“Hellcats” Cram Session: Cheerleaders Playing Football?

Bust out your pom-poms, ’cause tonight is “Hellcats” night! Since The Frisky’s own Kate Torgovnick happens to be an expert on college cheerleading—after all, the show is based on her book CHEER!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders—every Wednesday we have her sound off on how the show stacks up to reality.

Tonight on “Hellcats,” Savannah, Marti, Alice and the crew throw on their sweats (finally, some ample clothing), smear on some eye black, and play flag football against their arch nemeses on Lancer campus—the women’s volleyball team.

I know what you’re thinking—cheerleaders playing football? But you’ll be surprised to know that this plot line is very real.When I was following the University of Memphis All-Girl Tigers, one of the three teams that inspired the depiction of the Hellcats, the team was as excited about one event as they were about cheerleading competitions—intramural football season. The cheerleaders called their team “The Sideliners” and they played against the law school, the campus ministry and, yes, the volleyball team. They won every game they played that season. In fact, they didn’t let another team so much as score a single point.

“Their quarterback is an absolute cannon,” said their coach, a former Memphis football player. “They take this as seriously as possible. It’s life or death. We played one game where we took out our best players at halftime because we were winning 42 to 0.”

I saw the ladies play the intramural championship game against U of M’s track and field team. Before the game, they were worried because the track team is obviously very fast. But after a fake-out and long pass from quarterback and cheer captain Kristen Murdock, they scored the only touchdown of the game and clinched the trophy.

Guess we’ll have to see how the Hellcats fare tonight.