Getting to the bottom of a sports mystery
There have been many notable instances in which the blogosphere, for lack of a better word, has harnessed the collective power of the Web to shine a sleuthing spotlight onto an uncovered story or underserved cause and the resulting ray of light has served to enhance the public discourse and enrich the culture in tangible and intangible ways.
Sadly, this is not one of those cases.
The story that has gripped the sports blogosphere the past few days could not have been more trivial, juvenile, puerile and any other word from the official rhyming dictionary of attorney Jackie Chiles.
But, it has been hilarious to follow.
For those who missed it, the fun began during the telecast of the annual Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day. In the first half of a game in which USC eventually routed Michigan, the TV cameras did a quick pan of the USC Song Girls, probably the most famous cheerleaders in college athletics.
Cheerleader shots are about as common during football games as beer commericals. "They actually do help set the scene and capture some of the pageantry of the event," said a Milwaukee sports broadcasting insider who, for reasons that will become obvious, asked to remain nameless.
While common, the cheerleader shots seldom cause an Internet feeding frenzy. This one did. As the Song Girls performed a quick turn, the miniskirts they wear under their trademark white turtleneck sweaters poofed up slightly, as cheerleader's skirts have tended to do for decades, and revealed a bit of cheek.
Ten years ago, the scene would barely have been noticed. In this age of high-definition TVs and Tivo-type recording devices, it was rewound, reviewed like the Zapruder film of the Kennedy motorcade.
Within an hour, the first screen captures and video snippets popped up on sports blogs with clever headings like "Guess what the USC Cheerleader forgot to wear?"
Now, the idea that a major college cheerleader performing in front of 100,000 people in a stadium and a worldwide TV audience would forget to put on undergarments is a bit of a stretch. But, the grainy, early generation analog footage seemed to show that the Song Girl in question was wearing panties from the Britney Spears Collection.
The USC fans on the web shook their heads. The Michigan fans chuckled. The perverts, well, let's not think about what they did.
In time, clearer images popped onto the Web and the fantasy of the semi-naked cheerleader quickly dissolved. Rather than nudity, the remote control renegades had uncovered a classic case of a "wedgie," a malady that is as much a part of cheerleading's history as saddle shoes and megaphones.
In some locales, the underwear-up-the-butt status also is referred to as a "creeper." You'll have to check your local listings on that one. Speaking of local listings, we contacted Fox 6 sports reporter Jen Lada -- a former Marquette cheerleader -- to get her reaction to the controversy.
"I found the picture to be hilarious and the ensuing 'investigation' also comical," Lada said in an e-mail. "But, did anyone think maybe it's better not to see her face? I mean, right now it's just a nice butt shot... knowing the actually identity could ruin any fantasy if she isn't as attractive as folks are hoping.
"I will say this -- no matter how hectic a basketball game at Marquette, I always managed to remember my skivvies/undergarments/spankies/bloomers. And though we were never in a Bowl game, those old MU-CINCY bouts could get pretty crazy.
"Maybe the USC girl saw how much attention Britney Spears was getting for going commando recently and was hoping to draw a little her way. That, or she's suffering from hot flashes ... I hear you'll do almost anything to 'catch a breeze' when those roll around."
Given the Web's tendency for excess, the story did not end once the mystery of the undergarment was revealed. Astute viewers from sites like Deadspin.com and boifromtroy.com tried to discern the identity of the Song Girl whose posterior became part of posterity.
Cross-referencing the video with pictures from the official Song Girl Web site, the sleuths determined that it was Alli... or Allison ... (Song Girls last names are kept secret to avoid stalkers). Wait ... No ... It's MEGAN! Yeah, that's the ticket ... Megan.
The mystery is solved. All that is left are the memories and a question: What will the Song Girls do for an encore? Last year, when the Trojans were losing a classic game to Texas in the National Championship game, one of the Song Girls was captured raising her arms and cheering when opposing quarterback Vince Young scored a touchdown for the Longhorns.
The sleuths determined that the Song Girl with bad timing was named Natalie, and SI.com -- which devotes a portion of the college content on its site to cheerleaders -- interviewed her in the runup to the Rose Bowl.
"I am over it," She said of her gaffe. "Hey, it was good media coverage. I was asked to be on Jay Leno, I was asked to do a spread for Maxim (She declined both offers). It's funny -- I've been going to 'SC games since I was four; I've dated a football player (linebacker Dallas Sartz). So, I know more football than most people."
Perhaps. But, most people know how to cover their assets and avoid embarrassing situations on TV.
"You could do that (freeze frame) with just about anything," our TV friend said. "You could do it with any tennis player or figure skater or just about any female athlete."
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