Behind the Super Bowl: Patriots' Cheerleader Shouts from the Sidelines
Between all the bone-crushing hits, tackles and nail-biting plays that are always part of the testosterone-filled Super Bowl each year, there's also been, on many occasions, a bit of feminine support coming from the sidelines in the form of morale-boosting, beautiful cheerleaders for one or both of the teams.
Sadly, for those hoping for a bit of enthusiastic eye candy to cheer on their favorite teams at this year's Super Bowl, you'll have to settle for your own personal cheering section. Neither the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the Green Bay Packers have cheerleading squads. Some say the Steelers organization considers having cheerleaders to be a distraction from the game, though millions of viewers watching the game on TV might disagree. The Packers used to have their own professional cheerleaders, but ceased the practice in 1988.
Thankfully, teams like Dallas, Miami and even chilly Boston do continue to share this wonderful sideline aspect at home games and with Super Bowl audiences.
An unforgettable experience
The New England Patriots have been to several Super Bowls in recent years, winning three, and each time the Patriots Cheerleaders have been on hand to provide some great morale-boosting moments. For 24-year-old Patriots cheerleader Angela Lavoie, Super Bowl XLII in 2008 between her team and the New York Giants was her first Super Bowl and one filled with great memories to last a lifetime.
"This is my third season with the Patriots", said Angela, "and that year was my rookie year with the team with one year off in between. All 24 members of the squad were able to go to Arizona for the game, and it was such a great bonding experience for all of us."
Angela tried out for the Patriots squad after being a dancer for most of her life and cheerleading in both high school and college, so joining the squad was an easy decision to make and one she enjoys immensely.
"It's great. I absolutely love it," she said. "There's been so many opportunities and experiences that I never would have had a chance to do. It's a great organization to work for."
A dream come true
Of course, just like every football player who dreams of someday making it to the Super Bowl, those very same dreams of performing at the biggest football game of the season are also in the forefront of the mind of most NFL team cheerleaders.
"It was an absolutely amazing experience. It was my first season with the Patriots and it was our undefeated season," Angela said. "The most incredible and memorable part of being at the Super Bowl for me was just stepping onto the field for the game. I think the stadium held over 70,000 people -- and just seeing the crowd, we witnessed so much energy," she said. "Iit was crazy to be a part of it. To be a part of something so big."
"Also, hearing Jordan Sparks (from 'American Idol') sing the national anthem and just realizing that it's starting. All year, we hope to make it to the Super Bowl, and here it was happening for us."
Being a cheerleader at any game for your home team is a daunting task; however, according to Angela, being at the Super Bowl certainly kicks up the intensity of the moment.
"It's a bit nerve-racking at first, but once you get going after the kickoff and the game gets started, you just get very wrapped up in the experience because it's so exciting."
Focusing on the job
Tens of thousands of fans in the stands see the cheerleaders during the game, as well as the millions watching it worldwide. Angela says despite the huge audience for the biggest football spectacle of the year, the cheerleaders know they still have to focus on the job at hand.
"Our goal as cheerleaders at the games, particularly the Super Bowl, is to keep the fans motivated and keep the players motivated," Angela said. "We dance the whole time on the sidelines and we try to keep everyone excited and upbeat, especially if there's a bad play. We try to get the fans past something like that, stay motivated and keep cheering on the team."
While Angela and her fellow cheerleaders work hard consistently to be in top form for each game during the regular season, preparing for the Super Bowl requires a bit of extra effort from the squad.
"We prepare our routines all year, but for the Super Bowl, our training changes a bit to accommodate the fact that we aren't on our home field in Boston because, of course, we're not completely familiar with the different set-up," she noted. "Plus, there's so much media on the sidelines that we often have to weave in and out of, while performing. Overall, there's a lot of preparation that also includes our practicing the routines and conditioning to get ready."
A year-round effort
While the Super Bowl is a daunting challenge for all cheerleading teams, the Patriots cheerleaders' intensive work ethic is a year-round endeavor.
"There's a lot of hard work that goes into what we do. There's several practices throughout the week, and some of them are as long as six hours," Angela said. "We learn several different routines and we just go all year. Even though our season is now, unfortunately, ended ... we still meet and have practices to be ready for when the next season begins."
"I was thinking when I walked out onto the Super Bowl field that I couldn't believe I was actually there at that moment," Angela recalled. "I was just so lucky to have been a part of something that was so big, and especially for it to happen during my first season with the team. You always hope you'll get a chance to go to the Super Bowl -- and for me to go that year as a rookie was a wonderful experience."
Patriots cheerleaders at Super Bowl XLII
Working off the field, too
However, cheering from the sidelines during the game isn't the only aspect of the cheerleaders' involvement at the Super Bowl. Often the girls spend time meeting face to face with the fans and some other folks you might not expect, as ambassadors of their team during the build-up to the big game.
"The fans at the Super Bowl are just great. They are so supportive," Angela said, "I like to think that they are cheering for us as well. When we do get opportunities to meet with the fans during Super Bowl promotional events -- or any game -- they are always really friendly. It's a good opportunity to meet them and also meet some truly interesting people."
"We also did a few different promotions and appearances while we attended the Super Bowl. We visited the Phoenix Children's Hospital, and that was probably my favorite. A group of us went to the facility to say hello to the kids, hung out with them and played with them for a little while and it was really fun to see them," she said. "I think they really appreciated us coming to visit."
Depending on the teams present at the Super Bowl, it's possible the cheerleaders may face a bit of competition from a squad from the opposing team.
"Typically, when we play at home in Boston, it's just our group of cheerleaders on the field. With the home field advantage, we are always the only cheerleaders there," said Angela,"... but at the Super Bowl, it's different because there are two different teams, there are two different lines of cheerleaders for each of the teams playing facing one another on opposite sides of the field."
"Fortunately, for us at the Super Bowl I attended, we played the Giants and they don't have cheerleaders. There were a few collegiate cheerleaders and we did say hello to them and it was a lot of fun."
One of the benefits of being a cheerleader at the Super Bowl is that they're right there on the field where the action is.
"Anytime the ball is in play, we are facing the game -- so, I guess you could say we have some of the best seats in the house," Angela said.
"There's not anything that I would call challenging about being at the Super Bowl because it's overall such a positive experience. However, you do become emotionally involved and it was hard being at the first Patriots game that we lost after having an undefeated season up until the Super Bowl game. That part was disappointing for us as fans."
"It was actually 17-14 up until the final moments of the game and it wasn't until the very, very end that the game took a turn for the worse for us," Angela recalls, "but we still had a job to do. As the players came off the field, we still cheered loudly for them. We knew clearly they were upset because it was a very important game to them, but we still cheered for them as loud as we could as if they had won and let them know that out of 32 teams in the league, they had made it to the Super Bowl and had much to be proud of."
As this Sunday's game approaches, Angela and her fellow Super Bowl alumni will be watching the game knowing exactly what it's like to be truly part of the action, even though this year they'll be watching the game from home.
"It really was a huge bonding experience for us as a team and cheerleading squad to have been at the Super Bowl in years past ... so, to go through something like that was just wonderful," she said. "Not many cheerleaders get the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, and we are fortunate to be able to say that we have, and it's just an experience that we never will forget."