Sunday, September 8, 2013

A "Spirited" Story of Shame

 We all have stories in our lives that we don't like to tell.  Sometimes we are embarrassed by them.  Sometimes we are ashamed.  This is my story about the time I almost killed someone.  But that is not why I don't like talking about it....

I don't mean to brag, but I went to college on a sports scholarship.  And by "scholarship" I mean $300, and by "sport" I mean the Spirit Squad. 

That's right.  I was a male cheerleader, or as I prefer being called "a guy who held up cheerleaders by their butts." 

As you might guess, cute cheerleaders had a lot to do with why I joined the squad.  I know a lot of guys think males cheerleaders are "gay".  These are often the same guys who prefer to join the football team where they can wear tight spandex pants and slap each other on the butt.  (Much less gay)

I can't really criticize people who make fun of male cheerleaders, because for years I was one of them.   When I was asked by someone on the spirit squad if I would join, it was hard not to laugh in his face.  He pleaded with me that they were really short of guys for the squad and needed more and eventually I agreed to give it a try.

The next day I was introduced at cheerleader practice as a potential recruit and immediately all the girls perked up.  A cute little 95lb blond was the first to speak up.  "Perfect!  He can practice with me" she chirped.  Then in a fluid movement she yanked off her warm up pants, revealing a pair of short shorts.  Those shorts were then pulled off exposing even shorter spandex shorts underneath.  Then, like in a scene from a letter to Penthouse, the blond walk over and said "Show him where to put his hands on my ass!" 

For the next hour I practiced throwing the 95lb blond into the air and catching her butt in my hand.  Afterwards they asked if I would like to do the same thing for three more months, as well as get paid a small scholarship, be given lots of school sports gear, and go on a trip to Disneyland (Regionals were in L.A.).  I wanted to say "you had me at grabbing butts" but instead I just said "sure." 

Thus I became a member of the University of Idaho Spirit Squad for the fall Basketball season.  Every game I would clap, chant, and throw cheerleaders into the air.  Unfortunately as the season went on I got better and better at what I did, and that meant I started moving up in weight class.  Instead of the 95lb cutie that I started with I was soon throwing a girl who weighed 110.  She was followed by another and another of increasing weight until I was eventually throwing up a cheerleader who weighed around 160lbs.  Now there is nothing wrong with a cheerleader weighing that much, but she probably shouldn't be flying in the air.  At least not when I'm the one who is supposed to catch her.

This is how it came to be that I almost killed someone.  (Obviously I didn't or I wouldn't be writing a humorous blog about it.)

It was shortly after I was paired up with the previously mentioned 160lb cheerleader.  Not only was I supposed to throw someone who was heavier than anyone I had thrown before, but I was also asked to do a new throw move.  I'm sure you don't give a crap about cheerleader throws so lets just say that I was supposed to catch her, but instead she tumbled behind me and came down head first on a hardwood floor. 

An hour later I was with the rest of the squad in the emergency room finding out the girl I dropped would be in a neck brace for the next 4 months.  The doctors said she had fractured a couple vertebrae in her neck, but fortunately didn't damage her spinal cord. 

It's an interesting feeling to think that you almost killed someone (or at least nearly paralyzed them from the neck down).  Feelings of guilt, panic, and shame are pretty overwhelming.  Fortunately I was surrounded by a group of people who felt obliged to cheer me up.  (Probably because it was in their job title.)

The "veteran" cheerleaders on the squad told me this kind of thing was fairly common and many of them had suffered similar injuries in their career.  I remember thinking "You women are crazy!  You're willing to risk permanent injury just so you can be popular!"  Looking back years later it makes a lot more sense.

After the dropping incident I continued throwing cheerleaders for another month (albeit at a lower weigh class).  The season ended and I graduated shortly after.  Do I regret my decision to join the Spirit Squad?  No.  In fact, had I not graduated I probably would have done it again the following semester.   However, the experience has not been without repercussions. 

My sister-in-law loves to make fun of me for being a college cheerleader.  What's more, she was at the basketball game when I dropped the girl and likes to chide me about it whenever she can.  I'm sure I'm going to have to explain to my son some day why his Aunt keeps calling me "butter fingers". 

As for my soon-to-be born daughter...  I always thought being the father of a cheerleader would be nerve racking because of all the horny boys looking at her.  Now, if my daughter tells me some day that she wants to be a cheerleader I can tell her it's too dangerous and she has to play a safer sport.  Perhaps hockey...