Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Texans Cheerleading Judging Isn't Easy: A Photo Essay 

Posted by Sasha at 6:33 PM ET

Stephanie Stradley
AOL Sports Fan House
Apr 14th 2008

"Gee, what a tough job."

That's usually the sarcastic response you get when you say you are going to be a Texans cheerleader judge. Well that, and "Hey, you need a helper?" The third response is "Be sure to get pictures," so I figured I'd write a photo journal of the event.

The picture above is one of me standing in front of the VIP sign making a little fun of how the event sign shows the cheerleaders touching each other. Sorry Lindsay for invading your personal space.

Actually, I will say that it truly is hard to judge who should be on the cheerleading squad. There were probably 400-600 females to choose from. I think over 800 registered, but some didn't show, and others freaked out and left after they got there.

The early rounds are a bit like American Idol, where you see a few good people and then wonder why some people thought trying out was a good idea.

This is how it worked. They had the tryouts in the Texans practice bubble. On one end of the facility, the Texans staff demonstrated what the dance steps were supposed to look like, and then the women practiced the steps.

They all were wearing different outfits with a very small number on the outfit. In the first round, they danced down the field in groups of ten, and you had to circle the numbers of the ones who "looked like they could be on the squad." They didn't have to be perfect dancers, but they had to look the part and look like with a little work they could get the steps down.

For the first round, there were a ton of judges (mostly corporate sponsors), and they took about 75% of the contestants. For the second round, there were fewer judges, and more official judges (such as previous cheerleaders below and current players). I have no idea how they weighted the vote.

I didn't know any of the other judges, so I became fast friends with the guys I sat next to, Brian and Dahit. The problem we had in judging is that there were tons of females to look at, and you could barely see their numbers. That and you didn't want to pick a cheerleader who uh, how should I put it, looked good from the cheap seats until you got the binoculars out.

So we ended up having sort of a cooperative effort going. I was best at picking the better dancers, ones that showed good energy but weren't crazy over the top. Brian and Dahit were good at spotting the ones that were well, hot. And we all had problems seeing the numbers, and in the brief time we saw them, whether the women passed the binocular test. (The professional judges have pictures to look at to help out with that).

It is weird being hyper-critical of people doing things that you couldn't fathom doing. But that is the way judging works, so after a while, you just start seeing people as "silver boot girl" or "blond girl on the end." And the standards of "hot" get picky when you are looking at so many people wearing so little clothes. You can't hide anything.

The second round was a little harder to judge. Strangely, some of the prettiest contestants couldn't dance a lick, and some of the best dancers didn't look like they would be quite right. And then you saw a few you thought might make the squad. I expected to see more blonds, given that this is Texas, but there were fewer than you would expect.

After the second round, the guest judges were booted out. Sunday, they worked a new dance with the remaining contestants, and then the final squad will be picked after another round of judging next Friday.

It's genius marketing for the Texans to have the cheerleading tryouts sponsored by Miller Lite, and providing an opportunity to a group of mostly corporate sponsors to be judges. At the end of the day, people who actually know something about cheerleading will be picking the final squad.

I would like to thank the Texans for inviting me, and for Brian and Dahit for not getting too sick of me saying stuff like, "Can you see fushia girl's number?"

And I would also like to thank all the women who tried out for their bravery. It can't be easy to do all that dancing in front of ogling nitpicking strangers, and then keep smiling and pretending you aren't completely winded. Good luck to all of you are still in.

You can see a long video about the cheerleaders at HoustonTexans.com site. They have an entire page devoted to just Texans cheerleader videos. In addition, Channel 13 KRTK started a Texans cheerleader blog that has a bunch of pictures and video from the tryouts. It's not quite the same as being there, but I'm trying my best to help you folks out who are interested in this.

And huge thanks to Andy Martin from TexansBullPen.com who is a fan treasure for having the most complete photo history of the Houston Texans (and their cheerleaders). You can see all his Round 1 photos here, and the Round 2 photos here.

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