Taken to task by angry, glib cheerleaders

Well I’ve gone and done it. I’ve thoroughly ticked off the local
cheer community.
Well I’ve gone and done it. I’ve thoroughly ticked off the local cheer community.

Over the past week, irate calls and e-mails have flooded our phone lines and inboxes, all in response to the horrible, horrible thing I did in my last column – opine that cheerleading cannot be called a “sport.”

Bring it on, I say. And if this reply doesn’t satisfy, bring it on again. But first, let me say that cheerleaders aren’t all sugar and spice, as the movie would have it. No, they gave it to me with both barrels. Here’s what a few had to say:

“You insulted a large number of girls and boys in this community,” wrote one cheer parent, who also emphasized “the amount of work” that goes into cheerleading and let me know in graphic terms where she believed my opinions originated.

“Not only was cheerleading compared to activities such as gardening and spelling bees, but I was especially offended by the mention of wet T-shirt contests,” e-mailed a San Benito High cheerleader.

“It would take a vulgar male to make a correlation between tasteful cheerleading routines and crude events that take place to objectify women.”

That last critic went on to say that my joking aside, “cheerleading judges are very rarely ‘corrupt’ or ‘drunk.'”

To which I would only add, very, very rarely. And only when there’s free minibar at the hotel.

Several angry readers also informed me that, indeed, cheerleading does require “special shoes,” and that they are sold at many retail outlets.

That particular sign of the Apocalypse notwithstanding, let me now frame my reply to some of these allegations.

On insulting all the kids who participate in cheer – that was never my intention. Instead, I think what we have here is a difference of opinion on a simple matter of classification.

It’s not insulting to an apple to say it isn’t an alarm clock. If we didn’t stick to rules when classifying things, we’d all sit around wondering why we kept getting mayonnaise and pickle sandwiches when we ordered peanut butter and jelly.

On all the hard work cheerleaders put in – this is admirable but has no bearing on whether what they do is a “sport” as many people define that word. The reader also stated that, “I know it’s difficult for a lot of people to appreciate the amount of work that goes into cheerleading.”

Well, no it isn’t difficult. Let me go on the record yet again as saying I fully appreciate cheerleaders’ hard work.

I still don’t think cheerleading is a sport.

On the wet T-shirt example – well, now, that’s cherrypicking one tongue-in-cheek phrase from many that do not help this reader’s case. (For instance, she doesn’t quibble with my comparison of cheerleading to nuclear non-proliferation. My assumption is she got that joke, unless some cheerleaders have a far more inflated sense of their own importance than even I think they do.)

Clearly, the original column was not a particularly serious attempt to argue against cheerleading being a sport. Hence all the silly rules about special shoes, movies, etc.

At the end of the day, if cheerleaders want to call what they do a sport, they have every right to do so.

The rest of us don’t have to agree. What’s more, until I sit on an International Olympic Committee panel reviewing whether to include cheerleading in the Olympics, I’m not certain why so many people care one way or the other about what I think.

Finally, several readers wrote in challenging me to attempt various double back handsprings, toe touch basket tosses and straight up extensions into a scorpion with a full dismount.

To them I say: I know where this is headed. The cheer community will not be satisfied until I’m in traction.

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