There has been some media coverage recently of a Wall Street Journal “study” with the finding that, believe it or not, there are not that many minutes of action during televised football games. Shocking, eh? The article estimates 11 minutes of live action and 17 minutes of replays, on average, per game. I guess those of us who attend football and baseball games know there is a lot of down time, but it is kind of a cute little story about quantifying the obvious. The WSJ story is based on an analysis of four televised NFL games, and since my job title is “Research Scientist,” I have to point out that this is an insufficient number of games to be meaningful, but I’ll leave my scientific opinions at the door.
The one thing mentioned in the report is that there was a total of eleven seconds of time in which the cheerleaders were shown over the four games, so less than three seconds a game. I think most fans of the NFL squads would agree that they are not shown very much, and, in my opinion, a lot less than during the first burst of cheerleader enthusiasm in the 1970’s. But the lack of showing squads is not new. In the last appearance of the Bears cheerleaders, the Honey Bears, in the last Bears Super Bowl victory in the mid 1980’s, the Honey Bears were not shown once. And it was not a gripping game, so besides Bear QB Jim McMahon’s varied headbands, there wasn’t much else to show.
But I guess I felt the need to comment on some of the quotes from this article.
If you think the networks are a little too fond of cheerleaders, you may be mistaken: In these broadcasts, only two networks showed cheerleaders at all. And when they did, they were only on camera for an average of three seconds. “We make it a point to get Dallas cheerleaders on, but otherwise, it’s not really important,” says Fred Gaudelli, NBC’s Sunday Night Football producer. “If we’re doing the Jets, I couldn’t care less.”
and later in the story:
When it comes to showing the cheerleaders, CBS won the day with about seven seconds. NBC had just over four seconds, and Fox and ESPN had no cheerleaders whatsoever. “Cheerleaders are bigger in college,” says Mr. Brown of Fox, who notes that NFL cheerleaders from the visiting teams don’t travel to road games and aren’t as ingrained in the game as they are in college. “It’s not that we don’t like them,” adds ESPN’s Mr. Rothman. “They’re just not our motivation.”
So I could just read these things and move on, but it stirred me up a little, so this is just my opinion/reaction. I think these folks need to sit in the stands, maybe near some painted faces, maybe in the Black Hole section at a Raiders game, and get away from the booth or the truck. I’ve been to ten NFL stadia to see games and cheerleaders, and I can without hesitation say that all of the cities’ fans love their cheerleaders. Raider fans treat the Raiderettes with an attitude that is unmatched. College cheerleaders are great, but pro cheerleaders serve a different role in a very different atmosphere.
The hard work of pro cheerleaders, whether Cowboys, Jets, arena leagues, whatever, is truly appreciated by fans. One of the reasons is that there is 11 minutes of “football” over three hours, and the rest of the time for spectators is not spent singing school songs like at a college game. The pro cheerleaders provide a lot of the entertainment that is part of the game experience.
I think for the NFL, where the networks are a national commodity, there is not an appreciation for the role of the cheer and dance squads on the local level. I have a feeling that if you examined pre-season NFL games, where the telecasts have a more local flair, there is more cheerleader on-air coverage. Certainly, for fans at the games, the cheerleaders are shown many more seconds on the big video screens than is reflected in the TV coverage. On the NBA side, I know that if I am watching a locally produced Pacers game, there inevitably will be lots of commercial breaks than come back to clips of the Pacemates routine that was performed during the game time-out. This won’t be the case for national NBA games, because the people making the decisions on what to show have no connection to city the game is in.
So, let me just say that the network execs may not realize how the NFL fans at the games really appreciate them, but the squads’ hard work and devotion is truly meaningful. I have a feeling every NFL cheerleader knows their importance because they see the faces of the young and the old, the tall and the small, in the fans during the game and every time they don a uniform. But I just wanted to say the squads and their staffs are doing a superb job! IMHO, the NFL squads are just as ingrained in the game as they are in college.