Friday, July 23, 2010

Cheerleading follows Pine-Baiting into the Dustbin

I have just got off the phone from my dear friend Judge Stefan Underhill who has recently delivered his opinion in the United States District Court, District of Connecticut matter Stephanie Biediger, Kayla Lawler, Erin Overdevest, Kristen Corinaldesi, and Logan Riker, individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated, and Robin Lamott Sparks, individually v. Quinnipiac University No. 3:09cv621 (SRU)*. I have given Stefan a ferocious haranguing but he is steadfastly refusing to change his manifestly flawed determination that Cheerleading is not a sport*.

In his opinion, Stefan said "Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX.......Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students."

This criticism could equally be levelled against Ultimate Frisbee, Kabaddi or Australian Rules Football and is the type of short-sightedness that led to my preferred sport of pine-baiting being outlawed in Australia.

Pine-baiting became popular in New South Wales in the late 1830’s as a result of the difficulties for bear-baiting enthusiasts posed by Australia’s overwhelming lack of bears. Early European settlers experimented with baiting alternatives such as recidivist convicts and emus before realising that both Norfolk Island Pine and the rare Wollemi Pine provided wonderful sport.

Australia's most celebrated Pine-Baiter of the 1930s Norman "Splinters" Royan shows off his skills.

Pine-baiting was Australia’s most popular sport for the next 100 years until some meddling lefties in London challenged the validity of the practice in the UK High Court of Justice. Unfortunately, in the now infamous High Trees decision, Lord Denning put an end to Pine Baiting for many of the same reasons Judge Underhill has relied upon to derogate the gentle art of cheerleading. The one positive from this sorry episode was that in obiter in High Trees, Lord Denning accidentally invented the doctrine of Promissory Estoppel. Only time will tell if Judge Underhill’s decision in Volleyball v Cheerleading will have a similar impact on the future development of contract law.

*** Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd [1947] KB 130

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