While the Hamilton Tiger-Cat club covers most expenses for the cheerleaders, we are required to raise money by selling 30 posters of the team.
And much to the dismay of many fans who amble over when I scream "POSTERS, FIVE DOLLARS" at the games, when I say 'team' I mean cheerleading team. The shorter, blonder team.
The posters are the result of a photo shoot back in July at Ivor Wynne stadium. I remember coach Lesley was excited because the group picture was going to be taken in the guys' locker room, a location she had been coveting for the last few years.
I arrived to find that the weight training area had been converted into a temporary dressing room. I laughed at the juxtaposition of makeup bags, curling irons and hairspray cans with the benches and barbells throughout the room. What would the players have said?
After much preparation, we lined up outside to have our headshots taken on the field. Lesley walked down the line scrutinizing our appearance.
"Erika, I don't think you have enough eye-liner on," she said.
"I've never worn this much makeup in my life," I replied. Lesley laughed and nudged me back towards the weight room.
Next were the full body single shots. Lesley had carefully planned who would pose with poms, with a helmet or a football; standing, kneeling, or lying down. The cheerleader posing possibilities are endless. And I'm told our page on the Tiger-Cat website gets more than its fair share of hits.
Of course, virtually every girl who went before the photographer asked the rest of the team if her fat rolls were showing.
"You sound like such girls," said Brooks, the photographer.
It saddens me that hearing some of the most physically fit people I've ever seen doubt their appearance was what characterized us as female in Brooks' mind. But I'd be lying if I denied asking about my back flab. The camera can be unforgiving, you know.
Next came the group photograph. I found this one painful for two reasons.
One: I was on my knees for a full 30 minutes. This may not seem like a long time, but I dare you to try it with a convincing grin and flexed stomach. When I got up to walk afterward, I felt like straightening my legs would crack the bones in half.
Two: Lesley made us try a few photos with what she described as 'sassy' faces.
"Think of it like your eyes are burning through the camera," she said, demonstrating the expression she was hoping we'd replicate.
Unfortunately, my sassy face looks more like Sarah Palin's narrowed eyes and pursed lips when asked about the Bush doctrine.
And I feared that I, too, would fail to pull off a look that was confident and professional.
My fears were confirmed when I later showed Christine my expression. She burst into laughter and asked if I'd show the rest of the team. I would not.
Luckily, Lesley didn't use those particular shots in the mass printing that must have occurred to provide each of us with posters to sell. There's even a prize for whoever sells the most.
For me, selling 30 is daunting enough.
"Hey mom, how would you and dad like to buy my cheerleading posters?"
"We'll buy one," she said.
"How about one for every room in the house?" I asked. She didn't even humour me with a laugh.
My faithful friend Ally also bought one. I handed it to her, and heard a door slide open as she took it into her room.
"Did you just throw that in the closet?" I said.
"Well…where do you expect me to put it?" she laughed. "I'll put it in my personal box and show it to our kids one day."
Perhaps more embarrassing than having my best friend hand over $5 for something she'd likely leave in her closet for the rest of eternity was my friend Sahra's tactic for "helping" my sales record.
Sahra and I went for a drink one night with Ally and some friends of her co-workers. Never having met the guys before, I introduced myself. Of course that's Ally's cue to tell them I'm a Ticat cheerleader. But this time, Sahra joined in on the fun.
"Would you like to buy a poster? They're only $5 and she'll sign it for you right here," she said.
To my amazement, all four people at the table nodded and said they would each take one. Sahra shot me an 'I-told-you-so' glare and Ally's eyes widened as she nodded her approval.
Unfortunately, I had left the posters at home. But I thanked the guys for their enthusiasm, and learned a valuable lesson.
When selling cheerleading posters, carry them with you at all times. And target people who have already had a couple of beers.