Thursday, July 26, 2007

PCB Field Trip: the 2007 LA Clippers Dance Team Audition (The Conclusion) 

Posted by Sasha at 1:37 AM ET

Sorry guys. I have not completed this last piece in a timely fashion at all, have I? Unfortunately, I lost my mojo for a few days. I’m not saying I have it back, just that it was most definitely gone...

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

(Read Part 1 and Part 2)

Tonight’s the Night
What’s that song from West Side Story? "Toniiight. Toniiiight. Something something something toniiiight." You know the one I’m talking about. Maria is hanging off the balcony like a lunatic because she’s going to meet up with that guy she likes and then there’s something about a rumble between the Jets and those other guys. Dang, who were those other guys?

It’s been a while since the last time I saw West Side Story. Perhaps I should pick a different movie.

Okay, so finals were scheduled to start at 5.

I aimed to get there at 4.

I pulled into the parking lot at 3:15.

(Stupid L.A. traffic. It’s impossible to gauge how long it takes to get anywhere around here.)

I was super early, so I went over and had me a Jamba Juice. If you don’t have a Jamba Juice near you, I feel sorry for you. But if you do live near Jamba Juice, I highly recommend the Tropical Awakening smoothie, as it is nutritious and also quite yummy.

When my beverage and I got to the Spectrum, we, I mean I – walked in the door and strolled right past the front desk. No one said a word to me. Not that I wanted them to pat me down or anything, but their security was definitely lacking. Another mystery is why they offer valet parking. And why that valet parking is set up in a corner of a huge, FREE parking lot. I don’t get it. I guess I just don’t have that valet parking lifestyle

Once inside the building, I took a look around, but I didn’t see anyone who looked like they might be going to the same party as me (same party as I? Whatever.) I decided to station myself on the nearest sofa – a position where I couldn’t possibly miss a sparkly herd of girl dancers thundering by. I decided to make good use of the time and pulled out the report I was writing for work. Why not be productive, right?

That lasted for about three minutes. Mostly I was wondering about the super secret special guest who was supposed to be there for finals. Jessie said it was someone I’ve seen on tv.

Hmmm…Who could it be? This is Los Angeles. You can’t throw a rock around here without hitting someone connected to the entertainment industry, so it could’ve been anyone, really. George Clooney? Carrot Top? Hef and the girls? It could be Scott Baio. (I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he’s 45. And single. Hard to believe, ain’t it?)

No, wait a sec – it had to be someone who has something to do with dance, right? JLo? Paula Abdul? Patrick Swayze? Perhaps someone from Dancing with the Stars? Drew Lachey? Joey Fatone? Wait – I’ve got it. Duh! It’s a famous choreographer, isn’t it? It has to be. Or would that make too much sense? Maybe I was over thinking this...

Could be Debbie Allen. If it was her, I hoped she would do that speech from Fame. You know, the one where she goes "You want fame? Well, fame COSTS. And right here is where you start paying . . . IN SWEAT." Awesome.

But I figured it probably wasn’t Debbie Allen. Okay Sasha. THINK. Hmmm…Cris Judd? Wade Robson? Laurie Ann Gibson? Shane Sparks? I hope it’s Shane Sparks. He seems normal…

Dangit! Who is the special guest???

More importantly, did I really want to know? A little bit about me: I’m not from California originally, and I’ve only been in Los Angeles for a few years. I should still be excited and amazed by celebrities, right? Mostly they just freak me out. Here’s the reason why: nothing you see on tv is real, right? Everyone knows that. So when a celebrity you’ve seen on tv is standing right there in front of you, it’s a little disturbing because – how is that possible???

    Sidebar: When I was a senior in high school, I took a scholarship exam, hoping to earn some $$$ for my edukashun. This was one of the questions:

    Which of the following two sentences is correct? Explain why.
    1. The sentence below is true.
    2. The sentence above is false.

That is exactly how I feel whenever I see a celebrity. I am simply unable to process the information. And I already have enough on my mind. Like how I’m going to tackle this event. I haven’t quite got the hang of talking to people, jotting my notes, and taking photos at the same time. Geez, how does James do this?

