The American Jaxson de Ville descends from the Wembley Roof PHOTO: GARY BAKER
Richard L Gale rambles on themes of rowdiness and red...
chool Sports Day: Yellow Team emitted a confident cheer, Green Team roared their own effusive enthusiasm, Blue Team managed an indifferent ‘yeah’, more agreement than optimism. Once-great Red Team – my own daughter amongst them – exhaled a low moan that wouldn’t have been out of place in a zombie flick, resigned to the fact that, with spelling bees not factored in, they were in for a long afternoon. And so things played out, despite the best efforts of my daughter in the skipping rope race, and her best friend in the egg-and-spoon race. I have yet to witness my daughter in a competitive sprint – I suspect she could be moderately rapid if left unfettered by the need to put on hats, hop, juggle bean bags and the like. Such is the sporting world of the British seven year-old. Still, the way things are going, it isn’t impossible that running backwards makes it to Olympic demonstration status before gridiron football. Simultaneously amused and disquieted by Red Team’s now annual belly-flop, my mind forged a plan to improve their 2016 fortunes by (1) creating flags and signs to ‘egg on’ the kids, and (2) organise some cheerleaders and a team mascot from the ranks of the living Red. I know for a fact that some of them study drama, dance and/or cheer (Lea Michele as honorary president wouldn’t be wide of the Red Team mark). A grand plan, but do flags, mascots and cheerleaders matter? I firmly believe so, and it isn’t
coincidence that the vocal ferocity of the teams matched their performance on the day. If not, why would we shout ourselves hoarse every week, and why would teams employ cheerleaders (that’s employ, Oakland Raiders), or pay some guy to dress as a pirate/ cartoon cat/hooter-nosed muppet? These things matter, if only in the pretense that the outcome of the event matters, or that such color and spectacle keeps the audience and even participants engaged... rather than stretching out and making daisychains when its time to queue for a shot on goal (my daughter aces both of these, by the way). Take the Jacksonville Jaguars (no, please...). Possibly one of their most famous members retired this offseason, and I don’t mean MJD. After 19 years, Curtis Dvorak has retired from the role of ‘Jaxson de Ville’, the mascot who bungeed from scoreboards, found new uses for Terrible Towels, invaded endzones, and even caged himself after the No Fun League enforced rules for ‘mascot conduct’ (a league-discussed highlight reel of mascot mischief-making was 90% Jaxson de Ville). The former HokieBird sure made an impact. Jaxson will be back at Wembley this year, but he’ll be new on the inside. The NFL is increasingly talking ‘when’ – not ‘if’ – for a London franchise, with Tottenham’s new stadium
being specced out to suit, but don’t assume that Jaxson’s longterm London residency is a done deal. If a franchise rises in London, it’ll be looking for some young guy or gal to dress as a regal lion and don a fabric Monarch’s crown (ah, c’mon, you know it’s gonna happen). It’ll be a kid who’s into fitness, fun, and understands both British silliness and American enthusiasm. In other words, maybe you or yours. The hearts of Londoners will be won over not by a 6-6 dude in shoulder pads, but by endless personal appearances by cheerleaders – locally sourced or transatlantic – and by the mascot. Although cheerleaders aren’t alien to the British sports landscape, it was only 2013 that the English Premiership League gained its first cheerleading squad, in Crystal Palace, though it’s worth noting that when Palace entered a playoff to gain promotion to English football’s top tier, they were told the ‘Crystals’ couldn’t cheer as it would give the team an ‘unfair advantage’. So there you are: Cheer IS an advantage! It’s official. Which just leaves the question of what the Red Team cheerleaders and mascot should call themselves. Red Razz and the Razzmatazz? Perhaps Red Team itself needs to rebrand for a new era of greater success. If you think of anything red-appropriate, please send it to: Daniel Snyder, c/o FedExField, 1600 FedEx Way, Landover, MD 20785.
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