Cheerleaders Dinged for…Leading Cheers

GettyImages-486404464.0Well, Tuesday night college football is already a little odd, so why not have an odd referee call to go with it?

A referee apparently felt the Central Michigan Chippewa cheerleaders and band were a little too peppy, making it too hard for the Toledo Rockets to hear their snap count. He stopped the game to issue the warning, deep in Central Michigan territory. The Chips’ cheerleaders were located in the back of the end zone of CMU’s Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Ironically, the half-filled stadium woke up after the call, and the sudden noise caused Toledo kicker Jameson Vest to miss a chip shot field goal that would have given the Rockets a seven-point lead.

However, Toledo ended up winning 28-23. But more important, I think it demonstrates that cheerleaders are, in fact, more than just pretty faces on the sidelines. They do make a difference.

It’s not a new argument—is cheerleading a sport? What do they do exactly anyway? Why are they necessary?

As far as cheerleading being a sport, or at least athletic, there is no doubt (I know because I was one). They run, lift weights, lift each other, and compete against other squads, as you’ve probably seen at 2am on ESPN.

But if they are so athletic, why aren’t they playing a “real” sport—football, gymnastics, baseball? people ask. If you’ve seen the arms on some of the male cheerleaders, you know what I mean.

I don’t know. What I do know is this: cheerleading is fun. In high school my favorite days were Fridays, when we got to wear our uniforms to school. You felt special, pretty, part of the electricity of game night.

And at the game, you really felt like you were helping urge the team along, by screaming your fool head off (or at least releasing stress from a bad algebra test).

Eventually I did find my way into “real” sports. But some people are simply born with the charisma to energize others, to raise spirits and—in the case of the Chippewas—even change the flow of a game.

Do sports need cheerleaders to function? No. Do pro cheerleaders need to dress like poledancers? No (though I don’t hear a lot of complaints from my male counterparts).

But take them away, and a key part of the pageantry would be missing. No pompons, no pyramids? I promise you would notice.

And what else would you watch channel-surfing at 2am?

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