Sixteen years ago, I didn’t know that March Madness existed. My husband and I were dating during March Madness in 2000, and he insisted that I fill out my very first bracket. Considering that I chose winners based on the color of the teams’s uniforms and how cool I thought their mascot was, I did surprisingly well.
Growing up in an artsy family, I didn’t know the first thing about sports. I didn’t know that a person could turn on the television any night of the week and find a game to watch. Every night. Basketball. Baseball. Football. Golf. Hockey. Bull riding. Women’s Frisbee golf. It was astounding. My husband watched all of them, but football and basketball seemed to be his favorite.
In fact, he strategically planned our dating and courtship so that it wouldn’t interfere with his BYU football watching schedule. We met in the fall, started dating after the bowl games, got engaged in the spring and were married in August. Our honeymoon return tickets magically matched the date of BYU’s first game of the season.
My husband was starting from square one with me. He had to teach me everything. Season tickets were the prescription for my football deficiency syndrome. Most of that first year, I was on information overload. My husband’s talk of running backs, yards rushing, first downs, and special teams started to sound like that teacher on Charlie Brown: “Wa wa wawa wawa.” I’m not proud to admit it, but after two hours at a game my brain would completely shut down. For my own protection, I would stop trying to understand, zone out, and watch the cheerleaders.
Now there was a sport I could understand—cheerleading: no rules, no penalties, just synchronized movements, acrobatics, and pure entertainment.
Even as my understanding and appreciation for football has increased over the years, my admiration for cheerleaders has never faltered. In fact, it has grown. I mean, when you think about it, who are these people? They train and practice as many hours each week as the football players, yet do you know a single cheerleader’s name from your favorite team? Week after week these athletes are there, cheering for your team whether the season has been good or bad. They cheer whether your team is winning or losing. Rain, sleet, snow, hail, blazing heat. You get it.
Cheerleaders have their own competitive events, but have you ever bought a ticket to go cheer for them? Do you know where they fall in the national rankings? When one of them gets injured and is out for the season, do you hear about it? Maybe it’s a career ending injury. I don’t know for sure. ESPN didn’t air that sideline interview.
Maybe I love cheerleaders because they remind me of my mom. She shows up to every event in my life and looks excited to be there. She cheers me on whether my performance is good or bad. She encourages me to go for it, even if others think I have no chance of winning. She gives and gives without any expectation of glory, honor, or cheers in return. Her cheers are sincere and there are no strings attached. She has been and always will be my biggest cheerleader and I love her for it. She inspires me to want to be a cheerleader too!
During March Madness this year, I invite you to take a moment to acknowledge cheerleaders. Learn the name of at least one cheerleader that cheers for your favorite team. Give them a shout out. Then take a moment to thank the biggest cheerleaders in your life. They deserve it!
I welcome your comments on this post or I will look for them on social media. #meetacheerleader #biggestcheerleader