Hold that line
Block that kick
Bcat 'tun bust' tun, that's our custom
Push 'em back, push 'em back
A few weeks ago at the Columbia football game, a Harvard alumnus sat nearby the 50-yard line squinting intently into a pair of high-powered binoculars. Next to him a small child tugged at his wrist, asking in an increasingly whiny voice to be taken to the bathroom. The alum paid no attention, keeping his eyes glued to his Zeiss lcons, Finally he looked up and spoke, not to the child, but to a middle-aged man on his right. "Damn if those cheerleaders aren't the best part of Ivy football."
Though not everyone would agree with the alum's assessment, the Varsity Football cheerleaders are gaining increased acceptance throughout the Harvard community since their appearance three years ago. At first a loosely organized group that aroused more laughter than applause, the cheerleaders--thanks to a lot of hard work--have started to win over many of the skeptics.
According to former associate athlete director Niki Janus, the Athletic. Department decided in 1979 to ask some of the women leading cheers at basketball games to perform at football games as well. "All this was at the instigation of a few graduates," said Janus. "They wondered why Harvard was the only Ivy school without cheerleaders and thought it world be nice to revive a little school spirit "So, aimed with megaphones, pom poms, and a few hundred dollars from the University, the cheerleaders took Soldiers Field by storm-or almost. "It was pretty embarassing at first," remembers one veteran of those pioneering days. "We weren't exactly what you'd call together so people booed, laughed and even threw things on occasion."
Since then, however, the cheerleaders--half of them men--have improved. Several hours of practice a week and increasing athletic ability have at least protected the squad from the jokes of Budwener guzzling football aficionados. But success has also brought with it a problem--money. Originally, the cheerleaders were allocated $500 to get started. But the Athletic Department's which provides funds for close to 100 varsity. Junior varsity and freshman teams, has little money to spare. "At present, the squad gets nothing from us save an occasional favor," says assistant to the athletic director John Wentzell.
Wentzell, who advises the cheerleaders, adds that the group may get department cash in the future. "On the borizon, they could apply for club status like the rugby team and get some money. Certainly we want to encourage them because they have improved considerably. You can be sure we wouldn't sanction anything that was an embarrasment."
For the time being though, the cheerleaders have to fund themselves. Junior co-captain Christine Ho calculated the women in the group each spent over $ 100 on uniforms and accessories. And away games mean finding transportation because the football team bus has no extra room. "It's a lot of money." says sophomore Liz gill, "but we love cheerleaders enough so that the expense doesn't really matter."
The entire squad expresses unbridled enthusiasm for their Saturday afternoon occupation. They cite a varsity of reasons that attract them to cheering Gill claims "it makes you feel part of the festivities" Ho, who didn't cheer in high school, says "it was something I had always wanted to try." And sophomore Tom Friedman stresses that "cheering has an athletic aspect that makes it a challenge"
Of course, it also isn't bad to have a captive audience of several thousand people. Says co-captain Mike Fresh 84. If you're good. You're not apprehensive and the size of the crowd just exaggerates your feeling of excitement. "We haven't made any bad mistakes yet and on one has thrown anything at us," says Friedman. "But the possibility exists and we don't have the advantage of wearing helmets like the football players."
One incident that occurred during this year's. Army game highlights the danger inherent in the athletic part of cheering. sophomore Jenni Goodall had just reached the top of a three-level pyramid when she "basically did a perfect back dive head first into cement. I just remained dazed on the ground for awhile until several people rushed over saying they were doctors and asked to help" Luckly, Goodall incurred no serious injury.