You expect a certain amount of negative feedback when you single out individuals for an “Athletes of the Year” feature. I just didn’t expect the strongest criticism to come from cheerleaders.
In this week’s Green Phone, several ticked off cheerleaders phoned in to say they were upset that we didn’t include the Gilroy High cheer squad in our year-end awards issue. “I’m really disappointed,” said one, “that your ‘Athletes of the Year’ doesn’t include cheerleading because that’s a big sport at Gilroy High.”
Now I don’t want to denigrate cheerleading. As Green Phone replied to the caller: “The Gilroy HIgh community really appreciates the hard work and support of the Mustang cheerleaders.”
But the issue at stake isn’t whether cheerleading is a commendable activity … it’s whether cheerleading can be called a sport.
Lots of activities are worthwhile without being sports. Like spelling bees. And gardening. And nuclear non-proliferation.
Again, wonderful pastimes. But not sports. And we can tell the above activities are not sports when we measure them against five simple rules that determine what is, and what isn’t, a sport:
1. The special shoes rule
Whereby all activities petitioning to be called sports must require specialized footwear.
IN: Baseball, field hockey, court jestering
OUT: Swimming, diving, Zola Budd
BONUS POINTS: For shoes that feature cutlery (ice hockey, lumberjacking) or weaponry (rodeo)
MINUS POINTS: For use of shoes other than as footwear (horseshoes, blackjack)
CHEERLEADING? 0 pts.
2. The 10:1
fat guy ratio rule
Whereby all activities petitioning to be called sports must strive for no more than one fat guy per 10 conditioned athletes.
IN: Triathlon, cycling, indoor lacrosse
OUT: Darts, sumo, competitive eating
BONUS POINTS: For “hard fat” fat guys (football, shot put)
MINUS POINTS: For “soft fat” fat guys (baseball, golf)
CHEERLEADING? +20 pts.
3. The Hollywood rule
Whereby all activities petitioning to be called sports must have been the subject of at least one film.
IN: Arm wrestling (“Over the Top”), rollerball (“Rollerball”), dodgeball (“Dodgeball”)
OUT: Biathlon, kickball, synchronized diving
BONUS POINTS: For movies in which the losers are Nazis (“Victory,” soccer) or Communists (“Rocky IV,” boxing; “Miracle,” ice hockey)
MINUS POINTS: For movies in which the winners are Nazis (“Triumph of the Will,” Olympics) or Communists (“Field of Dreams,” baseball)
CHEERLEADING? +30 pts.
4. The jurisprudence rule
Whereby all activities petitioning to be called sports must be settled by measurable performance rather than scores from judges.
IN: Water polo, basketball, pole vault
OUT: Gymnastics, synchronized swimming, “American Idol”
BONUS POINTS: For activities that not only have no judges’ panel, but actually allow participants to assault the referees (professional wrestling)
MINUS POINTS: For activities decided by corrupt judges (figure skating), drunk judges (wet T-shirt contests) or corrupt, drunk judges (2000 presidential election)
CHEERLEADING? -10 pts.
5. The self-
Whereby all activities petitioning to be called sports must exist on their own merits and not on charity or to prop up another activity or activities.
IN: Softball, marathons, bowling
OUT: Public relations, political lobbying, the WNBA
BONUS POINTS: For activities so self-sufficient no one has ever witnessed them (curling)
MINUS POINTS: For activities that are farm systems (women’s tennis, for calendar models), product placement venues (motor racing, for petroleum refiners) or cheap dramatic tension generators (hang gliding, for 1970’s television shows)
CHEERLEADING? -1,000 pts.
So there you have it. Cheerleading … not a sport. Now grab a brat and let’s watch some arm wrestling.
I’ll give you 10-1 the fat guy wins.