Last night, Fired Up opened in theaters across the country. By now you probably know the movie’s conceit—two high school football players decide to join their school’s cheerleading squad so that, rather than crushing skulls at football camp, they can spend their summer surrounded by hundreds of women in short, pleated skirts. Sure, it’s not going to win any Academy Awards. But I do have to give the movie props for inverting the most common stereotype of male cheerleaders out there—that they must be gay.
When I first had the idea to follow three college cheerleading squads for a year and write a book about it, I sort of bought into that stereotype. And I was stunned to find out that male cheerleaders were actually the opposite of what I was picturing in my head. Below, who guy cheerleaders really are:
1. They’re jocks. Most guy cheerleaders started out as football, baseball, or basketball players. Some of them had an injury that took them out of their original sport—others didn’t get college sports scholarship they were looking for and decided to change focus. There’s one guy in my book who played both football and rugby before becoming a cheerleader. “Cheer is by far the hardest sport I have ever been a part of,” he said.
Filed under CHEER, General
I woke up this morning with every intention of writing about the fall of Merrill Lynch, or at least about everyone’s favorite topic, Sarah Palin. (Best quote ever about her from this weekend’s New York Times: “She scares the bejeebers out of me,” said the Wasilla librarian who Palin spoke to about removing books on homosexuality.)
But then I saw this story about Wendy Brown, a 33-year-old woman in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who used her 15-year-old daughter’s ID to enroll in high school. Now why, oh why, would any adult want to go back to to high school? Because Wendy desperately wanted to be a cheerleader.
Filed under CHEER, General
You knew that, eventually, I was going to write about this infamous YouTube video. By now, you’ve probably heard the story. About two weeks ago, eight Florida high-schoolers—several of them members of their schools’ cheerleading squad—lured a friend (also a cheerleader) over to a house and then proceeded to pummel her for half an hour. The friends were evidently pissed about comments the girl had made on her MySpace page, and orchestrated this beat-down to be filmed and posted on YouTube.
Do I think the making of this video had anything to do with the fact that some people involved were cheerleaders? Not at all. But I do think the fact that they were cheerleaders ensured that the story would blow up. Here are a few sample headlines:
Cheerleader, Others Beat Up Teen Girl, Tape the Crime
Woo hoo! As I predicted, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks turned it around on the day of Finals. Check out their National Championship winning routine. Pretty slick, right?
Hey everyone. I’m coming at you from Daytona Beach, Florida where I am currently camped for the 2008 NCA Collegiate Cheer Championships, a competition known to cheerleaders by one word: Nationals. I spent today watching the preliminary competition, where more than 100 teams battled it out to make it to tomorrow’s finals. A few notes. First, two songs have already emerged as the must-include-in-your-routine-soundtrack hits of the year: Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop the Music” and Britney’s “Gimme More” (a song I secretly love). Second, zebra print sports bras are big this year. And third, Stephen F. Austin—one of the three teams whose lives I chronicled in CHEER! didn’t do so hot in preliminaries. They scraped by to make it to finals, but as we speak, they are out on the lawn practicing, making sure they don’t drop stunts tomorrow, when it really counts.
Even though I’ve been to Nationals the past three years running, I’m still blown away by the meticulous attention to detail female cheerleaders put into their hair and makeup.
Happy first day of the NCAA, everyone! My bracket is filled out and ready to go. Anyone want to start a pool? Don’t worry. I’ll lose. I always do, because I go for wishful thinking rather than pragmatism in choosing my winners. In other words, I’ve picked the same team to win every year since I was a little kid.
But let’s shift focus a little—this column is called “All Cheer, All the Time,” after all. Two years ago, in the week before the NCAA tournament, a Southern Illinois cheerleader named Kristi Yamaoka fell off the top of a human pyramid. The basketball game was put on hold for several minutes while medics ran to the court floor, wrapped her in a full-body brace, and lifted her onto a stretcher. As they wheeled her off the court floor, the band began to play the school’s fight song. Kristi’s arm shot up, her fingers wiggling—she performed her school’s fight song while being rolled toward an ambulance. This image was replayed on the nightly news for weeks and it got many people thinking, “Is cheerleading dangerous?”
I am so pumped to announce that CHEER! is now in bookstores. Go pick up a copy at your local bookseller, or click here for online purchasing options.
For those of you unfamiliar with the book, I know what you are thinking. A book about cheerleading? Sounds kind of bubblegum. But modern cheerleading is much more like an extreme sport that most people realize. CHEER! is like a Friday Night Lights about cheerleaders, or like a darker, more sociological Bring It On. Click here to see me talking about the book on Good Morning America on Tuesday.
Thank you so much to everyone who has already bought a copy—you are keeping CHEER! in the top 1000 on Amazon. And for anyone who can make it, I am doing the first ever reading of the book tonight, at the Borders at Columbus Circle at 7pm (head inside the Shops at the Time Warner Center, upstairs to the second floor).
Filed under CHEER, Writing