GOTTA Do It
Celebrating the Bay Area’s Under-appreciated Jobs
By Jimmy Christopher
Catch “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” hosted by
Mike Rowe on Evening Magazine,
Wednesdays at 7pm on KPIX Channel 5.
Employee: Krazy George Henderson
Official Title: Professional Cheerleader
Unofficial Title: Voicebox of the Masses
Employer: Pro/Minor League Teams
Salary: $500 plus expenses
WHAT YOU GOTTA KNOW
While he may not be a leggy, 36-24-36 platinum blonde rah-rah, named Angel,
Krazy George Henderson has a leg up on the girls of the gridiron. While most
his age are pushing a modest retirement life in Florida, George holds the world
record for the longest tenure as a professional cheerleader. Thirty-four years
to be exact!
Throw out the pom-poms and the pretty looks and make room for his pounding drum,
a booming set of vocal cords and the messiest coif of curly locks. These trademarks
have made Krazy George the most sought after staple in all of professional sports,
from the NFL and the NHL, to Major League Soccer and baseball.
Whether theres 1,000 or 50,000 fans packed in the seats, no one
can rile them up like I can, claims Krazy George.
IN THE BEGINNING
The Bay Area native was working as a shop teacher in Oakland during the 70s.
Needless to say, it was not Georges dream job. Most of the poor
kids I taught are in jail, George jokes.
And then, someone handed him a drum. I was also given a bugle, but I couldnt
play a bugle. I started hitting the drum at high school games and people started
following me. Pretty soon the cheerleaders asked me to go out and be a cheerleader,
but I couldnt do those silly routines. I started banging the drum and
yelling at the top of my lungs to get the crowd going and it just took off.
Soon, Krazy George caught the attention of local soccer teams and the Oakland
Seals, a minor league hockey organization, and he began working on the side.
The snowball started building and by 1975, the British Columbia Lions and the
San Jose Earthquakes paid him enough to quit teaching and make cheerleading
his full time job. And soon, pay dirt.
The Kansas City Chiefs hired me to do some games. Their owner, Lamar Hunt,
the first time I ever did a game, picks me up in his limo. Heres a guy
with eight million bucks and hes like my chaffeur. He takes me to the
game and Im sitting there and he asks me if I want anything to eat. I
said yeah and he went and got it for me, so I had an eight million dollar butler
and chauffeur and then I knew I was in the big time. I worked for them for four
THE BIDDING WAR
The Chiefs were playing the Houston Oilers and Oilers owner Bud Adams
comes up to me and in his southern drawl says, Son, I want to hire you.
I cant. I work for the Chiefs, I told him. He said he would
pay me more and I said I couldnt do that. He started with $500 and then
six, then seven, then eight and I said, sorry. So, he finally calls up his general
manager and they start bidding against each other. One says $800, the other
says $900 and then $1,000. So I said okay. Unbelievable. I worked for them for
eight years. Then it was off to the Minnesota Vikings for four years and
during the spring, it was the Oakland As.
TURNING ON THE SWITCH
Im a shy guy, but when I walk through that tunnel and I hear a packed
stadium, I get crazy. You give me a sell-out and I gotem. I get paid to
have fun. I can get three corner cheers, four corner cheers, back and forth
cheers, people on one side yelling, Go and the people on the other
side yelling, Oilers. Its nuts.
But the most popular cheer in all of sports history, the very cheer Krazy George
honed in front of small crowds for over a decade, finally occurred in front
of a national audience.
OCTOBER 15, 1981
Thats the day I started the wave. Yes, thats right,
THE WAVE is not just the name of your beloved magazine, ladies and gentlemen.
It started at the Oakland As and New York Yankees Playoff game,
in front of National TV. I started with three sections and it went about five
or six sections down. I did it again and it went 11 and then all the way around.
It was insane.
Joe Garigiola was up in the broadcast booth yelling at his cameramen to
get that thing. Of course, no one knew what it was. The cameramen were always
a section behind.
You try to do something good in this world and its guaranteed that somebody
will rain on your parade. Rob Weller, the old host from Entertainment Tonight,
claims he invented THE WAVE while serving as a cheerleader at the University
Lies, lies, lies. I have mine on videotape. They started it on October
30th, 15 days later. It doesnt take a rocket scientist to look at a calendar
and see that October 15 comes before October 30. Even Howard Cosell was doing
a game once and got into a discussion about THE WAVE. His partner said it was
the University of Washington and Cosell says, I beg to differ. After
all, whos going to argue with the legend?
[EDITORS NOTE: To this day, the University of Washington boasts responsibility
for creating THE WAVE on their website
and refuses to answer questions on
THE GREATEST JOB
I only work two days a week and get paid to have fun, says George,
who travels the country and prefers to do smaller minor league games, all expenses
paid. Locally, you can find Krazy George cheering for the San Francisco Giants
minor league brothers in San Jose.
The games were tough on me then; theyre really tough on me now.
The big crowds in the NFL are already too rowdy. I prefer the small stuff.
And if Barry Bonds can have one, so can George. Of course, were referring
to a bobblehead doll that symbol of modern day acceptance, the trinket
that proves youve made it in the world. Its a beauty, look
at how cute it is. My bobblehead can beat up Barrys bobblehead any day.