By Sean Pearson
By the time you read this, I should know whether my next grandchild is going to be a girl or a boy.
I don’t really care, mind you. I know it’s politically correct to say that – along with the disclaimer, “I don’t care, as long as the baby is healthy.” But this time, I really mean it.
OK. So maybe a boy wouldn’t scare me quite as much. There’s something to be said for attending a Pop Warner football game over a cheerleading competition, but I try to be open minded.
If you have never attended a cheerleading competition, you’re in for quite a thrill. (If you ever decide to go that is.) Being the incredibly considerate kind of guy I am, I have decided to relive my previous experience at a Pop Warner Cheerleading Competition here in literary form so that you are able to enjoy it vicariously. Don’t thank me, it’s the least I can do.
Let me preface this by asserting the following disclaimer:
I have nothing against cheerleading. I think it’s great. My daughter used to love it. And, I will support any granddaughter (not so much a grandson) who decides to engage in the sport. Yes, it is a sport, and I like cheerleading moms even better than soccer moms. (I’m really kinda hoping the soccer moms quit reading this after they saw it was about cheerleading. I’ve seen the damage they can do with those minivans.)
Imagine if you will, entering a large gymnasium at 9 a.m. with a nervous, sleep-deprived, pony-tailed 11-year-old who becomes completely overwhelmed by the din of high-pitched giggling and feverish ribbon-straightening. Oh, wait, that was me … (sans the ponytail and tack on a few decades.)
Keep in mind, people, that we’re still in pre-Diet Coke stage. (Or for those of you who only think you live on the edge, it’s before you’ve had your morning coffee.)
With literally hundreds of squealing girls clad in every color of the rainbow, glittery sparkles, pompons, hair extensions, makeup and blindingly white tennis shoes circling me like little pep-squad piranha, I did what any normal, caring father would do.
I know what you’re thinking. But in my defense, I was the only one there not wearing a pleated skirt, and they seemed to just sense that I was an “outsider.”
After fighting my way through a maze of pink curlers and some kind of nerve gas cleverly packaged in cans that read “Aqua Net,” I made my way back to the car. I was free for two hours, and resolved that I would re-enter the battle arena a little more prepared for combat next time. Where was that army surplus store again?
Two hours and $139 later, I was prepared to face my fears and slay the double-herkie dragon, (look it up.)
Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me go in with all of my newly purchased armor. (A waste of a perfectly good gas mask and ear protection, if you ask me.) It was a decision we would all inevitably regret.
As we entered the main door, I was relieved that the deafening sounds of various stages of puberty vying for center-stage had diminished considerably. I paid my money, grabbed a program and got a lovely little fireworks ink stamp on the back of my hand. Hmmm, I might even enjoy this.
And then it happened.
No screaming. No curlers. No Aqua Net. Just 140 decibels of Gwen Stefani singing, “I ain’t no hollaback girl.” (Go ahead, ask any kid on the street … they can sing it for you. Even if it is an ‘oldie.’)
I checked over my shoulder for an escape route, but the door we entered from seemed to have mysteriously faded away into a sea of hair ribbons. There was no turning back now.
Making our way to the stands, I felt a twinge of hope as I spotted another human over the age of 15 at the top of the metal bleachers. As we carefully eased through the “pompon path of peril” toward her, I felt the eyes of the cheer-stunt stage mom boring into me.
“These seats are saved,” she proclaimed, waving her arms wildly about her.
I looked around.
“All of them?” I asked. “I don’t think you can save the whole stands, can you?”
I really don’t remember much after that. I know I wound up sitting somewhere in front of a very large speaker, and I’m still having nightmares of being forced to sit and listen to an endless loop of “Ice Cream and Cake” and “One, Two Step.” (See above-referenced “kid on the street” suggestion.)
Actually, I do remember getting some pictures of our teams’ performances, eating a few nachos and seeing a huge smile on my daughter’s face as she got her turn to hoist up the big trophy.
Was it all worth it? Yes. Would I do it all over again to see the same smile? Yes. Will I go again when my granddaughter starts cheering? Of course. But not without earplugs or a morphine drip.
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