Sunday, July 27, 2008

PCB on assignment: Camp DCC 2008 

Posted by Sasha at 8:33 PM ET

Before I get into it, I know some of you are only here for the photos and not particularly fascinated by what I have to say. Especially since I tend to be long-winded. (Hey, I'm aware of it. I can't do anything about it, but I AM aware.)

Feel free to go directly to the photos. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. (Note: the photo collection includes larger versions of the photos included in this post.)

Ok, now that those guys are gone, here’s what happened:

As many of you know, the Dallas Cowboys are back in Oxnard, CA for their preseason training camp. The last time they were here, a couple of years ago, the Cowboys Cheerleaders hosted a cheer camp on the practice field. I really hoped they would do the same this year. The last time had been a fun experience. It was really great – better than a game day, better than a performance on stage. It was a setting where the crowd consisted almost entirely of short people, so I had a great view and was able to bring some great photos back for you guys. Unfortunately, the photos weren’t that great, so I was determined to redeem myself this time around. And let’s face it, this is a One Time Only affair. I don’t expect we’ll be seeing the DCC around here again for a loooong while.

So I drove up to Oxnard on Friday morning, and I have to say that things didn’t start off on the right foot. Registration was to start at 9. I got there a little after 8, in order to avoid rush hour traffic, and also hoping to catch a bit of the cheerleaders' pre-camp rehearsal. (It’s always helpful to get a preview of a performance so you know who is facing what direction at different points in the choreography. You get better photos that way. And by “better,” I mean “not the back of people’s heads.")

When I got to the school, there was no one there. I mean NO ONE. Not even any squirrels or anything. Just me and the tumbleweeds – and then I realized – wrong high school. I was at Pacific High on 600 Gonzales. I was supposed to be at Oxnard High at 3400 Gonzales. I can’t help but to wonder, is Oxnard so big it needs two high schools, less than 2 miles apart? I hadn’t thought so, but maybe I was wrong.

Once I got to Oxnard HS, I parked and assessed the situation.

It was early, so there were only about 30 parents and kids there. There was one tall, blondish lady who seemed to be in charge, so I headed her way.

I think I had decided in my mind that this was going to be pretty easy. Famous last words, folks.

    A little bit of the backstory: Miko Bagley is the Media Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. She’s always been nice to me and has helped me out a couple of times in the past. I contacted her a month or so ago to find out if there was going to be a cheer camp this summer and she’d forwarded me to Megan Fox. DCC fans obviously know who Megan is. For the rest of you, Megan is a 4 year DCC veteran, now retired. (I don’t think I need to tell you again how the whole retirement thing gives me agita. Especially when it’s someone like Megan who has been on the squad for four years. When it comes to the DCC, four years is like forever.) But I am happy to say that Megan is now the Youth Coordinator for the Cowboys Cheerleaders. So maybe we’ll see her pop up on the DCC website and various appearances now and again. I never connected up with Megan, but that didn’t stop me from showing up at Camp DCC.
    [end sidebar]

I don’t consider myself to be especially naïve, but I must have believed, somewhere in the back of my head, that I would ask someone to point me towards Miko or Megan, and that would be that. I’d shake hands. I’d say “Hi. My name is Sasha and I’m from the Pro Cheerleader Blog. If it’s ok with you, I’ll be hanging out, taking some photos.” Nice to meetcha, and goodbye. Short and sweet, right? I wasn’t going to to ask for an interview or entrance to the dressing room, or a photo op or anything. I know the Director Kelli Finglass runs a tight ship and you don’t just walk in off the street like that. I just wanted inside the fence so I could get better photos than last time.

There were a bunch of high school girls manning the registration table. When I saw a tall, blondish woman telling them what to do, I figured she was in charge and headed her way.

I asked her if Miko or Megan was around. She looked at me blankly – “who?”

Oh geez. Well, clearly she has nothing to do with the DCC organization, but she was the only in-charge type of person I could identify at the time.

I clarified, and when she continued to look at me blankly, I asked if she could point me to whoever was coordinating the cheerleaders. This woman looked at me like I was a dead slug on the sidewalk.
    Her: Miko who?
    Me: Miko Bagley, she’s --
    Her: Are you media?
    Me: Um…sort of.
    Her(looking down her nose at me): Either you ARE or you AREN’T.
    Me: Well, I’m not credentialed
    Her: There’s no access.
    Me: But –
    Her: NO ACCESS
    Me: No no – nothing like that. I’m not asking for access to the cheerleaders, just someone from their organization. I have a quick question. Is Miko here?
    Her: The cheerleaders have their own media coordinator and There. Is. No. Access.
    Me: I can’t even stand outside the fence and snap a few photos?
    Her: NO. ACCESS.
Then she turned on her heel and walked away.

