I was talking to one of the girls at Starbucks earlier, and she was telling me she is in her college’s marching band. She was quick to clarify two points: they do not actually march at football games, and they do not compete like in high school.
From there the conversation degenerated. There is a term we used to use for marching bands that don’t march. We called them bands. And as we only had one, it really had no one to compete with. When the football team traveled for away games, our band stayed home, and vice versa for our home games.
Apparently nowadays there is some sort of secret competitive organization of college bands. Nobody knows about this because the first rule of Band Club is that nobody talks about Band Club. I think if they did, they would describe giant cages in smoke-filled basements, where people hit each other with oboes. Or possibly mixed matches, with the cellist facing off against a bassoon player. I can understand why no one talks about this.
But it got me thinking about competitive cheerleading. Not Cheerleader Club, where teenage girls hit each other with oboes. Nobody wants to talk about that. I’m talking about whatever that was that Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku went to in “Bring It On”. I was very disappointed with this (obviously fictional) depiction of a cheerleading competition. Mostly because there was no actual cheerleading. It was basically a choreographed dance recital featuring cheerleader costumes. Certainly the performers were very talented, and I could never do any of the stuff they do, with the possible exception of walking onto the stage. But it’s got about as much to do with cheerleading as Putt-Putt has to do with golf. There are some incidental resemblances, but it’s all stylized and devoid of meaning.
In that vein, here are a couple improvements I would suggest to make competitive cheerleading both more competitive and more cheerleading-y:
1) Throwing a girl up in the air and catching the same girl on the way down is not competition. It’s catch. Little leaguers do this all the time. If you want to make it a test of skill, shoot the cheerleaders out of a spring-loaded cannon, and see who can catch the most girls, or the furthest, or the largest. Something with measureable criteria. I’m certain the IOC can come up with some scoring mechanism. They did for shot put and discus. (Disclaimer: I do not advocate spinning the girls around and throwing them like they do in shot put and discus. Somebody could get hurt, and nobody wants that. Also, please refrain from shooting anyone out of a spring-loaded cannon until there is an Olympic-certified scoring system.)
2) Once upon a time, cheerleading was about leading cheers. I’m not sure where we went awry on this. This is a perfect way to recapture the grandeur of the past. Wire up a selected audience to measure their baseline level of cheer (a standard cheerometer will do). Then have the cheerleaders perform, and measure again to determine the net cheer increase attributable to the leading. (Note: you can’t use sports fans — some of them will cheer for anything. You need to draw a control group from an inherently cheerless environment. I suggest traffic court, or possibly a dentist’s office, although the library will do in a pinch.)
(Disclaimer: Pinching the cheerleaders is strictly prohibited.)
As an aside, how is it that kids’ sports like Pop Warner football and Pop Pele soccer (Note: not sure if that’s the real name — remember to look it up later) have eliminated competition in favor of everybody-gets-a-trophy, but inherently communal activities like listening to music and cheering for everybody to get a trophy are now competitive?
I blame the sequester.