Where the Girls Are
Half an hour later, I had to tinkle so I headed over to the restroom inside the ladies’ locker room. Just so you know, I don’t usually go around telling people when I have to tinkle, but in this case it’s pertinent to the story. It’s how you know I was in there for a reason, and not just…you know…hanging out.

So I went into the locker room and there they all were. Dancers to the left. Dancers to the right. Wall-to-wall dancers. That shouldn’t have been a surprise. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. This was FINALS. Obviously the girls weren’t going to roll up all casual-like five minutes before everything starts.

There was a lot of girlie stuff going on in there. Hairspray. Makeup. Chit-chat. Things of that nature. I thought briefly about whipping out the camera, but decided against it, as taking pictures inside the ladies locker room would likely get me booted out of the club. Or arrested. Neither of those outcomes was particularly desireable.

After leaving the locker room, I headed over to the b’ball court where the auditions would take place. There weren't any windows to see through, so I couldn’t tell if anything was going on in there. I was glad when another girl went inside just before me. I waited a second, and when she didn't get thrown out, I figured the coast was clear and headed in.

There was already plenty going on in there. The deal was, you had to bring your number from prelims and check in with Audrea at the front table. After that, Marianne or Ross the Intern took a Polaroid of you against that extreeemly flattering red and blue striped backdrop. (Sidebar: Have you ever seen the inside of an empty Polaroid cartridge? Me neither. So I cracked one open. It was a black plastic case with a piece of paper and a metal doohickey inside. It wasn’t terribly exciting.)

After the Polaroid, the girls were free to stake out a spot along the wall and start warming up. I want to say there were about 15 girls there, but I don’t actually remember. I was too busy thinking - what if someone who got cut on Sunday snuck up on a girl going to finals, hit her over the head, stole her number, and took her place in the competition? Could she get away with it, do you think?

Before I go any further, can we talk about Ross the Intern for a minute? Ross is Audrea’s intern/guy Friday/overall helper-outer. That's him in the green shirt.

He’s an interesting fellow. First off, he would not stop singing that Avril Girlfirend song. I don’t mean “would not” as in, “he refused to stop.” I mean “would not” in the sense that he didn’t appear to have any control over that particular behavior. Also, he didn’t seem entirely sure if he should be singing “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” so we were all treated to both versions of the song. I wasn’t terribly concerned until he switched to Christina Aguilera. Not even the new stuff. I mean, “Candyman” would’ve been weird, but “What a girl wants” took it to a whole other level. It was a little worrying.

Also, I think Ross wants to be on the dance team. I bet he’d look real cute in that little red number with the fringe. I bet if they asked him to fill in for one of the girls, he’d be out there in two seconds. (Probably not in the red fringe though.)

Who are you people?
There were only 38 dancers on deck for auditions that night. It was a MUCH smaller group than before. I know I said last time that 39 girls made it to finals, but one had to drop out of the competition. Wouldn’t you know it, that one girl was Giselle, the girl I met on Sunday who said she reads the blog. I happen to know her name is Giselle because of my brilliant deductive reasoning. Or it might have been because her friend Jennifer told me so. What’s up girls!

I was standing near the check-in table when I spotted the list of girls auditioning. So I did what anyone with half a brain would do. I sidled over there and surreptitiously jotted down everyone’s name. This was much better. Now I could put a name to each face. So let’s take a minute and talk about who was there.

Shannon, Kristin, and Taylor
No I did not tell them to line up by height.

Obviously, we know the vets. Taylor, Shannon, Kristin, Harmony, Ashley, and Whitney. I told you about them last time, remember? I also talked about #13 and #58. Remember them?

This is #13. She was on the team in 2005 and was hoping to make a comeback. Her name is Lynae.

This is #58. Her name is Nina. She is the one who was with the Gold Rush for several years before retiring from the squad in 2004.

Respect the rules, dawg
I think by now, if you know one thing about me, it’s that it doesn’t take much to freak me out. But my next freak out was totally legit. I know you will agree. I’m not sure what had happened since Sunday, but somewhere along the way, I’d lost my anonymity. I blame it on the fact there were a lot fewer people in the room that day. And since the judges’ table was a lot smaller than before, there was literally nowhere to hide. So when one of the veterans broke Rule Number One, I had a moment of sheer panic.

