Pictures: Ravens male cheerleaders
Funny how they're almost always -- always -- cut out of pictures. You might see a couple of their thick fingers, perhaps a taped wrist. But the shot is inevitably one of a petite cheerleader sailing through the air. How did she get there, hovering in the stadium air?
Thank the discreet human trampoline otherwise known as the team's male cheerleaders -- the 21 hardy men who not only enable those gravity-defying acrobatics but provide Baltimore's team bragging rights as the only one in the NFL with a coed cheering squad.
No other hometown fans get to witness those flips, those throws -- those nail-bitingly wobbly pyramids. Baltimore gets a sideline show no other team can provide. The Tennessee Titans also featured male "yell leaders," as they called them, for a while, but dropped them in 2004, reportedly worrying about stunt liability.
"It's hands-down more exciting," Tina Galdieri, director of Ravens cheerleading, says of what the men allow the team to do. "It"s almost like Cirque du Soleil."
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Ravens male cheerleaders
Fans won't find evidence of the men in the Raven's cheerleader calendar. They won't spot them at most official appearances. And, have no doubt, the men have heard all of the male cheerleader jokes.
"Male cheerleaders," Galdieri says diplomatically, "sometimes aren't always accepted."
Odd, considering that the very first cheerleaders, back in the late 1800s, were men -- women were added later. And some very virile characters have cheerleading on their resume -- including George W. Bush, Ronald Regan, Jimmy Stewart and, believe it or not, Samuel L. Jackson.
Whatever people say, male cheerleaders have to be strong and willing to suffer countless bangs and bruises in the name of spirit. (It's certainly not for the $100-a-game stipend.)