…WHO REALLY PERSPERATES?!?! THE REF! THE REF!! YEAH THE REFFF!!!”
So truth be told…I’ve never had a working relationship with cheerleaders. In high school, as we rode to some distant town to play a basketball game, the cheerleaders would begin a cheer (more like a song) about ten minutes outside of our destination. It went something like this “Fred will shine tonight, Fred will shine. Fred will shine tonight…right down the line (more like “lin-A-innnee”). Fred will shine tonight. Fred will shine. Sun goes down. Moon goes up, Fred will shine!!” The girls team would join in and sing that song FOR EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THAT BUS. God bless them, they excluded no one. Starters? Absolutely. Benchwarmers…sure, why not? Team managers…hey…they’ve got feelings too! Coaches and even the bus driver got serenaded. What bothered me was, statistically speaking…we’d be unfreakin’ unstoppable if everyone “shined”…but alias…it was just a cheer and not a prediction of exceptional play by the whole bus. Cheerleaders equaled “perky misguided optimism” in my book in the early nineteen eighties.
During my junior year I pointed out a cheerleader from a different school while we were playing their school in basketball. My “man-in-the-know” Cory Hein was dating a cheerleader from that very school. He professed to know the names of all of them, what Cory didn’t possess was 20/20 vision. As I pointed out the girl that I wanted to know the name of he apparently saw the girl next to her (of same height, hair color, etc.) and gave me HER name. So I called up the wrong cheerleader (cold-called her mind you…on the phone…I was a total stranger to her. They call that “stalking” now) and asked her out on a date. She agreed. Then we kind of found out together, prior to meeting, that I originally intended to ask out “Theresa” and not the girl that I did. Long story short…we ended up dating for six months…my first crush. The fact that she dumped me a week before my senior year for my best friend was karma I suppose. Crushing life lesson learned, I moved on.
Fast forward thirty years. I officiate basketball games. When I’m working the baseline, as “Lead” official I like to work wide and deep, meaning I stand as far back as I can from the lane and as deep as I can get…mostly along the wall. Doing this gives me a great view of the lane and what’s going on and I work this way religiously. I’ve stepped on photographers, tripped over bystanders and “yes”…rubbed shoulders with a few cheerleaders who want to occupy the same space. I’m usually coy about claiming my space, I have a few tricks that work like a charm but some cheerleaders feel that, that’s their area to occupy as well.
During this season I’ve had a couplea encounters with cheerleaders. During one game, a hotly contested match, I had positioned myself against the wall, focused intensely on the lane. What caught my attention were two pom-poms shooting out from behind me to in front of my shoulders…on both sides. They’d pop out for a count of maybe “one” or “two” then disappear, then do the same thing a few seconds later as their chant went on. I could her the girls laughing and I can only imagine what had happened….I had backed up so far that I had pinned a cheerleader to the wall behind us. I didn’t give and neither did she…both of us doing our jobs….but she wasn’t there when I returned back to that end of the court….apparently being that close to a sweaty middle-aged guy once that night was enough. Then, just before Christmas, I was working a game at Waterloo Columbus. Sure enough the cheerleaders were in my space, but we co-existed without anyone getting in the way of the other. Towards the end of the game, which was a blowout, I thanked them (during a time out) for holding off on their “leg-kick” for a couplea seconds after a made basket so that I wouldn’t get kicked in the rump. They laughed and asked if I liked their cheers and if I wanted any of them repeated. Kids…make me laugh.
The last encounter happened tonight. I was working the baseline again and had, again…gotten into one of the girls “spaces”. I was so close to her that I could hear her whisper to her friend “he stinks.” I smiled slyly through my whistle as I held my ground (as it were) and watched the action in the lane. I don’t think her comment was about my officiating, I’m pretty sure that I really did stink…running up and down a basketball court in dress slacks and shirt aren’t conducive to smelling like Axe body spray like most boys her age are emulsified in.
Long story short…it’s been a good season so far, with the exception of messing with cheerleaders and making them gag…which is something that I’ve been good at for 30 plus years.
Until next time, peace.