As we know, the inevitable is here. Preseason games. Darrell Revis signed. Eric Mangini discussed Thomas Jones' injury with the press. These are not the issues at hand, though. No, the New York Jets have cheerleaders - a "Flight Crew." Some fans have said, "Finally," with nothing more than a sense that at least the Jets can be a more legit team. We have cheerleaders. That's how we know we're the real deal.
What's kind of funny is that my wife initially bought into the Jets when she found out that they didn't have cheerleaders. The Dallas Cowboys, the Great Satan, set the gold standard for modern cheerleaders being candy. Right in the midst of the movement for women's liberation, the bedrock of the Southern Baptist Convention produced a phenomenon that got its own TV special, as well as a porno homage. Whatever it was, it made Dad think he needed to change the channel whenever they appeared on TV. Remember who has cheerleaders. The Oakland Raiders have cheerleaders. The Miami Dolphins have cheerleaders. Hell, even the the Green Bay Packers have cheerleaders now. Rather than looking like waitresses from Hooters, they are a demure bunch that resemble what real gals from Wisconsin actually look like.
In the admittedly narrow world of the male football fan, women get put into categories of hot, from zero representing "Mom," to ten usually being a dancer at Club Risque. The women in between are likely teachers from high school or college, neighbors' wives, co-workers, their own wives, Jennifer Aniston. And yet, I'm not sure that male football fans spend much time dwelling on where to place NFL football cheerleaders on that rubric. The game itself is so important that, here, sexy women become like garnish. Cheerleaders are a part of the NFL "product," and therefore part of the corporate scenery. The gals are basically mascots - they're even beneath mascots, actually because I think I pay more attention to the Philly Phanatic than I would, say, to the Miami Dolphins'...um, Fin Chicks.
But let's be honest. The AFL made cheerleaders what they are today. Granted, cheerleaders in 1960's professional football were the traditional kind you still find in high schools or colleges.
No hot pants, no lobster bibs. And, yes, the New York Jets did have cheerleaders back then - probably Catholic high school grads with majorette outfits, spinning batons, big sweaters, pom-poms the size of small shrubs.
But put it into perspective. This was at the same time that the Jets had a jet car - a go-kart, basically - that they would race across the highly uneven half-dirt field of Shea Stadium. This was all part of Sonny Werblin's idea to market the game in as many ways as possible. A bonus baby quarterback, a big stadium, a jet car, girls. Now that's entertainment. In fact, if there hadn't been those pom-poms (and the jet car) there might never have been "Debbie Does Dallas."
OK, that may be an exaggeration. But the Flight Crew is coming to the franchise that set the standard for sport-as-entertainment. "That's probably the best thing you can say about it," my wife replied. That and the fact that, for the moment, they don't look like hookers, which is more than I can say about the Fin Chicks.