I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that as cheerleaders, our target audience is the beer-drinking manly man. This is largely true, but I failed to realize the importance of the 12-year-old-and-under demographic.
Among many other parallels, both young children and grown men share a knack for doing strange things to get the attention of women. In this case, to get the attention of cheerleaders.
While the stands at Ivor Wynne Stadium are a mix of young and old, the promotional events are often geared towards kids. On my road to completing the required 15 'promos' — as outlined in my copy of Hamilton Tiger-Cats Cheerleaders: Rules, Guidelines and Expectations — I have visited a variety of locations.
From the Ancaster Heritage Day parade where Christine and I got lost and ended up running through the crowd to make it to our spot just as the parade began, to the Canada versus Lebanon basketball game where we had to decline performing a half-time show as our routines are for 20 girls and not five, I've attended many community gatherings.
But no promo to date has left an impression quite like the Catholic elementary school outing.
Due to paranoia about my shockingly bad sense of direction, I arrived at the school half an hour early. I parked in the front lot, and immediately someone blocked me in from behind. It didn't bode well for the hurried exit I would later make.
Having no idea what the event was, I followed a set of parents and their children around to the back of the school. A barbeque, an inflatable bounce house, and even a dunk tank were set up in the schoolyard.
Those Catholics are serious about their fun fairs.
I saw the Ticats tent and headed over. Joe and Ryan "from head office" were there setting up merchandise. Stripes the mascot was getting suited up, and my cheermate, Laura, soon arrived. We decided to walk around and talk to the kids. And then it happened.
What I thought happened:
I was so busy smiling and waving to people that I didn't notice a slushie on the ground. Knocking it over with my foot quickly brought it to my attention. I bent down, picked it up and started asking nearby parents if the drink belonged to them. They smiled and shook their heads no. I shrugged, walked over to the garbage and threw it out.
What actually happened:
Some little brat threw a slushie at me. He missed, barely brushing my right foot.
I learned this important detail when Laura turned to me, pointed to a group of teenagers, and said, "I think those kids threw that at you."
But it was "I think" the way my friends say "I think that shirt might be a little too tight" when I try on an extra small because it's the last size. As in: You look like Britney Spears post-meltdown. Take that off immediately. So I soon realized that Laura meant: I don't want to hurt your feelings, but there's no question that those kids launched that slushie at you. Thank God they missed or you'd look ridiculous for the rest of the promo.
As I wondered how many of the parents had been laughing at me as I foolishly asked if the slushie-grenade belonged to them, I tried to come to grips with my new status as Cheerleader/Intended Target. I went to the Ticat tent to complain.
Ryan and Joe tried to make me feel better by saying that's what boys do when they like a girl. And I must admit, I've suffered severe water-balloon injuries and been thrown into more than one pool by guys a lot older than 12, but usually their attacks were playfully provoked.
Turns out I wasn't the only one who had a hard time with the students, though.
Stripes ended up disrobing prematurely. Apparently the onslaught of kids punching him, grabbing his giant tiger head and pulling on his tail eventually became too much to bear. After the umpteenth time a 10-year-old boy demanded that he "roar" — despite the well-known fact that mascots don't speak — Stripes was ready to go home. I can only imagine the personal strength it must have taken to stay quiet and dance happily throughout the midget mob in the schoolyard.
I got off easy with the slushie. And even better: by the time I returned to my car, there was a clear route to the road. I had escaped my fate as Intended Target and was back to being a cheerleader.