Let me Entertain you
“Two squads. One Showdown” – as State of Origin fever hits an all time high this is the sort of tagline you would expect to be reading in the headlines.
This is a quote from one of the great rivalries to come out of Hollywood – the Toros V the Clovers. An all time showdown between two High School cheerleading squads. Yes, Cheerleaders.
Cheerleading, albeit controversial, has made its mark on Rugby League, love them or hate them, their role and relevance has been debated back-and-forth more times than they flick their hair.
As it stands, cheerleading is an American tradition; if you watch any NFL, Basketball or Baseball – college or pro – you will know that the cheer squads play a very different role and are a whole new level of entertaining.
Their role within these sports is to create atmosphere. Their big throws, big flips and big pom-poms are quintessential, not only to the games atmosphere, but its entertainment with a capital E. Add the big bands, the baton twirler and some ‘be aggressive…be-e aggressive’ style cheers and you almost forget what you were there to see in the first place.
Over the years we have seen several arguments surrounding cheerleaders – it is too demeaning, too raunchy, too boring and it is sending the wrong message. In 2007 the Rabbitohs replaced them completely with a big band, with Souths CEO Shane Richardson saying that the cheerleaders were axed because “it wasn’t the way we wanted women to be viewed.”
What does that mean?
In most instances they are strong, fit, beautiful women and although there is room for improvement when it comes to their outfits, there are sports where women are wearing less (enter World tour Surfer Alana Blanchard) but being recognised for the right reasons. Talent.
And this is my point. Somewhere down the line the role of entertainment has been replaced and instead the attention has turned to seeing cheerleaders only as the ‘hottest’ and ‘sexiest’. It is also the reason many sports, such as the AFL and in particular the Swans (and their Swanettes) have tried, tested and ultimately scrapped them in their game.
Like cheerleaders, entertainment as a whole is something that has been debated and as recent as David Smiths induction as CEO, it has been deemed an important part of the game – but there is a fine line between what is entertainment and what is atmosphere. It is the latter that we are lacking.
The inclusion of a jumping castle isn’t going to see ticket sales soar, but to grow the complete atmosphere of the game just might.
Enter State of Origin game one. It was billed as one of the biggest games in State of Origin history – the players are pumped, ANZ stadium is packed and … Timomatic hits the stage to perform a song no one has heard and over 80,000 people are left scratching their heads.
The performance was so out of sorts that ‘Timomatic’ was trending on twitter – for all the wrong reasons. On any other day or stage, it would have been a good performance, but this isn’t any other day; this is State of Origin.
What happened to the days of Tina ‘Simply the Best’ Turner? Love it or loathe it, you know the song, you know the words and you know that it is the sort of performance that will get 80,000 people firing.
The atmosphere needs to get hearts racing, it creates butterflies of anxiety of the thousands who pack the stadium and done right, it also touches those on their couches. It is the stuff that sees goosebumps run the length of your body and you remember where you were, when you heard it decades later…