Cheerleading is not a sport or an activity. It's a privilege. No, it's an honor. Wait, it's something else.
A friend of mine, who shall be called "Anna" here to protect her from unnecessary and unintentional side effects of my snarking, was one of the best debaters on my high-school speech and forensics team. Unlike your humble servant, she sailed through Lincoln-Douglas one-on-one matches without breaking a sweat. The young lady stood as a paragon of refinement all the way through to her enunciation. She was the only girl I knew who pronounced the slang word "bummin'" as "bumming" -- with the "g."
Anna mastered everything she touched, and scholarships rain down on a girl that good. At least that was the goal. Somewhere in her college preparatory gameplan, some adviser told her having a killer affirmative case and making A's wasn't going to get her into the money. No, she had to do... CHEERLEADING!
(Cue the thunder sound effect and the wicked laugh.)
Anna tried out, picked up the poms, slid into that small pleated skirt, and got in line with the Raytown South High School Cardettes. She could handle it; I never doubted it. But seeing her performing high kicks at pep rallies only reinforced my belief she didn't belong there. She was too good for this.
I see some of you frothing, "What's wrong with cheerleaders?" Nothing, on the face. In High School Utopia, cheerleading should be a purely celebratory activity, where the focus is pumping people up and helping them bask in the mirth of that 58-0 clobbering of Tipping Rock Preparatory Academy. Raytown South also gave the young ladies plenty of squads to join. Even the wrestlers got their own cheerleading squad: the "Grapplettes."
But rumors go around, about this and that involving some cheerleader. That's par for high school, but Anna didn't need that. I also recoiled at how the Ray-South girls always seemed to cheer in a low voice that made me think they were taking male hormone injections.
The guys got a few slots as "Yell Leaders," that official term of the time. And once a year, when the athletic department swapped roles for the "Powder Puff" flag-football game, a few young males worked up the courage to put on those pleated short skirts and walk through the halls while the cheer squad donned football jerseys.
Anna did her duty and walked to graduation with a stack of scholarships, enough to put two people through college. I still wonder if she enjoyed it or purely went through the motions. I'd love to be completely wrong about it all. Anna, if you're reading this, and you can prove to me I was wrong, I'll happily put my Scottish kilt on and dance a high kick with you.