CHEERLEADING! By Pauline Finberg and Peter Filichia

It is not clear who the target audience is for this slender volume. Is it for high school students preparing for try-outs? Is it for young girls who want to make Playing Cheerleader more factually accurate? Is it for Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri? Is it for summer library reading-group participants who need to read “a book about sports” in order to claim their Bookopoly prize???

While none of these questions are actually answered, I did come away with some unusually specific advice concerning my future career as a high school cheerleader.

Some Highlights:

Pretty much the first five chapters are devoted to dissuading you from any notions you might have about cheerleading being easy or fun. In fact, all of your friends will probably turn against you and the other kids will think you are lame:

“The plain fact, however, is that cheerleading often makes you unpopular… It happens. You’ll try to spare your other friends the talk about the upcoming game or the post-practice party. Eventually, the other kids will sense that you’re holding back and remove themselves from your life, whether you want them to or not. Do the best you can in holding on to all your friendships, but don’t hate yourself if you can’t.”

Bummer. Well, screw those losers! I’m still full of School Spirit, so all of the teachers will totally still love me, right?

“Some teachers assume that because a cheerleader is a class leader, he or she should inspire the other kids in class. Other teachers go to cheerleading advisers and discuss the cheerleader’s poor grades with them… Gym teachers are often critical of cheerleaders who don’t perform physical miracles in class.”

Well, great, now it’s my job to inspire a love of John Knowles in my fellow students? I don’t even get a break in Gym Class? Wait, it will all pay off when I go to those awesome cheerleaders-only parties I keep hearing about, where “cake and pretzels abound and the soda flows freely.” Yeah! CAKE!

“Weight is a big problem for most cheerleaders. Cheerleaders who are overweight usually limit the effectiveness on the field because of a less-than-satisfactory appearance.”

It can’t be, you’ll think to yourself when you see your lackluster reflection. But mirrors don’t lie.”

So… I lose all of my old friends, my teachers are constantly riding me to make the best Poster Illustrating the Theme of Alienation in class, and I can’t eat that freely-flowing cake and soda, lest I limit my effectiveness with a less-than-satisfactory appearance.

Why would anyone want to do this again? Oh yeah: HUNKS! All of those thick-necked footballers, tall dark and handsome basketballers and, uh… whatever hockey players look like under all of that gear. (FACT: I did not know that hockey games had cheerleaders until I read this book!)  So, let’s say, those orthodonically-gifted Canadaphile hockey-ers.

“Don’t be the cheerleader who leads the cheer for your new boyfriend on the team, or he will become your old boyfriend very quickly.”

COME ON! I never get to have anything nice!

Wait, wait, this is 1983, not the stone age! In the introduction we are reminded that, despite what those bra-burning naysayers would have you believe, many feminist icons got their start as cheerleaders! Like Ann-Margaret! And Raquel Welch! And Dinah Shore! So, what about, like, DUDE CHEERLEADERS! The authors have devoted a whole chapter to the topic of male cheerleaders! Let’s see what they have to say about that…

“The best thing about being a male cheerleader,” says Guido, “is that I’m an athlete at a football game, and I don’t have to wear a helmet. Everyone who comes to the game knows exactly who I am!”

The best thing about cheerleading, unequivocally, is that this guy is named Guido.

So, I’m convinced. Cheerleading is definitely for me! What are some super-secret tips for passing my audition?

“One kid even slept in the “herky” position (a famous cheerleading jump) so that she would do it correctly at tryouts. As it turned out, she was chosen over a kid who practiced only at the tryouts.”

Well, that certainly sounds…


…Um, kind of painful actually. Luckily, it sounds like I won’t have to stay in herky-sleep mode long, because the authors have already picked out the perfect job for me to pay off my uniform:

“Doughnut Shops are best because the hours are flexible there. You can work atrocious early Sunday-morning shifts in exchange for freedom on Saturday afternoons; you’ll be able to find other kids who’ll swap shifts with you in an emergency.”

So, those non-cheerleading kids that I alienated through my love of the Cheerpsichorean Arts? Why do I suspect that they might not care to take my Doughnut-shift when I have a Cheering Emergency?

In summary: lose all my friends; constantly hassled by teachers to inspire Jimmy Mouthbreather and Suzy Cut-Class to really understand the symbolism of that albatross; not get fat, despite being an indentured Doughnut-serf; sleep with arms and legs splayed in all directions; and it’s hands off the hunks. That’s it, right? No more bad news?

“Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to tournaments. If your team wins, your opponent’s fans won’t be too happy. That means you must be prepared for the possibility of some rough goings-on.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, so employ passive resistance. It may not sound like a good course to follow when your life seems to be threatened, but no one has yet thought of anything better.”

So, after all that, I don’t even get to rumble with those bitches from Central High? No fair.

“These are the times when you’ll be especially glad that the police and cheerleaders are on good terms.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching a lot of Dragnet reruns this summer, but I could not stop laughing after reading that.

So, I’m afraid I’m not cut out for CHEERLEADING! after all.  Although if you told me that I got to terrify a veteran Country-and-Western musician (and sometime actor) at an airport, I might be forced to reconsider…

“As we waited for our plane to be serviced, we practiced yells, cheers, and mounts. People didn’t know what to make of us; some passengers took pictures of us; some seemed frightened. And when we spotted Glen Campbell waiting for his plane, we serenaded him with a medley of his own songs!”

Well, dang. Sign me up!

Sign it Was Written in 1983 Department: “You will mimeograph the cheers for the other kids in school to learn.”

Whatever It Is, I Don’t Got It Department: “cheer-ee-er en-er-gee”

Good Advice For Pirates, Naval Officers and Walt Whitman Poems As Well Department: “A captain can’t forget to make brownies if the bake sale is tomorrow.”

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2 Responses to CHEERLEADING! By Pauline Finberg and Peter Filichia

  1. You referenced Bookopoly! You are my hero. Also, I could not stop laughing at this entire review. Thanks for a moment of hilarity in my week of Coxsackie virus and sudden no-childcare-having early next week and ARGH! With the kids! Maybe I can just send him to Bookopoly for the day.

    • mondomolly says:

      Aww, thanks Rachael! Anything for a former Junior Friend of Seymour Library 😉 Don’t worry, pretty soon he’ll be old enough to pack off to CHEERLEADING! camp; who knows, maybe Merle Haggard will have a layover at the same airport!

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