Rule Number One is the one that says “Sasha gets to run around taking photos of people and those people agree to pretty much let her do her thing and not talk to her.” I wasn’t being snotty. It was just that my previous attempts at conversation had gone horribly awry. (“So uh…you’re stretching those hamstrings, huh? How’s that working for you?”) Our silent (and I thought mutual) agreement to cut the chit-chat was a-ok with me. Better for everyone involved, really.

So when one of the vets came over, and said hello, I was completely unprepared. Kristin was the instigator. (I bet she’s always starting stuff.) She said something about the reading the blog, and I’m all “hey thanks.” I don’t know what happened after that, but all of a sudden I was in veteranville. There was one, and then there were six. I have no idea where they all came from.

When one of them asked “Are you the blog writer?” I actually looked her in the eye and said “Ummm…no. Why do you ask?”(See what I mean about the whole not-talking thing being best for all of us?)

Turns out, that was Taylor and she reads this blog too. I think they all do. I told Taylor I recognized her by her hair. (Another extremely witty comment on my part, yes?) We chatted about the blog for a minute. (By “we” I mean mostly them, thank goodness.) They’re cool chicks, but this was something different: coming face to face with people who not only have heard of this website, but apparently visit it with some regularity. (uh oh…)

A few minutes later, we went our separate ways, and that’s when the hair stood up on back of my neck. That’s because in a moment of severely delayed reaction, it really sunk it that there are people out there who actually read this blog. I mean, I’ve been part of this thing for while now, but I haven’t really been out there, the way James is. It’s one thing to sit at home, tapping away on my keyboard. It is quite another when the subjects of the aforementioned typing are standing there right in front of you. I suuuure hope I never wrote anything bad about anyone there…

I decided that I really didn’t feel like thinking about that, so I filed it away to analyze later.

Meanwhile, it was like The Land of Beautiful People in there, which was a little disconcerting. I don’t know if you all have ever been in a situation like this, but it is not natural to have that many good looking people in an enclosed space. It kind of made my eyeballs hurt, like I’d been staring directly into the sun. Also, not to sound completely shallow (oops! too late.), but that kind of thing can severely damage one’s ego. The only way I got through the evening was by imagining everyone around me with a big old pig snout. (It didn’t work very well, but it’s all I could come up with at the time.)

Over in the corner, I saw a couple folks preparing to interview Nina on camera. (Uh-huh, that’s right. I call her Nina now.) I strolled on over there and asked if I could take a picture of them doing whatever it was they were doing. The interviewer lady gave me a slightly confused look and asked me not to do it while they were filming. I said no, I meant could I take a photo right now, while they were just standing there. They all looked at me like “I don’t get it, but I’ll play along.” I told them to pretend like they were having a good time, so they did. I snapped the photo and wandered off to bug somebody else. (I guarantee you they were shooting each other the “what was that?” look behind my back. I’m on the receiving end of that look far more often than I care to be.)

Then I discovered another photographer in the house. Not Mark, somebody else. “Somebody else” named Henry. Yep, another guy with a REAL camera. So I took a picture of him. (Photographers always get weirded out when you take a photo of them, so it’s fun to torture them that way.) Henry is a good guy. And Henry has some great photos, which he says he is willing to share. You know what? We like Henry.

Next I came across a girl who was on my mental list of people to figure out. Contestant #100. I saw her on Sunday, but she didn’t really strike me as familiar until later when I was sorting through the photos. Where had I seen her before? I still couldn’t figure out it, so in my usual graceful, tactful way, I marched up to her and demanded to know where I’ve seen her before. That’s exactly how I said it. No “hello” no “hi there” just “wherehaveiseenyourfacebefore?” (Seriously, I should not be allowed to talk to strangers.)

As it turned out, her name is Ashley and she’s from Maryland. Now that was something I could work with. I am also from Maryland, so it is feasible that we had run into each other in the past. Unlikely, but feasible. Did we go to school together? No…that wasn’t it. She's from a different county…

Then all of a sudden, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader. Duh. She was even wearing a white top a bit like their uniforms and could there BE a bigger clue than that? I was thinking to myself (A-HA! I knew it, I knew it. La la la, I knew it.) I think I might’ve actually said it out loud. And I think I might’ve done a little self-congratulatory dance. Hopefully, that was all in my head.

