The summer before my senior year in high school, believe it or not, I decided to try out for the varsity cheerleading squad. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision that occurred right before tryouts.
The decision making process went something like this:
Woke up. Brushed my teeth. Thought to myself "Hey, I think I'm going to try out for cheerleading today. I like skirts and stuff."
Even more unbelievable was I actually made the team. While I was lacking in important things like "pep" and "coordination," they said they were impressed with my athleticism and how high I could jump (although in hindsight, it could also be I made the team because I went to a really small school in rural Ohio and there were only 13 girls trying out for 12 spots. God bless Sally Gugoulli and her wooden leg).
Anyhoo, that year I spent as a cheerleader was an eye-opening experience for me. One, I realized that stretching hurts if you haven't been able to touch your toes since you were 6. And two, the world of cheerleading can only truly be understood when you're on the inside. Being somewhat of an outsider, it was an odd and yet fascinating experience to enter their world for a season. Kind of like Jane Goodall living among the gorillas, only these gorillas were far less hairy and much more into nail polish.
But what's the point of this little trip down memory lane? Well, of late, it seems that cheerleading and dance and drill teams (pretty much anything involving hair ribbons of some sort) has come under fire lately in Victoria. One of my favorite pastimes is to read the Advocate discussion forum and nothing gets people as riled up as an article about cheerleaders and dance teams (although how much the Advocate sucks also seems to be favorite topic...much to us hard-working journalists' delight, let me tell you).
Now, I have no dog in this fight. I wasn't raised here, didn't go to school here and in general, besides my one season stint as a cheerleader, am not too invested personally in the world of spirit fingers.
But a recent Newsweek article that explores why the sport of cheerleading deserves more respect than what it gets got me thinking. It seems that as much as cheerleading has changed over the years (think 1950s "Rah Rah!" vs. today's competitive "throw a girl 350 feet up into the air"), the one thing that has not changed is the public's perception of the sport.
Let's be honest, most of us still think of cheerleaders as blonde, Valley-girls who bully other girls and then head out to a party to get drunk and make-out with the quarterback.
But why is that? Is it jealousy? Is it because it's partially true? Did a few bad seeds ruin it for all cheerleading kind? Is it because we've all watched way too many cliche high school movies?
We may never know. But I think the Newsweek article makes some good points about our culture's love/hate relationship with cheerleaders. And maybe it's time we gave them a break. Maybe it's time to pick on a new sport.
I did always hate those pretentious lacrosse players.
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