Due to circumstances beyond my control I’ve been watching a lot of MTV in the afternoon. Just what are those circumstances? Well, it involves Vicodin, a poorly placed elliptical machine, and electrodes… It’s complicated. But thanks to these diverse elements, I’ve been getting a glimpse into the way teenage girls think (without the authorities getting involved like last time.) Strangely, as I watch that show where they show you rich kids bedrooms and that show where middle class kids rummage through each other’s bedrooms, I hear a variation on the following statement MANY times. "My favorite sport is cheerleading." This warrants discussion.
Now, many of you out there may be familiar with the fact that I subscribe to a modified version of the Carlin school athletic designation. Basically, you’ve got football, baseball, and basketball. Those are the only sports. I choose to add hockey to the list, because skating, playing with a puck, and beating the crap out of someone all at once may well be the noblest of human endeavors. Everything else, though, is a game or an activity. So, what about cheerleading? Frankly, the whole concept of its sporthood is news to me. To me, cheerleaders are like the candles on a birthday cake. Sure, they’re pretty, and they make the whole thing more fun, but in the end the good part doesn’t start until you clear them out of the way and dig in. They are athletic seasoning. The Bacon Bits of the sports world, if you would. But is cheerleading a sport of its own?
The first real issue I have is that cheerleading takes place DURING another sport. When was the last time you were at a football game and they set up some bowling lanes along the sidelines? Generally speaking, if you are at a sporting event, and there are two things going on on the field simultaneously, only one of them is a sport. You don’t see them doing archery and hurdles on the same field at the same time… although it would add a whole new dimension to the Olympics.
One also wonders how you win at cheerleading. Do you get a point for every time the crowd ?gives you an E?? Do you win if you get the crowd excited? Because then BOTH sides could win. Not a tie, but two wins. That is madness. Yes, yes, I know. There are cheerleading competitions, but they share something with a crap load of other sports that don’t deserve that designation: judges. I have a problem when your victory is a matter of opinion. You don’t see the Giants losing because the French judge isn’t a fan of field goals.
I’m not saying that cheerleaders aren’t athletes. They’re like gymnasts, only with better costumes, better rhythm, and an actual purpose. If baseball players were half as athletic as cheerleaders there would be a lot fewer home runs, what with the outfielders throwing each other up in the air. Not only that, but we’d see tons more stolen bases. I’d like to see you tag someone who was doing back hand springs at you. Not only are they at least as athletically skilled as the people who play sports, they have to worry about things like color coordinating their costumes and thinking up catchy slogans. Just listening to some of the sports players trying to string a sentence together can be painful. Imagine if it had to rhyme?
As always, though, I shall defer to semantics to decide this one. The dictionary defines a sport as ?an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess.? By that definition, Cheerleading is definitely a sport. Of course, by that definition you could make the argument that juggling, yo-yo, balancing things on your chin, and skipping are all sports. So what will it be, cheerleaders? Either you settle for being merely talented, athletic, skilled, and charismatic performers, or you open up the door for Derek Jeter and that guy who spins advertising signs on the corner to be equals. I, personally, propose a compromise. We use cheerleading to DEFINE sports. Is it the sort of game where you would have Cheerleaders? Then its a sport. There. Now sports can be held to a more suitable standard, but cheerleaders are inextricably linked to them. Everyone’s happy.