(I did high-five myself later though.)

Speaking of people from other teams, I was then informed that #68 was a Celtics dancer last year. Her name is Nicole. Nicole has returned to California after a year in the frozen north as an inaugural member of the Boston Celtics Dance team. (That’s right, Nicole. Come on back. Leave all that freezing rain and hellacious summer humidity behind and join us here on The Dark Side.)

Nicole also looked wicked familiar. I haven’t placed her yet, but I’m working on it.

Ok, so just to recap: I had six veterans from last year, one veteran hoping to come back from hiatus, a Gold Rush cheerleader, an Eagles cheerleader, and a Celtics dancer. And a partridge in a pear tree. This was getting complicated.

The Super-Secret Special Guest
Pretty soon, everyone was assembled in the room and it was time to get the show on the road. Right about then was when Señor Special Guest showed up.

Guess who it was. Go on, guess.
Never mind, I’ll just tell you.

It was Shane Sparks.

I knew it! I so knew it. Did I not say Shane Sparks?

It was like a premonition. A vision, if you will. I have ESPN, y’all!

    Or maybe I’ve been watching too much of “Psychic Detectives” on A&E. Have you seen that show?

    Sidebar: If I were a dead person and I wanted to speak through the living, I would be a lot more specific than the average “ghostly presence” you hear about all the time. None of that “I see…I see…something with the letter J. And the number 23. Or maybe it’s 32…” Nuh-uh. I would be all “Look, the guy that did it, his name is Raymond Jones aka Ray-Ray. He’s about six foot, 190 pounds. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Lives with his mama at 2305 Euclid and drives a crappy old Ford truck. Right now, he and his no-account friends are hanging out behind the 7-11. I suggest you go get him.”

    Excuse me. Don’t give me that look. This is relevant. They are called the “Spirit” dance team, are they not?
But I digress. Back to Shane. Here’s the thing: he’s a regular dude. He did regular dude stuff. No assistant. No posse. No sunglasses. No attitude. Not even any bling. Black pants. Black shirt. Red hat. Just a cool guy who is a talented choreographer and likes turkey sandwiches. Geez, he even showed up on time. How anticlimactic.

(Drat! I knew should’ve taken the rest of that sandwich to sell on ebay.)

Wanna know how Jessie got ahold of him? Through myspace, that’s how. Who knew it was that easy? I’m not saying go on myspace and hunt down (insert your favorite celebrity here). I’m just saying that there are some decent people on myspace. It’s not just pervs like the guys on “To catch a predator.” (Don’t even act like you’ve never seen the show).

Let’s Get Moving
When it was time to get started, Jessie gathered the girls around and explained what was going on. Shane was going to spend about an hour teaching them some choreography. It was just for fun, like a regular dance class. To say the girls were surprised is pretty accurate. Something of an understatement, but accurate nonetheless. Maaaajor cool points for Jessie.

I don’t have a clue what the song was, which was kind of sad, because I must’ve heard it 50 times. I dug it though.

Everyone assembled on the floor and Shane taught the first part of the choreography. They all jumped right into it. He did his thing, and they did their thing. Then he divided them into two groups and they took turns performing it as they learned the rest of the dance. That was a pretty cool technique to let the girls see how the choreography looks on someone else. Good one, Mister Sparks. (Is that his real name, d’you think?)

    Best Shane-ism of the day: “Do it with your body. Not without your body.”

    Followed closely by: “I need a chest, a butt, and a leg!”
Speaking of the man, I spent a great deal of time looking at his shoes. (I have decided that my obsession with the shiny floor and all things near it simply has to do with the fact that I spent a lot of time sitting on that floor. FYI - it was every bit as shiny as it had been on Sunday.)

So anyway – the shoes. I was fascinated. They were big. They were floppy. They were very very white. How did they stay on his feet? How was he able to dance in those? Where is this footwear sold? Is it available in a variety of colors? These are all things I wanted to know.