Um, ok.

I’m going to go ahead and say it: this totally hurt my feelings. (Don't you dare laugh at me!) I know I'm supposed to be an adult and all, but seriously – my feelings were hurt. I’m not used to being spoken to like I’m a complete imbecile. Sure, she didn’t know me and sure I could’ve been from some rag mag, bent on writing some crappy expose. For all she knew, I was toting hand grenades in my camera bag. Fine. So she was right to turn me away. It was the way she said it that got to me. Like she couldn’t even believe someone as unimportant as me dared to approach her.

On the up side, now I knew for sure she was not affiliated with the DCC in any way. No one from the DCC organization would ever be that rude and ungracious to a fan. Not in a million years.

I think I have a pretty open, honest face. Besides, everyone knows that 99% of all serial killers, stalkers, paparazzos, and the criminally insane are men. Sure, women can be whack-a-doodles, but we do crazy in a totally different way. It’s not like I showed up in a DCC outfit, with smeary makeup like "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?." I didn't have “I (heart) the DCC” tattooed on my arm, and I wasn't carrying a giant oil painting I did of Megan and I with our arms around each others’ shoulders like BFFs. I didn’t claim to know a cheerleader or be related to a cheerleader, or want to BE a cheerleader. I didn’t even ask to talk to a cheerleader. I just wanted to know who was in charge.

I went back to my car to consider my options. She really had hurt my feelings. I didn’t say it was right to feel that way, but it’s how I felt, ok? To put it in the simplest terms, That Woman was a mean mean mean person. And it's a real shame I won't be there to see it when karma smacks her upside the head.

As I sat in my car, something inside of me started to change. You know how there are people who “can’t take no for an answer.” Well, I’m not proud of it, but I almost always do take no for an answer. In fact, I’m one of those people who takes “no” for an answer, and then follows up with “thanks anyway.” Then I walk away and kick myself in the butt. “Thanks anyway???” What am I thanking them for??? They said NO." (Sometimes I cuss a little bit, too.)

But on that particular morning, as I sat in my car, I started to feel a little bit different. I didn’t drive 60 miles and pay $10 for parking, just to turn around and go back home. NUH-uh.

I got out of the car and looked around. Think Sasha. Think. There has to be a way to get around this. That Woman was nowhere in sight. I studied the layout of the place and realized that the situation might not be so grim after all.

There were three entrances to the field. The first entrance, the one where That Woman had gone, was guarded by three cops. There were a couple of high school girls standing by the second entrance. The third entrance had possibilities. Just inside the fence was a little concession-stand type of building. There was a guy sweeping the pavement, but no one else around. BINGO. Where there are concessions, there are restrooms. And who is going to tell me I can’t use the restroom?

So I went through the fence and asked to use the facilities. The guy pointed me to the rest room, where I washed my hands and thought about what to do next. I couldn’t exactly hide in the restroom until camp started. (It had occurred to me, but – EW.)

So I left the rest room and went back outside the fence. And that’s when I saw my opening. In addition to the three entrances to the field, there were two entrances that went directly to the bleachers. And no one was guarding them. Because that’s where the parents would sit and watch - duh! I watched for a few moments to make sure they weren’t hand-stamping the parents or something for access to the stands. And when the first couple of parents climbed those stairs, I was right behind them. Take that, Evil Tall Woman!

I parked myself on the bleachers, right in front of the stage. The bleachers were wet, which was not pleasant, but I figured it would be a warm day and my pants would dry off. I wasn’t leaving the stands for anything. If That Woman wanted to kick me out, she’d have to climb over a dozen people to get to me. But just in case she tried it, I prepared a response: “Are you crazy, lady? My daughter is out there on the field!!!” I've never screamed bloody murder before, but I was absolutely prepared to do it, if it became necessary. Then you would see some serious crazy going on up in there.

On the one hand, I was IN! On the other hand, so much for getting inside the fence. I just wanted to take some great photos for the blog, that's all.

It's a good thing I own a decent zoom lens.

By this time, it was 8:45-ish. As the bleachers filled up with parents and their other kids, I observed the crowd around me. First of all, many were dressed head-to-toe in Cowboys gear. One woman had the hat, the handbag, the necklace (see below), the jersey, and – no kidding – the shoes. WITH Cowboys shoelaces.

