Sunday, October 07, 2007

Blessed be cheerleaders for they will be vilified 

Posted by Sasha at 2:16 PM ET

By now we've all heard about the NFL's edict barring the cheerleaders from warming up in front of the opposing team. Normally, I wouldn't acknowledge that kind of stupidity by posting it here. However, when I came across this article I decided to make an exception. Though I don't agree with all of the writer's opinions, I do think that overall, he makes the right point.

Here are the bits that made me say "amen."

Blessed be cheerleaders for they will be vilified
By Jerry Brewer
Staff Columnist
Seattle Times

If football is a religion, the NFL is developing some orthodox creeds. It's like they're putting together the First-and-10 Commandments.

Thou shalt not steal signals with a video camera.

Thou shalt not "make it rain" without punishment.

Honor thy Goodell and thy dogs.

Thou shalt celebrate the touchdown in vain.

Remember the disabled old-timers, but keep their wallets holey.

And here's the newbie on the list:

Thou shalt not distract thy opponent with thy cheerleaders.

League executives sent a memo recently to its 32 teams, warning them to control their cheerleaders. There's growing concern that some home teams are using these ladies for a competitive advantage, telling them to warm up in front of the opponents, hoping their beauty will steer players away from their pregame preparation.

If the NFL were any more paranoid, commissioner Roger Goodell would need to dead bolt his sock drawer.

And so now we return to one of the most archaic stereotypes in sports: the ditzy, dainty cheerleader.

Now that this reprimand has gone public, it's both unfortunate and hypocritical.

It's unfortunate because it has demeaning undertones, saying essentially that these women care more about flirting than dancing.

It's hypocritical because the NFL fosters a look-at-our-sexy-girls attitude, and for proof, visit the Web sites of the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

They're among the many teams that show their cheerleaders in swimsuits. They get prominent display. The league's inadvertent message: Be gorgeous at our command.

Instead of holding men accountable for their ogling, there's this nonsense.

In his weekly column for Canada's TSN, former NFL quarterback Jesse Palmer, aka "The Bachelor," told a humorous story about cheerleaders. He was leading the New York Giants against Dallas in 2003, and his teammates wouldn't stop staring at the Cowboys cheerleaders.

"The classic line came from our tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe, who interrupted me in the middle of a play call and said, 'Jesse, you really need to turn around and see this,' " Palmer wrote.

It seems the NFL should focus more on teaching its tongue-wagging millionaires better professionalism. The root of the problem isn't the cheerleaders.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Dawn Holmes, who was a member of the Sea Gals, the Seahawks' cheerleading squad, in 2005. "If you're a player and you're getting paid hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to play football, why would you even think of a cheerleader?"

Well, the athlete's affinity for cheerleaders goes back to high school. But there's a difference in the pros: Most teams frown upon such fraternizing.

Let the athlete play. Let the cheerleader dance. Chitchat — and only chitchat — when appropriate.

"It's an unspoken rule," Holmes said. "You just know you need to keep your integrity. You're representing a huge corporation. Keep your priorities straight."

Based on her one-year experience with the team, Holmes trusts the Sea Gals would never resort to running interference for the Seahawks. Sherri Thompson, who is in her 21st year as the Sea Gals director, reiterated that sentiment.

"It's never been an issue," Thompson said.

The Sea Gals usually go over their routines three or four hours before the game. They're usually out of sight by the time the players leave their locker room for warm-ups.

Like most NFL teams' cheer squads, the Sea Gals have a calendar. But they aren't shown in swimsuits — just outfits they'd wear while performing. Holmes remembers Thompson's desire for each of her Sea Gals is to represent "a strong woman."

"It's not just about being sexy or sparkly," Holmes said.

Most pro cheerleaders are serious dancers looking to showcase their passion. When they do their jobs, we generally don't notice them. They're simply part of the game experience. But there have been a few bizarre tales that have received attention the past five years.

In 2002, more than 40 former Eagles cheerleaders filed a lawsuit claiming that visiting players looked through a peephole at old Veterans Stadium and watched them dress and shower.

Three years ago, two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested and kicked off the squad for allegedly having sex in a bathroom stall.

When athletes get in trouble or become entangled in weird stories, we still see them as athletes, and for the most part, we're still able to separate the good and bad among them.

When controversy finds cheerleaders, we return to typecasting them all as ditzy and dainty.

"It's not as exciting as it seems like," Holmes said. "You hear some pretty derogatory comments, some that shouldn't be printed. I just don't think it's all about being these sex symbols."

Don't fret, however. The NFL has found a solution.

If you thought oversized men made football scary, think again. Even they need rescuing. Those evil, alluring cheerleaders must be stopped.