Right, so back to the choreography. Once they got all the way through it, they did it a few times as a group. It was hot! There was popping. There was locking. Which I enjoyed, even though I can neither pop nor lock. (It’s a great source of sadness for me. If you care for me at all, you will never speak of it in my presence.)

Once they learned the whole thing, those girls were energized. Everyone was picking up the choreography so fast, and they were really getting into it. Shane divided them into groups of five and they took turns performing while the other girls cheered them on. I have never seen such a bunch of hams in my life. It was awesome.

After dancing in fives, they took turns dancing in pairs. I swear, everybody and her grandma wanted to bust a move. Every time Shane went to pick the next pair to dance, every hand flew up in the air – even a couple of girls who’d already had a turn. (You know who you are, so don’t act all innocent.) Honestly, I hadn’t been entertained like that in days. Months, even. I found myself thinking “Yes. I do believe this is something I would purchase a ticket for.”

Right about then, when everyone was having a good time, I started thinking “oh man, these judges are in trouuuuble.” Personally, I’d rather be hit with a flaming meteor from outer space than have any part in narrowing that group of dancers down to 18. Good luck, judges. Sucks to be you.

Here’s something else I observed: Shane Sparks is old skool. Go on, ask me how I know.
Ok don’t ask me. I’ll just tell you.

Exhibit A: He had those girls doing the Electric Slide. I was sitting right there and I saw the whole thing. He started backing up, and they started backing up. They took a step forward, they took a step back. Then the next group did it. And the next group. They never did it full out, but let me tell you something. I am a child of the 80s. I recognize the Electric Slide when I see it.

You can't resist it.
It's electric.
Boogie woogie, woogie!

Exhibit B: They did the Soul Train line. Ok, they weren’t in lines. More like a circle. Same difference. I kept looking behind me for Don Cornelius and the Soul Train Scramble Board. One at a time, the dancers bounded to the middle of the circle and broke it down. They were all out there whooping it up and egging each other on. It was dance feevah, I tell you, and everyone was catching it. The dancers, the judges - everybody getting their collective swerve on. I didn’t know Jessie could get down like that!

At one point, the entire crowd hit some sort of critical mass and converged in the center of the room. I thought for sure they were about to mosh. The only thing that prevented it was the lack of a stage.

Had there been a stage, I feel certain there would’ve been people diving off it. (Not me, of course. That’s where people like me get hurt. You know what they say. It’s all fun and games…until you stage dive and land on your head.)

The whole thing was extremely entertaining. I think it’s fair to say that a good time was had by all. It took a while, but everyone finally calmed down and gathered round for a group photo with Shane. Or rather, several group photos. Then a few snuck back later to have their photo taken with him. It’s a wonder people like him don’t wander around in a state of perpetual blindness from constantly seeing spots.

There was a short break after all that chaos, and then IT WAS TIME.

Oh that’s right. This is an audition.

Crud. I don’t want anyone to go home! I started to wonder if any of the judges could be bribed. What’s the difference between 18 girls and 38? Couldn’t they all be on the team and just rotate or something? I’d be willing to pitch in for more red fringe. Come on, Jessie. Whattaya say?

The girls had to do the hip-hop dance for round 1. Mister Sparks stayed around to judge that first dance. The girls lined up along the wall and waited for Marianne to call them up in groups of three. Everyone did really well, but how were they NOT TIRED? That’s really what I wanted to know.

Round 2 was - you guessed it – the girlfriend song. Just before this round, the DJ put Avril on a continuous loop so the girls could rehearse. The goal was to practice it so many times that if the mind stopped functioning, the body still knew what to do. God bless the human brain’s ability to operate on autopilot. It’s kind of like when you drive to work in the morning and when you get out of the car, you have no memory of how you came to be there.

Auditions went much faster this time, with so few girls. Everyone did a great job though. At this point in the competition, everyone looked like a pro. I could easily picture any of them on the team.

When it was time to start the second round, Jessie introduced everyone at the front table, the judges, her sister, Deena the web manager (I know I totally spelled that wrong) and Gina and Brian Weinstein. They’re a Clippers kind of couple. Gina used to be a member of the Clippers Spirit and is currently the director of the Jr. Jam dance team. Brian is going into his 10th year as Clippers statistician. (Say that three times. Statistician. Statistician. Statistician.) The two of them took the red-eye back from Hawaii to be there for finals. Now that’s what I call dedication. I would’ve been lying on the beach with my cell phone like “Hey Jessie – bad news. The wings fell off the airplane so my flight’s been delayed. Can you believe that? And I really wanted to be there tonight.”