Secondly, there were a lot of Dads. I wonder why? Let’s just say I bet those kids never saw that many dads at their ballet and piano recitals.

Thirdly, there was a lot of bragging going on about who met which players, who’d already gotten autographs and how many they’d gotten, etc. etc. etc. The Cowboys and Cheerleaders had visited a naval base the day before. One guy bragged that he and his sons already had 32 autographs and had their photo taken with Tony Romo. The other adults were impressed. I pretty much wasn’t. (Now if Tony Romo had given him $100, that would’ve been kind of interesting…)

Meanwhile, tons of girls, aged 5 thru 17 spread out on the field around the stage. Some girls came as a team and wore matching outfits. Some girls showed up in full uniform, with hair bows, poms and everything. A couple of the little ones wore Jr. DCC uniforms. Out in the parking lot, the Oxnard H.S. Varsity cheerleaders did a few loud cheers. Showing off, basically.

Back in the bleachers, a guy sitting in a row near me came back from the concession stands with some chow for the fam. He put down his hot dog to pass out the cokes, and he'd barely let go of the thing, when a seagull dove down and snatched it, bun and all.

I bet you’re wondering how a bird can fly with almost an entire hot dog in it’s beak. Well, it can’t. It dropped the food, a bunch of other seagulls flew in, and there was some fighting. They ate the whole thing before the guy even realized his hot dog was gone. This is the bird who started it. Look at those beady little eyes.

Meanwhile - hot dogs at 8:45 in the morning? Blech.

Pretty soon, I noticed a dark haired woman by the stage. She was wearing dark blue from head to toe and she looked a bit familiar. I squinted a little. The hair was different, but...yep, that for dang sure was Megan Fox. Game on, sports fans!

Megan Fox

A few moments later, the cheerleaders made their entrance. They weren’t in uniform and there wasn’t any fanfare, so they sort of snuck up on us. Then the crowd caught site of them and started calling to them, whipping out the cameras, and elbowing people out of the way. I did not see one dad who did not have a camcorder.

The cheerleaders were gathered in a little circle, and one of the dads started yelling “HEY, TURN AROUND! WHY AREN’T THEY TURNING AROUND? HEY CHEERLEADERS, OVER HERE!! HEY!” I’ll be honest, it was a little obnoxious.

I got to work, taking photos. My goal was to get as many good photos as I could and bring them back so all of you could see what the day was like, who was there, what they did, etc. My big fear is always that I’ll get home and have nothing but crappy pictures, so I take about a million photos. In fact, my finger was on the shutter button pretty much the whole morning.

Now, I realize I’ve gone on much longer than I intended, and I haven’t even gotten to start of the program. I’ll try to give you the rest briefly, and with a few photos.

The cheerleaders had a quick meeting to go over the game plan.

Megan introduced the eight cheerleaders leading the camp. Thankfully all of them were veterans. The last time around, there were a few rookies in the mix, so it was confusing. This time, I recognized everyone.

From left:Meagan Sharp, Nicole Hamilton, Deryn Derbigny, Trisha Trevino, Megan Fox, Makenzi Swicegood, Ally Traylor, Brooke Sorenson, and Tobie Percival

They split up for a group warm-up, led by Megan. Deryn, Megan and Makenzi were on the stage, and the other girls spread out among the crowd. The grass was wet, so floor stretching was out of the question. Everyone stayed on their feet.

Deryn Derbigny

Brooke Sorenson


Nicole Hamilton

After the warm up, Megan taught a few basic dance steps, a pivot turn, a chassé, and a jazz square. This was old hat for the oldest girls, but new stuff for the younger ones.

Megan demonstrates the chassé (aka "kissing feet")

After that, they split into two groups to learn a cheer and a hip-hop dance. Big kids to the left. Little kids to the right. Makenzi, Deryn, and Nicole worked with the big kids. Brooke, Trisha, Ally, and Tobie worked with the little kids. Megan ran around, making sure everything was going ok. (Later, she joined Team Big Kids to teach the hip hop dance.)

Tobie, Ally, Trisha, and Brooke lead a game of "Simon Says"

The white bracelets everyone is wearing say "I measure up toe help stop graffiti!" The Oxnard police were handing them out. I don't get it either, but hey - free bracelet!

Hip-hop with Makenzi, Nicole, Deryn, and Megan

Meagan headed over to set up the table where they would sell DCC merchandise – team photos, Jr. DCC uniforms, teddy bears, calendars, etc.

That was when I spotted an auburn-haired woman standing by the main stage. Imagine my surprise when she turned around and it was Kelli Finglass, Director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. She hadn’t been at camp in ’05, so it didn’t occur to me that she would be there this year. Coolness. Who doesn’t want to meet the woman in charge of the team that started it all?

