and stats and winners and losers, of course, but are far more welcoming in their conception to outsiders. Monster Jam requires that you cheer only for action, only for smashing, only for trucks, and only for the action of trucks smashing into each other and track obstacles and line-ups of busted cars.
As with any sport or sport-adjacent event, there’s an art and a science to it, a historical sportsy context available if you want it, but unlike a smooth, elegant dunk or catch or touchdown that byzantinely changes who goes to what championship and who is ranked whatever, the stakes of monster trucks are much more visible and viable. It is an absurd and guttural and fun spectacle that doesn’t need you to know anything in order to participate, other than how to scream, for the crushings. (Quick primer: There are two truck events at Monster Jam, Racing and Freestyle, and there are winners. But there has also been “Truckasaurus,” which breathes fire. And the “trucks” are not “trucks” so much as enormous tires with scaffolding on top.) Other motorsports are boring: circles, revving, whatever. Monster Jam is both competition and a legit lose-your-mind carnival scream-fest.
You’ve probably heard of Grave Digger, the green-on-black-on-purple truck (or, trucks: there are multiple “Grave Diggers”) with heavy-metal aethetics, created by a sweet-voiced Virginian named Dennis Anderson. Hats shaped like Grave Digger are popular merch at the Jam; it is the crowd favourite. Last year saw the debut of a Canadian truck—named “Northern Nightmare”—driven by a Calgarian. And in-between the trucks, there will be other events, like my personal favourite, the demolition derby. Bring your own screaming.