Meanwhile, I looked over to see what the judges were up to. There was some sort of complex color-coding going on with their paperwork. There was yellow paper. There was blue paper. There were lots of boxes on the papers and in-depth discussion about the purpose of the boxes and the order for their completion.

Pretty soon it got too complicated for me, so I tuned it right out.

Round 2 was fast. Unlike prelims on Sunday, there were no cuts between rounds. Just one BIG cut at the end. So when round two was over, the girls had a short break to rehearse the choreography they’d made up for the audition. No one knew the song ahead of time, so this was their first time hearing it. They only had a few minutes to make sure whatever they’d come up with fit the music. It was Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” The music started to lull me into a trance-like state.

What does he wanna be startin'?
Why does he wanna be startin' it?
Does he even know he’s startin' it?
Maybe if somebody pulled him aside for a chat, he’d wanna be stoppin' it.

I just did not understand.

Before round 3, Jessie gathered everyone around and gave them a little pep talk. This was the time to show your personality. Impress everyone. Show them what you can do. She then arranged the girls in a large semi-circle facing the judges, and cued the DJ. One after another, with no pausing in between, the dancers moved to the center and did their best moves. This was very fun to watch. The spinning, the flipping, the dancing, it was all good. The very best girls did a lot of levels – up in the air, down on the ground, all across the floor. Who knew there was time for all that?

Twenty minutes and 50 billion "mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-koo-sas" later, Round three was over.

When it was over, there was much dancing and celebration. I think they were all high on sheer relief. They were practically having a party up in there. It was very easy to see how much fun those girls must have throughout the year. It was also glaringly obvious that regardless of all the cool stuff that goes with making the team, the main thing for those girls is the dancing. Second most important thing? Dancing. Third most important thing? Also dancing.

As it turned out, it wasn’t over yet.

Oh snap!
Was I the only one who didn’t know there was still one more round to go? They'd done both dances. They'd performed their solos. What was left? I don’t know about anyone else, but that news totally stressed me out.

Marianne called the girls up in groups of five to perform the hip-hop and jazz dances back to back. This time they weren’t in numerical order. I think they wanted to see certain girls side by side. The whole out-of-order thing got a little confusing. (Just between you and me, I think next year, Marianne is going to make somebody else call out the numbers.)

All the girls had to perform AGAIN. Then one group was called to do the hip-hop routine yet AGAIN. Just when we all started to think that everyone would have to do hip-hop again, Jessie announced that the dancing was finally over. Then there was some cheering for real. And many many sighs of relief. The girls had done all that they could do. The only thing left was the waiting. This is the first year Jessie decided to announce the members of the team on the night of finals. (In previous years, the girls had to wait until the next day.)

It was 8 pm when the judges left for their final deliberations. Everyone was so excited. Some time in the next hour, they’d find out if they made the team or not.

I found Ashley (not Philly Ashley, veteran Ashley) and showed her the most excellent photo I shot of the top of her head. (I swear, none of those girls could stand still for more than three seconds.) I also wanted to show her the cute photo I took of her with Mr. Sparks.

Who knew I’d have to scroll through EIGHT HUNDRED PHOTOS to get to the one I wanted? We were somewhere around number 400 when Harmony came over.

Now, something about Harmony had been bugging me. Specifically, Harmony’s outfit. It reminded me strongly of something I’d seen on tv. Something similar worn by a Charger Girl during last year’s audtions. Something in fact designed and produced by that very same Charger Girl. You know where this is going, right?

Turns out Harmony’s audition outfit was designed by none other than her friend Stacie. Who, by the way, is a Charger Girl. Am I good, or what? Please – try not to be awed by my powers. I only mostly use them for good. Never Hardly ever for evil.

That's Stacie. See what I mean?

Half an hour went by.
Then another half hour.
And then another.
And then another.