At one point, Megan went over to help Meagan set up the sales table. Ok, now we were getting somewhere. The sales table, you see, was OUTSIDE side the fence. And therefore accessible to moi. Aw yeah!

I went over there and sort of hovered in a completely uncool way. I was pretending like I was watching the kids, but come on. Two guys tried to approach Megan and Meagan, but the cops told them to back off for now. At that point, I started to rethink my plan. Poor Megan was running around trying to oversee everything. She had things to do. Did I really want to jump in her face like “HI!!!”? No. One thing about me: I don’t like to be on the giving or receiving end of major annoyance.

On the other hand, I did at least want to say hello, since we feature the DCC a lot on this blog. I don't think the DCCs or Kelli are aware of this site, but if I was going to say hello this was likely my only chance in life to do so. (On the off chance that she actually had heard of this blog, I wanted her to see that I’m not some psycho fan. The DCC have such a high profile, I’m sure they have to be über careful about weirdo fans. I’m sure there are a lot of people who want to get a piece of them.) So I stopped Megan as she was on her way back to the field. I introduced myself and waited for the blank stare. I didn’t expect her to know what I was talking about. (I never assume anyone has heard of this blog and am always surprised when someone tells me they know about it. Especially considering the vastness of the internet.)

But I didn’t get the blank stare. Megan was very nice, very cool, and we talked for a quick moment about the day. It was going fast for them. Camp DCC is usually six hours. Friday’s camp was only 2.5, since the cheerleaders had to get over to the Cowboys training camp. Megan offered to talk later if I had any questions, which was nice of her, but I let her go. Great girl, that Megan Fox. I like her.

Meanwhile, take THAT, Evil Tall Woman. "No access," My great Aunt Fanny!

I went back to my job with the camera. It was interesting to look at some of the older girls, knowing that some of them would be old enough to audition for the DCC (or more likely, the Charger Girls) in the spring. They all looked so much younger than the Cheerleaders.

At one point, I saw a streak of blue in the corner of my eye. It was Brooke and Ally headed to the restroom. Once again, OUTside the fence. INside my territory. Score! Now, I KNOW it is so incredibly wrong to accost someone on her way out of the restroom. But like I said, this was a one time only thing, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn't do it. So I stopped them on their way out for a quick photo. I didn’t introduce myself, just snapped the photo and let them go.

As they walked away, I heard one girl squeal "Ohmigod, I just peed with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders!"

After all the kids had learned their cheer and dance, everyone gathered back at the front stage to perform for the parents. First the DCC performed and of course there was a lot of cheering.

(The obligatory hair shot.)

Then it was time for the two groups of girls took to perform. Before the little kids performed, Brooke asked them to pinky swear that they’d be extra loud for the crowd. This lead to a lot of pinky swearing.

After the big kids and little kids performed, someone brought out the tables to set up the autograph session. They set three tables end to end in front of the stage. The cheerleaders sat down, someone organized the kids into a line, and the autograph session started. About ten minutes into it, Kelli came out. She took one look at the situation and realized that with the current setup, some girls were going to miss out on autographs. So they rearranged it so the three tables were separate and started up the autograph signing again.

At that point, the cheerleaders started running low on time. Training Camp Opening Ceremonies were at 1:30 and they had to haul their fannies over there. Kelli and Megan gathered up some boxes and all the poms and took them out to the SUV. I hated myself for it, but I followed them.

They were clearly in a hurry, but it had to be done. I stopped them and got a quick photo and said goodbye. Half a second later, I thought that I had to at least go over and introduce myself to Kelli. I had to do it for the Blog and I would never have another chance. So I jogged after her, one grown woman chasing after another. Cripes. I introduced myself, she was super nice, we spoke for about two seconds, and then I said thanks and goodbye. She was very gracious. Mission accomplished. Whew!

When the whole thing was over, the cops hustled the girls out to the SUVs and they bolted out of there.

And I skedaddled home to check and see if I captured some good images. So, without further ado, here they are. I hope you enjoy them!

And in case you’re wondering, I never saw the Evil Tall Woman again.
Lucky for her.

I tell you what, though. If the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders ever come back to Oxnard, I'm getting inside that fence - even if I have to parachute in. Because now I have learned not to take no for an answer.

(And since I'd be doing it for all of you, and for the greater good of this Blog, I fully expect each and every one of you to contribute to my bail out. Something tells me it will be expensive.)

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