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Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on August 17th, 2011, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 12, Issue 24 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 12, Issue 24

The gravity of winning

The attraction of the opposite sex

By ROB KRIDER

My son races in the All-American Soap Box Derby. “The Derby,” as it is known, is a competitive event where kids drive down a steep hill in engineless cars they build at home. The only thing powering these little racecars is gravity. The kid who can drive the car the straightest and avoid aerodynamic drag and unwanted friction will win. The kid who has a very short attention span and forgets what he or she is doing halfway down the track and starts swerving all over the road will lose and thus cause their dad unwanted heart palpitations.


My son has been racing in the Derby for six years. Five of those six years his interest in the sport was minimal at best. He enjoyed going down the hill but wasn’t a huge fan of spending time in the garage prepping the car (learning how much it hurts when you hit your fingers with a hammer) and making sure the car was set up so he had the best chance to win a race. He was just happy to go down the hill, feel the wind in his face, and be a part of an event. For him, winning a race was secondary. His dad (the competitive lunatic) had a very different outlook on the sport for all six of the last six years. That outlook was to absolutely win at any and all costs. Winning is what makes this country great. The whole point of racing is to come in first, not just to participate. Participation ribbons are for kids who need to feel better about being losers.

The strife between enjoying the sport (which is what my son wanted) and dominating the sport (which is what I wanted) needed to have some sort of balance. If the balance didn’t come, I would suck all the fun out of the Soap Box Derby and possibly ruin the sport for my son. Additionally, if the balance didn’t come, my son might set the world record for most consecutive soap box derby races lost in a lifetime. That much-needed balance came from my wife, whom I love. She was there to make sure I didn’t lose my mind at the top of the hill when I saw my son lose the first round of a race. She was also there to give my son a high five at the bottom of the hill when he climbed out of the car, smiling after he lost the first round of a race. She did a great job of making sure I didn’t infect my son with the competitive virus called “YOU MUST WIN OR KILL YOURSELF” that I have had in my bones since I was 4 years old and raced my neighborhood friends down the sidewalk in my Big Wheel.

Then everything changed this year. My son became 14 years old and found out about this phenomenon called “girls.” He realized that at the races these girl creatures were attracted to winners. Suddenly, my son cared about working on his car, studying the track, and driving as straight and as fast as he could. He wanted to get to the bottom as quickly as possible, because at the bottom of the track there were girls.

When we combined my son’s lust for girls and my lifelong lust for winning, we began to work great together. Our driver/crew chief combination took shape, and we did very well together. So well, in fact, that the next thing we knew we were on a plane to Akron, Ohio, for the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships at the famous Derby Downs racetrack. Rumor had it there would be lots of girls in Akron.

While in Akron, we powered around in style in a 2011 Ford Taurus SHO (an all-wheel drive, twin turbo charged monster of a car), so Dad was happy. And there was one particular girl, who also raced soap box derby at the event, who kept my son happy as well. All that was left to do was win. The only problem was that in order to win, we would have to be allowed to race.

The technical inspectors at the World Championships had some issues with the way I read the Soap Box Derby rule book while helping my son build the car. Their opinion was that I had applied some very “loose interpretations” of the some of the rules. My opinion was they should have been more specific or guys like me (racecar driving competitive lunatic dads) would drive a truck through the loopholes left in the rule book. It began to get a bit heated until my wife stepped in and calmed everyone down. Then I spent the next 2 1/2 hours “fixing” the car to make it “legal,” which in my opinion meant “making it slower.” My son was oblivious to all of this drama because there were girls in proximity, and he couldn’t really think about anything else.

At some point during the week, staff from the derby approached and asked if my son would like to compete in an international race, representing the United States of America against countries like New Zealand, Canada, and Japan.

“Of course!”

The final race in the Masters Division International Race would be Canada versus the United States. I told my son, “If this were a hockey match, we’d have something to worry about. But it isn’t. This is a car race. You are an American and your family has been winning car races for four generations. Go out there and absolutely obliterate that other driver!”

My wife came along behind me, gave my son a hug and said, “Just have fun!”

I interrupted her, “You can have fun at the trophy ceremony. Right now drive fast.”

My son wasn’t listening to either of us. His new-found love interest came walking up. She told him to drive straight and go fast (God bless her!), and my son listened to anything she said.

At the finish line, it was the U. S. of A. by more than half a car length, bringing home the 2011 International Championship. It is amazing what girls can make boys do.

Rob wants to congratulate his son on winning the 2011 Soap Box Derby Masters Division International Championship. Take that, Canada!




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