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Weekend Roundup

October 23, 2006

In my last post, I had set the scene of my friend’s son entering his 4th season of demolition derby at the state fair, and I had intended in this post to include pictures, before and after, win or lose, but given some of the observations I’d like to make, I’ll not do that.  I’ll note that he had a technical problem in a first round, returned to win his qualifying heat, and was ruled out during the finals.   While I don’t believe he would have prevailed in the end, I was troubled by some of the occurrences during all the heats as I like to believe that with hard work, skill, and a little luck,  the possibility of victory is available to all.

Seemingly, the rules are not consistently applied to all participants.   Watching over several day’s events, there were a lot of bad calls, or lack of calls being made in the face of most egregious rule and arguably safety violations by some drivers.   I struggled with this for a bit, and once I relinquished the idealistic concept of “fair”, I think I have a better understanding of the situation.

First, there is a whole sub-culture at play here.  There are semi professional drivers who travel to multiple derbies each year.  There are those that have developed a theme or identify and paint and number their cars consistently, event after event, year after year.    The officials recognize these regulars, and may judge their entries and tactics in a different light than the unknowns. 

 Second, Over the course of many derbies, alliances and feuds form between the drivers.  Sometimes the objective of a driver isn’t to win, but to prevent another from winning.   Grudges are carried and fistfights do erupt as they did on Friday night with two being led away in handcuffs.   Motivation around the competition seems to take on a life of it’s own – it extends beyond reasonable rationale for $500, a jacket, and a plastic trophy for first place.  One can also see hugs and glad hands offered between drivers far more frquently than a knuckle sandwich, so I believe there remains strong degree of good sportsmanship amongst the majority of the participants.

 Lastly, the officiating company makes revenue based on ticket sales.  The more exciting a spectacle they can produce, the more seats will be filled year after year, and the more they stand to make.  The more exciting a driver’s tactics, the larger the crowd he or she may draw.  This seems to explain why some things are overlooked.   By the rules, if you can’t move for 1 min, and make a hit on a live car at least once every 3 mins, you are out.  The clock seemed to run faster for non aggressive cars.  Those that were dishing it out appeared to be given every opportunity to stay in the action.   It is understandable that the underlying economics of the business dictate the practices. 

In the end, you can’t win unless you understand the real rules of the game.  Those rules aren’t the ones handed out to the participants – those are more like guideliness.   As with anything, it takes playing the game to really understand how the game is played.   Today, I’m learning through observation, next year maybe I’ll learn more by some first hand experience.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Garry permalink
    October 25, 2006 8:20 pm

    It seems you can apply this entire observation to the work I retired from some nine years ago!

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