People started looking a lot less cheerful as time went by and it started to sink in that 20 girls were about to be voted off the island. The energy level dropped significantly. There was a lot less talk and lot more lying on the ground, staring at the ceiling. This was not good.

I snuck over and peeked at the judges a couple of times. They were awfully quiet back there. I wanted to see what was taking so long. Were they horsing around back there instead of dealing with the business at hand? I couldn’t tell what was going on. All I saw was that they were gathered in a tight little circle around a handful of polaroids and the vibe was intense. I wasn’t close enough to hear anything, for which I was thankful.

At some point in the evening, Ross the Intern got out a basketball so he could shoot a few hoops. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but next thing I know, Whitney had the ball and Ross was out of luck. I would like to have seen how she finessed it away from him, because she for sure didn’t do a flying tackle and wrestle it away from him. She tried to sink a few baskets but to no avail. (That girl is no bigger than a minute, so I was not terribly surprised.) She can, however, spin a basketball on the tip of her finger, which earns her extra cool points.

In the end, many tried, but most failed. Shannon, the tallest of the veterans, was the only one who managed to put the ball through the hoop. Swish!

After that, guess what? More waiting. Woo! Two hours and twenty minutes after leaving the room, the judges returned with their decision. I was no longer having fun. I knew I was going to hate this part, but by that point I was seriously invested. I wasn't going anywhere.

The Decision
Jessie said it was an extremely difficult decision for them, and I for one believed it. Before reading the numbers, she again encouraged everyone who didn’t make the team to try again in the future. Then – get this – she said she was available to give feedback to anyone who wanted it. Obviously I am not experienced in this area, but I don’t believe that was the natural order of things. Isn’t the director supposed to say something like “If I don’t call your number, adios! Don’t let the doorknob hit you where the Good Lord split you.”

I thought it was extremely decent of her to offer to talk to the other girls. I couldn’t have done it. I can’t be around people who are upset or crying, because that stuff is contagious. I wind up crying too, and then I get mad because - gee thanks for making me cry.

Then Jessie read the numbers. Weeks of dancing and preparation boiled down to the 30 seconds it took to read the list. 11. 13. 21. 22. 37. 38. 41. 43. 46…

Drumroll please…

All of the veterans made it back. So did Lynae (returning vet), Nina (Gold Rush), Nicole (Celtics), and Ashley (Eagles). Clearly experience has it’s benefits.

There was a lot of hugging, but also a lot of sad faces. Those who made the team were happy, but subdued. I can understand how you wouldn’t feel much like jumping for joy when the girl next to you just got cut. It was truly the best – and worst – moment of the whole experience.

It took a few minutes, but the room cleared and then it really hit the girls who were left that they’d made the team. That was fun to watch. Some of them looked about ready to levitate right up off the floor.

They all gathered at one end of the room to take their first official photo as a team. I took one, but you’ll find much better ones on the Clippers website. (That is, if you didn’t already sneak over there to find out who made it. And if you did – shame on your impatient self.)

Once all the hugging had been done and the photos had been taken, I started to feel a little extraneous. This was truly their moment to start bonding as a team. It felt a little like I was intruding on family time, so I beat it out of there.

I had some time to reflect during the drive home. (Mostly I was reflecting on the fact that it was almost 11 pm and I had to be at work at 6 am to do some catching up. Yuck.)

I am SO happy for the girls who made it. This was not luck. This was something every single one of them had to work for. But isn’t it funny how being around happy people makes you feel happy too? (Don’t you dare laugh at me. I’m trying to have a sincere moment here.)

It was so incredibly awesome of Jessie to let me to be part of the experience. It’s not something many people get to do. For all she knew, I could’ve been a knife-wielding psychopath, but she was willing to give it a try. Everyone made an effort to include me, and that kind of sucked. In a way, I wish they hadn’t treated me so well. Then I could just say “Bye everybody. Have a nice life.” Instead, I have that January 2nd feeling. That last-day-of-summer-camp feeling. That “nothing fun will ever happen again” feeling.

But that just means I’ll have to weasel my way into the Staples Center sometime so I can see my peeps in action. When do those public appearances start? In the meantime, many thanks to everyone there.

Party on, girls.

Be excellent to each other.

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