OK, fine. I guess they are athletes | SummitDaily.com

OK, fine. I guess they are athletes

Forgive me if this comes to you as blunt, but until Saturday night I had always thought of cheerleaders as I do chess players: talented and passionate about their nice little hobby, but not even close to being athletes.

Then I watched the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball championship at the Pepsi Center, and decided once and for all my stance needed tweaking.

The game itself was enough to entertain ” in a classic underdog-meets-favorite title tilt, top-seeded San Diego State held off the feisty No. 7-seeded Wyoming Cowboys in overtime to claim the conference’s automatic NCAA berth.

Then there were the cheerleaders. Forget about the skimpy outfits, the plastic smiles and the silly little pom poms. These girls could do some crazy things. Backflips on cue. Too many backward handsprings to count, taking them from one end of the court to the other. All without a wobble or a blemish, and all in front of people who gave them little due in return.

There was, and still is, little doubt in my mind that good cheerleaders (the acrobatic ones) have some degree of gymnastics background ” just like ice dancers have a figure skating background. Without that, the “athlete” distinction would still be a stretch, as it remains for those who only wave the pom pom and yell. …

Funny how it works in college hoops. Some conferences hold their championship tournaments at a neutral site, and some don’t. Been that way forever. And so the question begs: What ever happened to fair? How on earth was it fair for Loyola Marymount, already with a losing record, trying to upset top-seeded Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament final … on the Bulldogs’ home court? Answer: It wasn’t.

There is no clear solution to this problem. For the major conferences ” almost all of which decide their tournament champions at a big-city arena that is a neutral site ” not as much rides on a conference final, at least not traditionally. Typically, whichever schools are playing in a major conference’s championship game are headed to the Big Dance regardless of how they fare that night.

In the smaller conferences, however, it’s difficult to secure big-city arenas for their conference tournaments, yet winning the postseason tournament might be a small school’s only shot at cracking the NCAA bracket. That’s why it’s a shame to see an entertaining upset bid be derailed by logistics. …

Does anyone else feel like the office basketball pool is an opportunity for the know-littles to get rich? Or is it the sports gods’ ultimate tool to remind the perceived know-it-alls that they have everything backward in the first place? …

In parting, if you haven’t followed the World Baseball Classic up to now, you’re missing out on some true international drama. Baseball is officially America’s Pastime (we invented it), but unofficially it is also the pastime for so many other nations. This tournament ” in which the U.S. has already lost to Canada and South Korea ” is exposing the global power of baseball, and the incessant following that makes it so.

Merengue, anyone?

Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at doneil@summitdaily.com.

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