If You Have To Ask

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July 23, 2010 by David Gillaspie

IF AN ACTIVITY IS A COLLEGE SPORT, IS IT?

 It takes a  judge, a federal judge in Connecticut, to make the call on Competitive Cheer as a college sport?  He said it is “too underdeveloped and disorganized” to be included alongside basketball, soccer and other recognized women’s college sports.

Competitive Cheer is the sport that ended wrestling at the University of Oregon, or so it seems, which makes it a pretty rough sport. 

Any time you beat a wrestler, you’ve done something.  Just ask Renee Baumgartner, Oregon executive senior associate athletic director in charge of all things executive, senior, associate, and athletics.

“These women are doing roundoff back handsprings, back tucks,” she said. “They’re very athletic.” 

Don’t try that at home.

If Competitive Cheer gets axed from the four Division 1 schools that field teams, they’ll need a replacement.  If wrestling gets added back to the UO athletic department, the women’s side of sports might need two teams.

Here are a few ideas:

Competitive Cat’s Cradle. 

The goal is make a spider’s web out of yarn at the same time you jump and run and tumble.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.

First you need the uni-tard and proper training to extend pointer fingers at the crucial moments of the competition.

This sport is often confused with rhythmic gymnastics, an official Olympic sport ruled by Russians and other Easter European powers.

This is a good fit in colleges because the hot spot for the sport is also the place where wrestling thrives.  If Alexander Karelin isn’t married to a rhythmic gymnast, he should be.

To be fair, not every college student can sit on their own head, or wrap their leg around their neck, while keeping time to classical music.  Those athletes need another outlet.

Competitive Cannonballing.

This sport brings out the best in every participant.  The special skills needed to be successful in Competitive Cannonball are the same skills used in all sports.

Balance:  You need to remain composed in the air.

Strength:  Flying out of the muzzle of a cannon takes lots of leg power.

Intelligence:  You’ll need to explain why you do the sport to those new to the game.

The goal is to perform stunts while flying toward a landing site, which is identified by a large MASH tent with a bright red cross on top.

Fear of new sports is practically un-American.  Reaching for new horizons is at the core of our shared national agenda. 

Lewis and Clark opened the west coast for competitive cheer with their Corps of Discovery; Neil Armstrong opened the moon for future competitions with his space travel; Ms Baumgartner keeps the dreams of competitive cheer alive with her take on the judge’s ruling in Connecticut: 

“It does not directly impact the University of Oregon,”  she says. “This court case does not apply to us.”

The schools that make up the competitive cheer league, Oregon, Baylor, Maryland and Quinnipiac, should be allowed to keep their teams, but only if the schools establish wrestling teams.  Both sports have more in common, than not.  Daring, ambition, fearlessness, drive.  The question is if the athletic departments for those schools have staff with the same characteristics.

Dropping a sport from any program has a greater ripple effect than first imagined.  When baseball and softball were dropped from the London Olympics, what was the real message? 

England is afraid of the ball.

When little Johnny quits all sports and stays in his room all day, what is the real message?

Poor parenting.

When the University of Oregon dropped wrestling and added baseball and competitive cheer, also known as stunts and gymnastics, what was the real message?

It goes legal.  The Oregon wrestling supporters sued to keep their sport, and lost.  The judge on the east coast made his ruling based on a case filed by the school’s volleyball team, which was on the chopping block to be replaced by competitive cheer.

How will it turn out?  Take a guess, but consider this from Oregonian writer Rachel Bachman’s story:

“The AAUW, a 100,000-member organization formerly known as the American Association of University Women, issued a statement supporting the judge’s ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, which assisted the volleyball players in bringing the lawsuit, said in a statement that the decision “directs Quinnipiac University to stop playing games with the important principle of equal opportunity for women.””

They will be coming for Oregon executive senior associate athletic director Renee Baumgartner.

My prediction when the ladies face off?

AAUW vs competitive cheer, with AAUW winning 100,oo to 4. 

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