So pro football winds down today with a Super Bowl that ends a season of 523 games in which 1,472 players competed and more than 28,000 points were scored.
That’s according to the NFL.
But among the busiest of participants down on the field?
It's got to be those NFL cheerleaders.
“It’s a lot of work, but the reward is even better," says Jessica Scharf.
First cheering as a sixth-grader for the Bloomington Knockers, then at Central Catholic High, then Illinois Wesleyan University, then for the Bloomington Extreme/Edge and Flex, Jessica is 27, living and working full-time in Seattle.
As you might have heard, she has a "part-time" job, too.
She is a Seattle SeaGal, the 28-member team that cheers for the NFL Seahawks, a team that, to Jessica's regret, missed the post-season this year for the first time in while.
But today, as you watch the Super Bowl and catch glimpses of those cheerleaders on the Super sidelines, keep in mind it's no easy ticket to get there.
They must meet strict weight, fitness and appearance criteria. That's to qualify for a tryout. In Seattle this season, nearly 5,000 women applied to be one of the 28.
There then are several levels to a tryout — gymnastic abilities, presentation, personality.
Then, once chosen, as Jessica explains it, “We practice multiple times every week and have lots of `practices outside of practices.’ We do a lot within the community, from charity events, appearances, promotions, parades, calendar signings, our own charity auction. Game day begins four to five hours before kickoff.
"Through it all, we also strive to maintain a healthy, fit lifestyle. I work out once a day," says Jessica, "and I eat lots of vegetables.”
One other NFL statistic — the average player in 2017-18 made $1.95 million, with "minimum wage" in the NFL being $465,000 a year.
Those NFL cheerleaders?
You'd say it's more out of a love, a devotion, an honor and the thrill.
In Seattle as an example, the NFL lists the SeaGal pay scale as $10 an hour, plus OT.
Skating, skiing, curling … and Normal hops
The Winter Games of 2018 open Friday and there's a good chance competitors in South Korea will have already tried a McLean County product.
Destihl beer, the former "local" B-N brew?
It's now in South Korea — from Normal, that's a 6,556-mile plane ride — where Destihl became available this month, its first global outreach, just in time for the rest of the world to try it.
"We were pretty excited about that shipment going out," says Jason Bratcher, one of the Destihl founders and its chief operating officer. "I’ve already had some military friends reach out and say they’re excited because they are headed to South Korea this spring. A little taste of home when overseas is always a good thing. And of course, we’re hoping those at the Olympics might pick up some of our Normal beer, too."
A new grocery option?
As we age, ever notice that as the brain fills up, what can come out of the mouth is a mish-mash of all that accrued knowledge?
For instance, there are Creamettes, the elbow noodles, and there is Coffee-Mate, for your coffee. And the other day, Gerry Taylor — he's owner of Solid Gold Jewelers in B-N — and wife, Debbie, were entering the HyVee in Bloomington.
That's when Debbie announced, "We need some Cremate.”
We what? asked Gerry.
"Through my tears of laughter," he says, "she caught on after I said, `You mean Coffee-Mate!' That (other option) would have definitely warmed up my coffee ..."
Cheek to Cheeks …
If last Tuesday night, you saw 63-year-old Al Bates at Cheeks, the pub in Towanda Plaza, perhaps he was observing a 50th anniversary.
Back on Jan. 30, 1968, he slammed his head near there.
Today a well-known Bloomington financial adviser, back in 1968 — a different time and era in a Bloomington that then was a town of only 36,000 — Bates made the BIG time.
There, on Page 2 of this newspaper, beside an ad for used cars in that included a 1961 Plymouth for $79.95 and a 1960 Buick Sabre for $69.50, was: “Fall From Car Hurts Boy, 13.”
Read the story: “Allen Bates, 13, hit his head in a fall from the back bumper of a moving auto that he and another youth had mounted at 9:33 p.m. Tuesday in the Towanda Plaza parking lot. The boy was treated at Mennonite Hospital.”
Dutifully, reports Bates 50 years later, at the spot that today is the entrance to Cheeks: “I fell off a van we were pushing that was stuck in snow there. I smacked my head pretty good.”
Ah, those falls, pratfalls and serendipitous life moments that make for long memories. Just think — if Al had hit his cheeks in the snow, instead of his head next to Cheeks, he'd probably not be making the paper today either.