Saturday, November 23, 2019

Tucson, AZ: My First Football Game Since High School

University of Arizona football, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

A Tucson native took me to the opening game of the 2019 UofA Wildcats football season. I was pretty excited. No, that's not right. I was measuredly excited. Excited not because I expected to enjoy the football game, but excited, in a muted way, to see a live football game for the first time since high school. Hohoho! Make that live or on TV!

The only two things I remember about high school football are the Friday evening potlucks that girls hosted before the games, and this cheerleader chant: "First in 10, do it again, go, go, go!"

What I was excited to see at the Wildcats football game was the marching band. I'm always up for watching a marching band, especially the percussion.

Lots of people movement on campus on game day.

Tailgating parties on the grassy mall. Thousands of students, alumni, and game enthusiasts walking about outside and inside the various buildings. My friend himself is a UofA alumnus. He's bought football tickets for some FIFTY years!
University of Arizona drum corps, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

Before the game: Drums!

As a devoted Wildcat fan, my friend has a number of traditions associated with his game attendance. One is to line up for the Cat Walk, which I understand to be a human gauntlet through which the Wildcat players walk to the stadium about two hours before the game, when fans can shout their encouragements to the players.

However, my friend knew that I go a little weak in the knees at all things percussion, so he forewent the Cat Walk so that we could nab a good view of the crack drum corps on the mall while they got warmed up.

A video of one of the drill sets below:

Bear down? 

I get "Win one for the Gipper." The meaning is transparent, even if one does not know who or what a gipper is.

But the Wildcat exhortation to "bear down," which is ubiquitous upon t-shirts, signage, mugs, etc? 

Yes, I understand the meaning of bearing down on someone, as if you are chasing another, and you're getting, oh, so close! "Cap'n! The Klingons, they're bearin' down on us!"

But that's not the first meaning that comes to mind. Nope, it's for a woman in the final throes of giving birth, during which she gathers up her sphincter strength to push out a baby.

And wildcats are not bears. The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, are bears. It makes a mite more sense for them to bear down, to wit:

But enough of this snide commentary. I'm behaving like the stereotypical Bad Tourist who gives unsolicited advice to locals about how they ought to do things, even though I don't know fuck-all about nuthin'.

But this is serious

The first thing to strike me when I saw the women cheerleaders were their superficial attributes: 
  1. Mostly blonde
  2. Long, straight hair
  3. Again, based solely on the superficial - there appeared to be 0 women of color
To see if my perception was accurate, I visited the 2019-2020 line-up of the women cheerleaders. 

Hair color. Of 13 women, nine are blonde (mostly very light blonde), which = 69%. This is brow-raising, considering that only 5-10% of the US population is blonde. 

Note: There's a dearth of reliable data on this topic, so I went with the best of a poor lot, using this source (see the most popular response), and then upping the estimate to be safer.

Complexion. All of the women cheerleaders are fair-to-medium complected. 

Hair style. No curly hair; no short hair. 

This past-century exclusivity is not OK. We just can't be blind to this anymore.

As a public institution, a university must portray a message of inclusion. This means being energetic about finding ways to attract more cheerleader candidates of color and of avoiding disparate impact, through organizational policies and traditions, on candidates of modest financial resources.

Here is the University of Arizona's cheerleader tryout info packet. It costs $50 to try out. Every cheerleader must pay $200 out-of-pocket for membership in a cheer leading association. Cheerleaders must fundraise an additional $300 by the first day of school in the spring semester. What?!

The time commitments demanded of the cheerleaders are such that I'm guessing it's difficult for a Wildcat cheerleader to have a part time job. 

Given that the cheerleaders are, in effect, working for the University of Arizona, it seems that they should receive financial compensation for same. 

Cheerleaders are athletes and should receive similar financial opportunities as other scholarship-eligible athletes at the university. 

To grow the diversity of a university's cheerleader squads, the school must look upstream, at the middle school and high school levels, where a lot of girls are shut out of cheerleading tryouts from the get-go because their families couldn't afford tumbling and gymnastic lessons when the girls were younger, and the families can't afford the annual cost to be a high school cheerleader. (Go here for a forum discussion on how much money a girl's family may have to pay out-of-pocket to be a cheerleader. Spoiler alert: It's not uncommon for the cost to reach over $1000 dollars for the first year.) 

Do better, Wildcats. (And Cardinals.)

Marching band!

University of Arizona football, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

 A snippet below

The Wildcats demolished their opponents.

University of Arizona football stadium, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

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