Monday, September 07, 2009
The Demo Derby
The crushed metal?
The big crowds?
It must be another Demolition Derby.
Is there a better way to mark the end of a vacation that this?
Well, maybe. But the demo derbies are traditionally the highlight for the Clarence Center Labor Day fair. They are held Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and feature entries from local volunteer fire departments.
Seeing the demo derby makes me realize how much time I watched such programs as ABC's Wide World of Sports while growing up. Because I still remember a great deal about the "techniques" of the sport.
Wide World showed some important events, of course, mostly in the form of auto racing and track. But for diversity's sake, ABC threw in some other events. I would guess that barrel-jumping and the demolition derby were two of the most famous events that popped up once a year or so.
The derby was usually held in Islip, New York. Sometimes Islip hosted figure-8 races, in which the "highlight" came at the intersection of the double loop. Inevitably a few drivers would try to sneak through the crossing ... and get pounded by another driver coming the other way.
But while that was a race of sorts, the demo derby was sheer mayhem. A field of cars would crash into each other, with the last car running declared the winner. When you are 8 to 10, what's better entertainment than that?
I saw two demo derbies this weekend, and the difference was like the gap between Triple-A and major-league baseball. On Saturday, the drivers came out cautiously, cruising around the perimeter in many cases to avoid collisions. On Sunday, every driver came out ready for contact. In the first five minutes, there were several bumps that had the audience moaning, "Ohhhhhhh...." At one point, one car knocked another one clear out of the "field of play" and into the bushes and trees on the far side of the picture.
It's probably a sad commentary that I still remember the key strategic point of the demo derby for drivers. You want to throw your car into reverse and back into the engine of another car. If you go front-first, you end up damaging your own engine too much. Kids, remember that in your first derby.
After about 20 minutes of slam-bam action, the Rapids VFC outlasted Clarence Center to take home the trophy. I've seen Super Bowl winners who were less thrilled about a championship than the Rapids driver after his win. It looked like he would have done a Carl Edwards backflip if he knew how. And the fans filed out happy, starting the countdown to the next derby.
(For a better-written account of the Derby, check out the column by Rick Reilly from an old Sports Illustrated by clicking here.)