2010-09-02 / Editorial Page

Dear Heats and Gentle People

For many Americans, cheerleading is, indeed, as American as apple pie. Maybe it’s because cheerleading began in this country and has not caught on in other countries as much as other cultural activities have.

A cheerleader is often described as “the all-American, girl next door” and is still considered, by many, to represent the ideal American teenager.

The “all-American girl next door” quote was found in a 1952 south Georgia football program and I can assure you, since that time cheerleading has become, well, a whole different ballgame.

Football cheerleaders of years ago in very few ways resemble cheerleaders of today.

Cheerleading back then required little more than being able to do a cartwheel and tie one’s saddle-oxfords. Oh, and she must be one of the most popular girls on campus.

I never made the cut but I always wished that I had. And I never quite understood why I didn’t, seeing as I could hang upside down on the monkey bars longer than anybody else in my class and I could shimmy up the swing pole faster than a monkey. Go figure.

My sister was a cheerleader and I always envied her. Then again, she was always the “pretty” one and I the “funny” one. I did have a good time, however, aping her cheers out in the backyard and, on occasion, being her partner in a couple of cheers.

I still remember some of them.

Victory, victory, is our cry
Are we in it?
Well, I guess.
Red Devils, Red Devils,
Yes, Yes, Yes!
Mack, Mack, he’s our man
If he can’t do it..
Buddy can..
Buddy, Buddy, he’s our man
If he can’t do it..
Nobody can!

And those cheerleader outfits! Skirts that had 20 yards of fabric in them and, laid flat, could cover the whole dining room table. Big bulky sweaters, red and white saddle oxfords, and socks that were ‘scrunched’ just right and just above the ankle.

Of course, modesty dictated a pair of little red panties that showed only when the skirt was in full whirl.

And no self-respecting cheerleader was ever caught without her pom-poms. The captain of the squad was the keeper of the megaphone that, oddly enough, was actually used to amplify cheers for the crowd.

As opposed to today, cheerleaders used to have the run of the sidelines, skipping up and down, behind the players’ bench, cheering as the plays demanded.

1st and 10, do it again!
Or Push ‘em back, Push ‘em
Waaaay back!
My daddy, who played ball for
the Lincoln County Bear Cats, taught
me this inspiring cheer:
Washington Boys are Low-Minded
Bless my soul; they’re doublejianted
They play ball and can’t find it
All day long.

Some things haven’t changed in all these years. If little boys want to grow up to be Red Devil players, then little girls want to grow up to be cheerleaders. The requirements are much tougher now so some may ever realize that dream.

Still, as Christa Grizzle, former college cheerleader and UCA instructor, says, “The perennial appeal of cheerleading is explained very simply: As long as you have little girls, you will have cheerleaders.”

Cheerleading today is a sport in itself. There are no slackers on the cheerleading squad. They are athletes who train long and hard to be able to do what they do. And what they do is amazing. Gravity defying stunts that keep fans on the edge of their seats are commonplace.

The last two decades have seen a cheerleading boom like never before. No other activity has created as much impact on American society as has cheerleading. With their tough athletic and gymnastic skills, high stamina, and physical strength, they are as good as any other athletes in any sport.

Today, there are nearly four million cheerleaders in the USA alone.

I have two nieces on the Competitive Cheerleading Squad here in Lincoln County and I don’t know of any athletes more dedicated to practice, skill training, and plain hard work than they are. They’re like human pretzels.

Of course, at the college and pro football levels men have entered the cheer force in huge numbers, and many because of the difficult and challenging gymnastic skills required.

I am not impressed, however, with the so-called Pro-Football “cheerleaders” of today. With the advent of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and others, in my opinion, the sport hit an all-time low. I see them as nothing but glorified peep shows.

But then, I’m a woman and since men probably buy the bulk of game tickets, it makes sense. I do wonder if any of those women could name a country that borders Iraq. Or even spell it, for that matter.

Whatever you think of them, love them or hate them, cheerleaders are here to stay.

They are cultural icons, potential national leaders even. Famous names among the list of former cheerleaders are: George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Samuel L. Jackson, Meryl Streep, and Madonna, to name a few.

So hats off to the twisting, turning, chanting, cheering cuties on the sidelines!

Two bits, four bits, six bits a

dollar All for the Devils, stand up and

holler! Woohooooooo!

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