Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cheer-leaders. The Devil's Spawn.

OK, the title is a little extreme, but Mike and Toni are in agreement about this:-


I was writing something the other day about American sports, and I went off on a bit of a rant tangent when I got to Cheerleaders. I can't stand anything about cheer-leading, and it's HUGE here.

For Pete's sake people – it's the 21st century. Why are we encouraging females to stand around half-dressed, cheering on the sidelines while their hunky male peers are on the field/pitch/court gaining all the glory? (OK, I know some cheer-leading squads have males in them, but they make-up about 0.1%.)

Second – it's extremely dangerous. According to Wiki, of the US's 2.9 million female High School athletes, only 3% are cheerleaders yet cheer-leading accounts for 65% of catastrophic injuries among those girls. I certainly wouldn't be wanting my daughter at the top of those human pyramids.

Third – it's dangerous because of some of the whack-jobs and the lengths they will go thru to win, or score a place on the team. Anyone remember the 1981 incident of Wanda Holloway, now known as the "Texas Cheer-leader-Murdering-Mom" after she hired a hit man to kill the mother of her daughter's rival for a place on the squad?

Fourth – it's dangerous, according to a Texas politician, who, in 2005 sponsored a bill (affectionately known as "The Booty Bill") that would outlaw sexually suggestive cheer-leading routines at school events. (Good luck with that.) Not so much because it was demeaning to women, or inappropriate for the audience age, oh no. Because it would lead to "pregnancies, high school dropouts (and the) contraction of AIDS and herpes." Correct me if I'm wrong, but if these girls are being provocative and end up pregnant or carrying a yucky disease, isn't there usually a guy involved somewhere along the way?

Oh yeah – and they're really, really irritating!

But I couldn't help laughing when I read that there are an estimated 100,000 participants outside the USA now.


Actually, Toni and I are not in total agreement on this: I think cheerleading is wrong on so many levels (no, all of them) in Britain, but I think it belongs in America.  In fact, I think cheerleading belongs to America; it is embedded in its fabric, it embodies the very soul of what America is all about and it gives the girlfriends of high school athletes something to do.

Cheerleading is loud, brassy, glitzy and entertaining without providing any real value—like a McHappy Meal or a weekend in Disney World—and what could be more American than that? 

No, I think that cheerleading and America go hand-in-pompom (that’s not a euphemism) and the American Experience would be poorer without it.  So keep on cheering, America, and hang on to those cheerleaders, please, and stop them from infecting the rest of the world.

So, yeah, we have cheerleaders over here now.  Not a lot, and not as in-your-face as at a Dallas Cowboy's game, but they are starting to creep in, and it is giving me, well, the creeps.

The soccer team I periodically go see play—the Brighton and Hove Ablion Seagulls—have cheerleaders.  They are called Gully’s Girls, a reference to the team’s Seagull-outfitted mascot known as Gully (apparently these girls are his harem), and they have performed at every game I have seen. 

On the plus side, it gives the local gals something to do other than hang around the high street yakking on their mobile phones; god knows the youth here could use some diversions of the non-violent and non-alcohol induced variety, so good on them, they started a cheerleading squad.

But that’s like opening up a quilting shop in the Sudan: it’s unnecessary, out of place and no one needs or wants it.  For their efforts, the squad gets to parade around the pitch prior to the games, smile and shake their pompoms at the crowd (no, that’s not a euphuism, either) while collectively looking like a group of girls who were gathered up off of the high street, dressed in matching tee shirts and plunked down on a soccer field.  They seem to know that they are there to do something, but they are not quite sure what it is.

At half-time, they’re allowed to gyrate to popular music in the middle of the field while the fans stock up on more sausage rolls or queue up for the loo.  They are [ad mode] as I have noted in my highly acclaimed and hilarious book, More Postcards From Across the Pond [/ad mode] like ants at a picnic: mildly annoying, not supposed to be there, but generally harmless.

So we clearly do not need cheerleaders here, and while cheerleading incidents remain, for the time being, sporadic and local, there is always the chance that they may enter into the national scene, which would be just so, so wrong, and so un-British.  I probably shouldn’t worry—the WAGS (wives and girls friends) are already celebrities over here, so they aren’t going to bother putting a squad together.  The real danger is from random, amateur exhibitionists who delight in scandalous behavior in front of the entire nation.  Keeping them out of British sport may require bringing back Big Brother, but if that’s what it takes to keep the nation cheerleader-free, I’d be willing to make that sacrifice.  It would be for the greater good.

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  1. Why? For the same reason we have reality shows that focus on women who do nothing but stay at home and spend their husband's millions on plastic surgery and copious amounts of shoes. For the same reason we've spent the last week talking about Kim Kardashian's divorce rather than how to create jobs. For the same reason that Toddler's and Tiaras is a hit show. For the same reason that Sarah Palin gets more attention than any other female politician, including the Secretary of State. Because she is an attractive woman.

    We are still very much a misogynistic country. It is the last bastion of discrimination that gets almost no focus whatsoever. And almost as much of it is perpetuated by women as men. Don't get me started!

    My husband saw an advert the other night for Swiffer something or other and he commented "It's no wonder that men still have these old ideas about women when you see these commercials. They always portray the woman as the cleaner and the nurturer of the children." For the first time this week I saw a commercial for Tide that featured a stay-at-home dad. Now, that's something new. Hurray for that!

