Sunday, January 1, 2012

Contact College Cheerleading: A Modest Proposal

It is a New Year and I should be writing a thoughtful piece ruminating upon what happened last year and what might happen this year. To be honest I cannot make any sense of what happened and have even less idea what may happen. I also think lots of other folks are doing this for us, we do not need another pontificator. But in the spirit of the new year I have an idea about how to make college cheerleading into a real sport, so I thought this might be a good time to try it out.

I freely admit that I can never figure out cheerleading. I mean I understand it as a symbol and culture of gender dominance and social superiority, and it makes sort of sense as a place for failed gymnasts. I kind of get the pyramids and hurdles, hitch walls and flyers. I even understand the high tucks and tossing small girls into the air and a catching them. But I will never come to terms with the claim that it is a sport. But I have an idea about how to make it one, and this approach addresses one of its biggest problems, it gets away from another judged and point scored sport subject to all the limits and problems and turns it into a sport with clear winners and losers based upon field competition.

The real driver to make it a recognized sport comes from the huge business combines that have grown up around it, the sex appeal of the sport but above all the colleges who see it as a safe way around Title IX gender equity issues. It will also provide another guaranteed set of national championships for the SEC where the state and sports culture fits with and nurtures the sport with its gender overtones.

Leaving aside the ideology of the sport, I do not believe we should have another point-based judged sport. No competitively point judged sport has really solved the problem of fair and accurate judgment across time and places. Nor have they been able to eliminate bias and inconsistency. The whole process, even one as constrained as modern figure skating judging, is too fraught with subjectivity. We have all seen and groaned with the opaque and often indefensible judging we see in gymnastics and figure skating or rhythmic gymnastics and dance. I would really prefer we not foist another judged sport on the world. So if cheerleading  evolves into a sport, I think it should be one where the victories are clear and defined by definite outcomes. It should not depend upon obscure grading scales, biased judges and clenched smiles.

I have a modest proposal: how about CONTACT CHEERLEADING?

Two teams would enter onto the mat and be required to perform a specified set of tasks like a hitch wall with three levels or a double pyramid or certain number of back flips and tucks. The actual goals would be picked from a wide array of possibilities and teams would know the range and practice them in advance. They would submit their programs in advance with their defined outcomes. We could also have meets where the challenges are chosen on the spot and teams have to adjust in real time.

Now, here is the neat part. Rather than doing it on their own and being judged, two teams would be on the floor at the same time! They would race in parallel to achieve their goals. This is where it gets interesting. Each team will be simultaneously trying to stop the other team from achieving its task.

The team that achieves their task first WINS.

Now we have a sport--direct head to head competition, clear goals, limited time and contact opposition. Each contact cheer leading team would have its base and flyers and spotters but also defenders and attackers. I could see teams launching players into the air to knock down pyramids or others backing flipping over defenders to knock down bases. The sport would have flyers all over the place in real-time knocking down and building at the same time.

Re-envisioned as a contact sport both teams compete head to head in simultaneous time and space. We could even have noise meters to measure and record required decibel levels that they must reach when they cheer, build and battle all at the same time.

The sport could have specialists like sling shot people you could launch into the other team’s pyramid. Or you could launch anti cheerleader missiles where one small waif intercepts another stopping them from being caught or reaching the apogee. You could recruit small gymnasts as the missle and hunks to do the launching. Of course people would have to wear helmets to prevent mid air collisions but that’s ok, although it will get in the way of ponytails and hairdos. We would have to have much thicker padding on the mat.

Obviously this increases the safety dangers for what already is a very dangerous catastrophic activity. The mat size would have to be expanded and to keep people on the mat walls could be built. Actually the whole space could be enclosed either like a bouncy ball McDonalds world or a padded cage as in Beyond the Thunderdome or MMA fights. These would save participants from accidentally flying off into spectators or hard areas.

We might even add to the mat a trampoline floor that would prevent injuries, then we could really have high flyers and missiles, but it would make it hard to actually build the pyramid, so we need to nix the trampolines.

Anyway, these are just preliminary sketches for cirque de soleil, I mean contact cheerleading.

That’s it. We could cross MMA and cheerleading. All we have to do is work on the uniforms, and we are ready from prime time and an NCAA competition!!


  1. You're obviously brain-dead and know nothing about cheerleading or the safety hazards that come with it as is. A cheerleader is already subject to serious injury without another team trying to sabotage the catching of the flyer in the air. Unless you are capable of the skills competitive cheerleaders are, you should not be insulting the sport. I hope you stay away from the world of cheerleading for the entirety of your existence, you closed-minded simpleton.

  2. Obviously tongue in cheek, but your premise is a failure. Our "top three" sports; football, basketball and baseball, have subjective judging that shapes the outcome of games. These judges, aka referees, all too often decide the outcome of games. I played football in the Pac 10 and WFL and NFL and can say without a doubt, referees shape the course of the game and often try to force an outcome.

    You have really missed the mark on cheerleaders. As I said, I have played sports at the highest level. Cheerleaders are part of the sporting event. Don't tell us about gender dominance, whether you refer to the stunting where the flyers are the leaders of the team or that the female cheerleaders uniforms are too revealing. One only needs to look at gymnastics to see the gymnast (flyer) is the dominate feature, not the springboard (base); or at my old form fitting football tights or even more graphic male wrestling uniforms. Cheerleaders are dominate and wear uniforms that are less revealing than swimmers, beach volleyballers, gymnasts and the list goes on.

    You are a professor of public service...not really sure what that makes you, public service includes many industries and skills. As such (?), you should use your ethics background and examine the value of "Contact College Cheerleading: A Modest Proposal" to the public. While it appears to be satire, you reveal contempt for cheerleading. That aspect of your moral code is disappointing because it shows a bias against women. Particularly women who generally look good and apparently capture your attention at sporting events. Are you upset that you watch the cheerleaders more than a 60+ year old should? Come on Pat, we are all guilty. You don't need to tear the sport down because you find it is frustrating that you watch the cheerleaders during timeouts.

    While I don't think you are "brain-dead" I do think you need to do a total reset of your opinion of cheerleaders. Take some time and visit with a high school cheerleader coach, talk about the commitment of time to all sports and the year round public service events, not to mention the mandatory 3.0 GPA. As a former football player I could not do as much for my school and community when compared to a cheerleader.

    Do your due diligence, examine cheerleading from an unbiased starting point. I think you will be impressed. Do this and write about it, that will show us you are interested in public service.