Here's a gem: "Glory!" It's a story written with great empathy and care by Jeanne Marie Laskas about the Ben-Gals cheerleaders:

The cheerleader is a fantasy. Let it go.

It. The cheerleader is an it. Are you aware that you have been thinking of this person as an it? Does that make you a pig? Nah. Or no more so than the next person, but that’s not even the point. This is about the cheerleader. She is not trying to get your attention so much as she knows she has it. God, you’re easy. You are not the real reason she has been up since five working on her hair, spraying on her tan, squishing her breasts together and forcing them upward into a double-mushroom formation with the assistance of all manner of wired undergarments. Of course, you play a role in it. Of course. When you catch a glimpse. For barely a second on the TV. There on the sideline. Right after some blitz resulting in a crushing sack. She’s there for you. Sharing your moment of glee. Bouncing up and down for you with her pom-poms, beckoning you to, yeah, pump-fake your way into her itty-bitty shorts.

Right. She knows you think this way, but there is more to the story: You are sorta beside the point. Oh, your weakness is precious.

This is good old-fashioned sex appeal. This is straight-up Marilyn Monroe pinup-girl shtick. Sexy-happy, happy-sexy. It’s family-values sex appeal. Other than that, it has nothing to do with you.

People assume a lot. People assume cheering in the NFL is mostly about a girl trying to snag herself a big, beefy, stinkin’ rich football player. That is not the case. The Ben-Gals are not even permitted to socialize with players, except at officially sanctioned appearances. This rule is strictly enforced. Zero tolerance. As for football itself, the game, the players, the stats, the formations—that stuff rarely rises to the level of actual conversation. For most of them, this whole thing has nothing to do with football.

Originally published in GQ in January, 2008, it is featured in The Best American Sports Writing 2008 (edited by Bill Nack). It is also a chapter in Laskas' fine book, Hidden America.

[Photo Via: Transientrandom]