Like an increasing number of red-blooded American females, I enjoy a good football game. Last night, I settled in for the Baltimore-Green Bay game on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” In so many National Football League contests, the teams are cheered on by underclad, oversiliconed young women who provide eye candy for the male TV audience and those actually at the game who have seats down near the field. Typically, the TV camera crews zoom in on a lot of cleavage as the women toss their hair and offer come-hither looks while rustling their shiny pom-poms.
As the first quarter drew to a close last night, I realized I hadn’t seen a single shot of a cheerleader. This particular game was played in Green Bay, where the temperature at kickoff was 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chills in the teens. Cynical me thought, in those conditions, the cheerleaders might not be showing enough skin to interest the guys holding the TV cameras.
But it turns out that Green Bay doesn’t have official team cheerleaders (the teams says it dropped them 20 years ago because of “fan indifference”), and neither do five other of the NFL’s 32 teams: Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of these teams had cheerleaders in years past, dressed in the type of wholesome cheerleader apparel you might expect to see at a college game. As it turns out, in Green Bay, student cheerleaders from local colleges take turns cheering at Packers games (these kids are not deemed worthy of TV time, it seems) but there are no “Packettes” in tiny shorts and tinier parkas
NFL cheerleaders are marketing devices for teams and filler for game-day telecasts. Obviously, most team owners believe they’re good for business (they’re cheap labor; they receive only a nominal payment for performing despite many hours spent practicing and rehearsing). Many NFL cheerleaders have “junior” organizations that charge youngsters for attending cheerleading and dance workshops, generating revenue and increasing exposure in their communities, where they also make guest appearances at events as “ambassadors” for their teams. They strike racy poses for calendars and looked thrilled to be on the other side of a leering camera lens during games.
But what are they getting out of it? Beats me.