Friday, September 18, 2009

Goring Some Oxen

(News-Herald, September 17) I have a whole library of subjects I’ve put off because, as much as I’d like to write about them, I know that I’ll just be asking for trouble. But this week, I’m clearing out that trouble file all at once, like pulling off a bandaid in one quick jerk (only this week, I’ll be the quick jerk). I can stop procrastinating and start collecting grumpy mail.
This is not the South.
Ignore for a moment the offensive things that a Confederate flag represents. This is Pennsylvania. Back when people waved that flag for real, they were trying to kill people from here. A Pennsylvanian with a confederate flag on a house or truck or t-shirt makes about as much sense as a black man in a pointy white sheet.
Cheerleading is not a sport.
Yes, cheerleading has changed over the decades. In my youth, cheerleaders stood in front of fans and led cheers (how else did we learn to spell “success”). Now they put on acrobatic displays and create giant sculptures made out of people. I do not blame cheerleaders for the decreased time spent leading cheers; modern sports fans are tv-trained lumps, and only the band will actually cheer.
But cheerleading is not a sport. I know it requires physical skill, and that cheerleaders have competitions. The same is true of dancers, and dancing isn’t a sport, either.
What bothers me most about cheerleading calling itself a sport is—why does it WANT to? Does cheerleading suffer from some sort of low self-esteem that it thinks it’s not good enough if it is “just” cheerleading and not a big old sport?
Do football players say, “Hey, we have a ball and we run around, so we are basketball players, too!” No. Why do that instead of just saying, “Basketball, shmasketball—we play FOOTBALL!”
I understand this is NW PA, and for many folks if it isn’t a sport, it doesn’t matter. And some school districts have finagled their way around various regulations by declaring cheerleading a sport. But cheerleaders should be bigger than that. Cheerleaders should be proud to be cheerleaders.
Toddlers should watch parades, not carry batons in them.
There is no reason to put a small child in a spangly outfit, stick a baton in her hand, and make her march/trundle/stagger through an entire parade. None. I cringe every time I watch a troupe of small children dragging themselves miserably down a street, surrounded by a staff of adults who act as though they are masterminding the Normandy Invasion.
I have heard all the arguments.
“The child is learning skills that she’ll use for years.” No, she isn’t. She’s mostly learning to hate the whole business, so that any hope she might have pursued it, enjoyed it, and done well at it when she becomes old enough is erased in the heat-addled haze of senseless parading.
“The child really loves it. Really. She wants to do it.” She’s a child. If Mommy sat in front of her and said, “Hey sweetie, you’d really like to roll in the mud with smelly pigs, wouldn’t you?” she’d say yes. If she did it once and received a giant wave of parental love and approval, she’d keep on doing it as long as she could stand to, or at least until she was old enough to understand big words like “emotional blackmail.”
“It’s fun.” Really? Because usually there isn’t a person out there who looks like they’re having fun. Not the miserable, confused little girls, not the harried over-serious adults, not the guy driving the vehicle with the blaring tin-can speakers, not the brother who has been forced to “come help out.”
End (Some) High School Sports.
The private sector is ready to take over. A variety of leagues, sponsored by the Y’s and the AAU, have sprung up. These involve some very fine motives (more playing opportunities for young athletes) and some not-so-fine motives (more Being In Charge opportunities for adults).
It was one thing when these programs augmented school sports, but now some of these private leagues are actually competing with school programs for athletes. Meanwhile, fewer school sports are actually coached by school employees, giving them even less connection to the school. One of these systems can go, and while I’m partial to school sports, saving some taxpayer money might be popular. So let’s keep the sports that are still truly school sports and get rid of the ones that are now duplicated.

1 comment:

Joe said...

A confederate flag speaks to states' rights, less federal government control, independence, and the Southern culture and way of life. What's wrong with that (except for a little slavery)?

I've had the "what's a sport?" conversation dozens of times. No one can agree. The Olympics recognize synchronized swimming, pair figure skating, etc. Some folks think darts is a sport. If some people want to think cheerleading is a sport and you disagree, tough nuggies.

I've learned to dislike parades even though I didn't start young. Who are you to tell others how to mess with their kids? That's the prime prerogative of parenthood - we all get to screw up our own kids up our own special way.

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