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The Great Escape
Somebody’s 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 there’s 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 George’s 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 couldn’t 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 couldn’t 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. Here’s a guy with eight million bucks and he’s like my chaffeur. He takes me to the game and I’m 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 years.”

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 can’t. I work for the Chiefs,’ I told him. He said he would pay me more and I said I couldn’t 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 A’s.

TURNING ON THE SWITCH
“I’m 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 got’em. 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.’ It’s 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
“That’s the day I started the wave.” Yes, that’s right, THE WAVE is not just the name of your beloved magazine, ladies and gentlemen.

“It started at the Oakland A’s 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.”

THE CONTENTION
You try to do something good in this world and it’s 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 of Washington.

“Lies, lies, lies. I have mine on videotape. They started it on October 30th, 15 days later. It doesn’t 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, who’s going to argue with the legend?”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: To this day, the University of Washington boasts responsibility for creating THE WAVE on their website and refuses to answer questions on the matter.]

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; they’re 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, we’re referring to a bobblehead doll – that symbol of modern day acceptance, the trinket that proves you’ve made it in the world. “It’s a beauty, look at how cute it is. My bobblehead can beat up Barry’s bobblehead any day.”



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