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With March Madness about to tip off, it should come as no surprise that we’ve entered National Cheerleading Safety Month

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Did you know that “Cheerleading carries the highest rate of catastrophic injuries in scholastic sports”?  

Amazingly, although only 3% of America’s 2.9 million female high school athletes are cheerleaders, they “accounted for more than 2/3 (67%) of all fatal, disabling or serious injuries” over the 25-year period studied!  

This leg fracture was compounded by a “catastrophic” lack of panties …

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… but permits us to observe that this is also National Cheerleading Week—celebrated annually during “the first full week in March” {in 2017, that’s March 5-11}.  

Yet despite the sex factor today associated with these pep squads, organized cheerleading began as “an all-male activity”—with Princeton University establishing the first squad and in 1897-89 naming a male student from each class as its designated “Cheer Leader.”

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In fact, women were “not permitted to participate in cheerleading” until 1923 at the University of Minnesota—where the chant “Rah, Rah, Rah!” had originated with Gopher student Johnny Campbell {called ‘The First Cheerleader, below left} on November 2, 1898.

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A markedly different look from Minnesota’s 1920 group (above right) to that school’s short-skirted squad of today:

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“The reputation of having been a valiant ‘cheer-leader’ is one of the most valuable things a boy can take away from college,” The Nation magazine wrote back in 1911. “It ranks hardly second to that of having been a quarterback.”  

Indeed, it seems to have been a stepping-stone to the White House—Franklin Roosevelt led cheers at Harvard, as did Dwight Eisenhower at West Point, Ronald Reagan at Eureka College in Illinois, and George W. Bush at Yale.”  

Presidential aspirants Mitt Romney {at Michigan’s Cranbrook Prep} and Rick Perry {“yell leader” at Texas A&M} also cheered on their school squads.

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According to Wikipedia, “It took time for other schools to follow Minnesota. Women cheerleaders were overlooked until the 1940s.” Some colleges even “banned female cheerleaders”—an attitude argued by this 1938 opponent: “Women cheerleaders frequently become too masculine for their own good …

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… “we find the development of loud, raucous voices and the consequent development of slang and profanity by their necessary association with male squad members.”  

And speaking of associating with ‘male members’:

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What changed this chauvinist perspective—as with many Forties ‘feminist’ advances—was World War II … with so many collegiate men drafted to fight, an opportunity was created “for more women to make their way onto sporting event sidelines.” Notice that this wartime pep squad’s sweaters spell out “AMERICAN.”

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The cultural shift couldn’t be more obvious than in comparing covers of the family-oriented Saturday Evening Post, from 1930 (below left) to 1940 (below right) as the country prepared for battle.

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Please don’t overlook the phallic megaphones just below the men’s crotches … soon to become V-shaped open receptacles in popular pinup art of the ’40s!

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And the transition was complete by the ’50s—when ‘Sweater Girls’ were all the rage (below left) … and a certain buxom blonde starlet sported one on the cover of Look magazine (below right) in support of gridiron giant Georgia Tech!

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Which recalls that old joke from when the Yellow Jackets were dominating the sport: “I sure wish I could have gone to Georgia Tech,” one Atlanta engineer remarks to another. “Oh hell, you wouldn’t have liked Tech too much,” replies his friend. “The only graduates they have are football players and whores.” Snaps the first: “It just so happens my wife graduated from Georgia Tech!” Stammers the second: “What position did she play?”

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Surely we chest … but that anatomical area just as surely marked one of the big differences between men and women cheerleaders {after the, uh, jump}.

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Let’s not beat around the bush: One of the main reasons female cheering squads caught on so swiftly in the buttoned-up Fifties was the perceived potential for panty peeks:

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There’s no skirting the issue: Back then, where else could a guy with raging hormones hope to see a sight like this on a Friday Night under the Lights?

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Nowadays, of course, things are a bit more open.

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“We’ve all heard them cheering. We’ve all watched them dance,” Radio One recently raved. “Cheerleaders are the spirit of the game.” Well, close enough

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Today, 97% of all cheerleading participants are female”—leading Radio One to remark: “They make us jump with happiness when winning and make us rise again when losing. They possess the charm of a movie star and the skills of a deft dancer. So it’s no wonder some of our current celebrities used to be high school cheerleaders.”  

And no surprise that Sleuth remains their designated spotter.  

 

CAMERON DIAZ     Long Beach Polytechnic ‘Jackrabbits’ in Long Beach, California

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Only as a sophomore—she dropped out at 16 after “buying lots of weed from {classmate} Snoop Dogg.”    

 

SANDRA BULLOCK     Washington and Lee ‘Eagles’ in Montross, Virginia

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HALLE BERRY     Bedford ‘Bearcats’ in Cleveland, Ohio

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Where she admits to “forgetting to wear my bloomers and flashing everyone!”

 

 

RENÉE ZELLWEGER     Cady ‘Tigers’ in Cady, Texas

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STACY ‘FERGIE’ FERGUSON     Glen A. Wilson ‘Wildcats’ in Hacienda Heights, California

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LINDSAY LOHAN     Sanford H. Calhoun ‘Colts’ in Merrick, New York

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MADONNA     Rochester Adams ‘’Highlanders’ in Rochester Hills, Michigan

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As a cheerleader, she recalls “causing a stir by showing her underwear and not shaving her pits!”    

 

KENDALL JENNER     Sierra Canyon ‘Trailblazers’ in Chatsworth, California

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Was on the cheerleading squad at the same time as her 2 years younger sister …    

 

KYLIE JENNER     Sierra Canyon ‘Trailblazers’ in Chatsworth, California

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ALICIA SILVERSTONE     San Mateo ‘Bearcats’ in San Mateo, California

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Surely her classmates were Clueless that Alicia would END up so beautifully!