Consider this...a typical year for a Buffalo Jill, after making the squad, has no significant downtime. From April-December, these young ladies are practicing at least twice a week to learn several routines and performances for use in the fall football season. In 2009 and 2010, the Jills held a few open practices to work with some younger cheerleaders and I can tell you those young ladies were kept pretty busy. After the open portion was done, they went back to work on their own stuff and from what I was told, they covered a lot in that time. It's pretty rare that they get practice nights off and if they do, it's usually for a big reason, like the NFL Cheerleader Playoffs viewing parties held back in 2006. Even after the season is over, there are still appearances to fill and if there are any big events in the spring, there's practice time as well to get ready for those.
The people who write cheerleaders off as eye candy are generally ignorant of how much work goes into being a professional cheerleader as well as to the benefits of having them around. Sports leagues that employ pro cheerleaders don't do so to satisfy the drunks in the stands. As a matter of fact, those types of people aren't even a factor when it comes to having pro cheerleaders or not. A part of what pro cheerleaders do is to help grow interest in the sport. They do that with appearances and greeting fans primarily. Adults aren't usually going to be swayed by pretty girls on the sidelines, though I must confess that I only checked out my 1st Bandits game to support a friend who was on the Bandettes. After seeing the game in person though, I was hooked on that...but I digress. Children need to have their attention captured to get their interest in something. Some players appear on local tv shows and sign autographs afterwards but the players don't have the time to make many appearances with all the demand on them. During the season, players generally only get 1 day off per week. Cheerleaders though, are available for appearances year-round. The only time they can't make appearances is during home games, for obvious reasons.
Over my years working with the Jills and Bandettes, I've witnessed a lot of interactions at games, events, and appearances. Thankfully, I've never witnessed what was reported to have transpired in Syracuse last year. The worst I saw was when a photographer from a local website had taken a few photos at an event that he really shouldn't have. I myself ensured he didn't do it again the following year. There's plenty of fans of all ages who love to meet the cheerleaders and get their autographs and/or pictures taken with them. I think the most important interactions I've seen are with the children. I couldn't begin to count the times I've seen little boys and girls extra excited when they get to meet a professional cheerleader. The little girls generally idolize them while the little boys are usually pretty shy but still excited. 3 specific interactions really stick out for me, though.
|Dunkirk middle school cheerleaders performing for Jess|
|Briana and Emily with a hopeful future Jill|
The future of the Jills is up in the air after this season and we can only speculate on the reasons why their season was cancelled except that it had something to do with the lawsuit. Whether it be the Bills taking charge, new management, or a renewed focus by current management, the Jills need to be re-formed not just for what they bring to the sidelines, but for how they impact the children in Western NY. Take a look around the league. Only 3 teams have no cheerleaders at all with unofficial groups in Detroit, Cleveland, and the NY Giants. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most popular teams in the NFL and it's all due to one thing: marketing. The team on the field hasn't been a very strong one in several years but they still keep gaining fans. Back in 1978, NFL Films put together a year-end highlight film for the team, like they do for every team every year. They entitled it "America's Team" and the Cowboys have used that in their marketing ever since along with the iconic Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, marketed as America's Sweethearts. Does anyone seriously think the the DCC isn't a huge part of what attracts fans? When you consider that the Buffalo Jills beat them out in a fan poll in 2011 for the NFL's top squad, it'd be insane to let them go the way of the Steelerettes or the Honey Bears, the defunct cheerleading squads for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears.