FACE OFF: It may be aired on ESPN, but cheerleading is not a real sport

It’s that time of year again for sports fans.

Both the NFL and college football seasons are heating up.

The NBA has rolled out its new roundies – yes, roundies – and started preseason play.

The Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets are in the thick of their respective pennant chases. Of course, you can’t forget about the start of the NHL season either.

The only thing missing is a cooler of Gatorade and a tub of popcorn.

Wait, B. Reed you’re saying I forgot something? Why yes; Tiger Woods has been his usual dominant self and NASCAR is perhaps the fastest growing sport in the country.

That was cheerleading you said?

Oh, you’re talking about the good folks that keep the fans involved and root for the home team.


Only I’m not sure if the Florida A&M University faithful will file into Bragg Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon just to see the cheerleaders perform.

I can appreciate the role that cheerleaders play in relation to athletic events.

But the key word in the sentence is role – as in a piece of something bigger.

It would be difficult for me to define cheerleading.

But I can tell you what it’s not – a sport.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Check the American Heritage College Dictionary’s definition of cheerleader: “One who leads the cheering of spectators, as at a sports contest.”

You requested a second opinion B. Reed?

Not a problem. Here’s the Dictionary.com entry: “A person who leads spectators in traditional or formal cheering, especially at a pep rally or athletic event.”

The definitions don’t actually state whether cheerleading is a sport or not, but you get the idea.

And please spare me the they-show-it-on-ESPN-so-it’s-a-sport defense.

If you remember, the ladies and gentlemen in Bristol have aired the national spelling bee and hot dog eating contests on several occasions.

The Olympics probably will not add cheerleading to competition any time in the near future.

But what about football? Football isn’t an Olympic sport either. Good point. No actually, I’m kidding.

All right, let’s run some more tests.

Try to name a cheerleader from anywhere – past or present.


I’ll give you a few more moments to recall your favorite flyer or backspot.

Those are stunt positions for cheerleading by the way.

Don’t feel bad if those terms don’t roll off the tongue like pitcher or point guard.

Still nothing?

If you come up with one before kickoff, feel free to let me know.

I’ve got a few copies of Sports Illustrated and ESPN magazine you can thumb through just in case.

With apologies to my mom and my big sister Krystle – both former cheerleaders – I look forward to checking out the FAMU Rattlers and South Carolina State Bulldogs.

The tickets for the cheerleading game will remain at will call.

John W. Marsh is a junior broadcast journalism student from Detroit. He can be reached at thefamuansports@hotmail.com.