    Cheerleading in schools continues to be perpetuated by parents, some of them those helicopter parents we love, who were cheerleaders themselves or love the traditions around football and they want them continued. It's also one of the few chances that females have to participate in something sports related that actually gets attention. At least in my neck of the woods, no female sport gets major attention, it's all male football and basketball teams.

    Am I allowed to write a comment this long? We'll see Blogger.

  2. I'm embarrassed by cheerleaders. I'm embarrassed for them. I honestly don't see much difference between them and the Playboy Bunny. Great post and great comment from Smitten.

  3. One thing I didn't put in the post, was how misogynistic it all is. For example, there are many professional sports where the players and cheer-leaders aren't allowed to have a relationship. Guess who gets fired when an affair is discovered though. On one team (can't remember which one) the same player had affairs with 3 cheer-leaders, and they fired all 3 of the women.....

  4. I do find cheerleading but I know that's entirely due to a cultural and snobbish bias on my part.

    Re: cheerleading (or a vague, embarrassed simulacra of it at English football grounds) this really isn't a new development at all. A handful of clubs have made attempts at it since the late 80s when there was a brief (though minor) interest in American Football in the UK. All the cheerleading teams I've ever seen follow the same lines you noted, they're there more to interact with the club mascot and do a brief dance routine at half-time. I really don't see it entering the national scene more so than it has already.

    They are not there to cheerlead. To be frank, they're not needed. There'll always be a fat, topless, inebriated gadgy stood at the home end starting chants.

    I'd also suggest that Brighton is in a pretty special situation with their new stadium and the decade long fight to get it. Perhaps the marketing dept at the club thought a cheerleading component would help create a more family-friendly atmosphere when they move to the much larger site at Falmer, as well as being a group that could be utilized in their community outreach programmes.

    As for cheerleading in the US, I don't entirely get it, but in the absence of a fat, topless, inebriated gadgy (God bless 'em) I can see why they'd be needed to create atmosphere, along with those blasted brass bands.

    From the very little collegiate football and basketball that I've seen, for the most part I was struck by how silly and unerotic cheerleading is. The cheerleaders seem to be either high-octane, peppy (almost sort of wholesome) but not that great at routines, or extremely technical and athletic. Most of the collegiate outfits didn't seem any more revealing than what you'd see an Olympic gymnast wear. Far more demure than the far more revealing clothes you'd see in Hartlepool on a Saturday night. The eroticizing of cheerleading seems to be happening not with the squads, but people playing on that image in magazine shoots, music videos, films, etc. The same could be said of school uniforms, nuns habits. etc. Taking something with more wholesome connotations and sullying it.

    Also, if the cheerleading also competes in competition do we give them a pass? If you're going to have a collegiate system that gives out scholarships based on a person's athletic rather than academic ability (something I find bizarre), then considering the athletic ability of the cheerleading squads I don't see why they shouldn't get a slice of the scholarship pie. They probably bring in more revenue than the likes of the lacrosse team.

  5. There is a huge argument at the moment to have cheer-leading declared a sport in the same way as other things are. That would presumably mean that scholarships could be had. I think the argument against, as I recall, is because it's not always competitive in the same way other sports are.
    And yes, they are athletic. I'm not for a moment suggesting that the moves in cheer-leading aren't athletic; just a bit pointless. And irritating.
    But not nearly as irritating, come to think of it, as those bloody brass bands.
    Re- sexy cheer-leaders - the professional cheer-leaders tends to be more pseudo-porn star, especially the basketball girls.

  6. I rather agree with Mike. It's fine for enthyoosiasm to be associated with sports in the US, but in the UK, we have a fine tradition of laconic disinterest. As the Flanders and Swann song says about other countries' sports teams "they argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won, and they practise beforehand which ruins the fun". I mean, if people want to get enthyoosiastic at soccer matches or Wimbledon or something, well, so be it. But we definitely don't need cheerleaders to help them on their way.

  7. I guess it comes down to how you define a sport and whether the voting component invalidates something as being a sport. Though that could be extended to ice skating or even, at a stretch, boxing when there hasn't been a knockout. If ice skating can be classified as an Olympic sport, and that seems to be the best analogy on account of scoring an artistic element then I don't see why cheerleading can't be seen as a collegiate sport.

  8. I agree that outside the US, cheerleaders can seem unsavory. I do think cheerleading is a throwback to a time of innocence in the US, and they really are talented dancers and gymnasts. It is nice to have another opportunity beside traditional sports for girls to keep themselves busy and be a part of a team. In my opinion, cheerleading is a wonderful American tradition :)

  9. I agree with awindram; cheerleading is basically group rhythmic gymnastics so I don't see why it shouldn't be granted 'sport' status, other than the fact that it would open the possibility of seeing Freestyle Cheerleading as an event at the 2016 Olympics.

  10. Seems we're too late:

    I'm gong back to bed.

  11. Cheerleading! I can see the viewpoints of both of you, Toni and Mike.
    Maybe it would be better off left for the Americans ...... but there are little girls over here that love to do it. (Usually in parades and such) and I have seen cheer leaders outfits and sticks on sale in chain stores, so I guess we are going to be stuck with it.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  12. Always think of cheeleading as very, very American, so beyond my comprehension. Even less comprehensible is why it's taken off over here...

  13. I just saw a BBC trailor for an All American Season and one of the programmes is about Cheerleading becoming big in the Uk...


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