Cheering For the Enemy
the inside story of how a Packer backer ended up rah-rahing for the Vikings
Usually in life, we don’t face a dichotomy of personal preference and career choice. For most of us, it is a matter of what is fun versus what gets us a paycheck. Imagine a different example: you support the Packers, but you have an opportunity for employment with their arch-rivals … and you have to literally root for that team.
Jocelyn Marlowe proved you can cheer for the Vikings while truly cheering for the Packers.
While Marlowe is a native and current resident of the Twin Cities, she grew up as a Packers fan. She was also involved in dance – with an NFL-related influence. “I think the idea of becoming an NFL cheerleader was first put into my head when my dance teacher, Molly, tried out for the MVC (Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders) in the early 2000s,” she said. “I loved Molly. I thought she was so cool, and I thought it was even more cool when I would see her on TV or on the sidelines during Vikings games.”
Following college at Penn State, Marlowe moved to Eau Claire, and once again was close to an NFL franchise. In April 2013, despite being away from organized dance since high school, she decided to take a shot at being a Vikings cheerleader. A little encouragement from her sister helped: Her sister said “that if I wanted to do it, I should absolutely try out – the worst that was going to happen was that they would say ‘no,’ but I would always be able to say I tried, which she said was cool in and of itself. So I decided that I was going to do it, and I was terrified!”
Auditions took place at Vikings headquarters, where she learned dances performed in front of judges, all the while not knowing whether her fandom could give her the boot. She stayed quiet, though the secret almost got out. “I will never forget standing in line to perform with my small group at open auditions, and I was chatting with some of the women around me. I mentioned I came from Eau Claire to audition and that’s where I was living at the time. One of the ladies around me got really quiet and goes, ‘You’re not a Packers fan are you?’ She was a veteran on the team, and she said it didn’t matter if I was or wasn’t, but it made me nervous so I said no. And she replied, ‘OK, whew!’ After that, I went home and deleted all of the pictures of me in Packers garb from my Facebook account!”
Marlowe made the MVC Training Program – essentially the Vikings’ junior varsity cheerleader team – and bonded with a fellow clandestine Packer backer. “To this day, we will still text each other with plans of how to pitch a professional cheerleading team to the Packers organization and the cute parkas we would get for subzero game day performances.” Ultimately, she made the field for one game, versus Carolina in 2013, and never found herself having to actively root against the Packers on game day. After getting as far as MVC Training Camp the following year, she moved on from cheerleading.
Despite being pro-Packer, Marlowe separated her personal athletic preference from the job at hand. “I never really considered myself cheering for the Vikings (even though that is basically the summary of the job),” she noted. “The ability to dance at a professional level was more important to me than cheering for the arch-rival. And I saw it more as a performance anyway, just as I would any dance I was a part of.”
Her time with the franchise also gave insight into the institutional Vikings perspective on the Border Battle. “It often felt like the Vikings organization celebrated Packers losses almost as much as they did Vikings wins. A lot of Minnesota fans loathe the Packers.”
Being ridiculed throughout her life by Vikings fans has led her to “not openly cheer against any team.” As Marlowe says, “At the end of the day, it’s just a game. And at the end of the day, I’d rather be a good sport than a sore loser.” And, who knows: perhaps one day she will see her dream materialize: official Packers cheerleaders leading a Lambeau charge of “Go Pack Go!”
Q&A Jocelyn Marlowe
Volume One columnist Luc Anthony chatted with former Packer fan (and former Eau Claire resident) Jocelyn Marlowe on her experience trying out for the Minnesota Viking Cheerleaders. Here’s a complete Q&A.
Luc Hoffland: Why did you want to be an NFL cheerleader?
Jocelyn Marlowe: I have been dancing since I was 4 years old. I think the idea of becoming an NFL cheerleader was first put into my head when my dance teacher, Molly, tried out for the MVC (Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders) in the early 2000s. I loved Molly. I thought she was so cool, and I thought it was even more cool when I would see her on TV or on the sidelines during Vikings games. Once I finished high school and was no longer on my high school dance team, I started thinking of ways to continue my dance career. I briefly thought maybe it would be something I could do when I was in college, but considering Penn State was three hours from both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (and the Steelers don’t have cheerleaders), I quickly let go of that idea. It wasn’t until I moved to Eau Claire in 2012 and was the closest I had been in a long time to an NFL team that the thought began to fester again. It was the next spring, April 2013, that I tried out for the MVC. At that point, I hadn’t danced with a team/studio/group since 2007 when I graduated high school, and it was so fun to be back in that world!
How did you learn about the opportunity to be a cheerleader for the Vikings? Did being a Packers fan make you hesitate to tryout for their rival?
The first year I tried out for the team was in 2013. At the time I was living in Eau Claire, but I grew up in the Twin Cities. Growing up in the dance world, I knew several people who were Vikings cheerleaders. The first was my studio dance teacher in middle school, Molly, and the other was a girl from my high school dance team, Brianna. After cheering for several years, Brianna actually became an assistant coach for the MVC. It was through her posts on Facebook that I knew tryouts were coming up and made me consider trying out.
I jokingly texted my sister, Brenna, saying I was going to try out – I always thought it looked like an amazing experience, but I didn’t think I was “pretty” or “fit” or good enough in general to be on the team. She texted back saying that if I wanted to do it, I should absolutely try out – the worst that was going to happen was that they would say no, but I would always be able to say I tried, which she said was cool in and of itself. So I decided that I was going to do it, and I was terrified! I went out and bought black Nike Pros, nude tights, a purple sports bra, and bronzer. The website where I was getting try-out information said it is a good idea to get a spray tan, so I went and got a light spray tan, which considering I am red-haired and fair-skinned basically made me look a little less pale, and thought I was set. I definitely looked out of place that first year trying out as everyone else had on beautiful sequined costumes, and had great tans, and red lipstick. But I must’ve made a decent-enough impression as I was selected for the Training Program! And I came a little more prepared the following year.
What does the tryout process entail?
There are two main parts to the tryout process. The first part is open auditions. This is where anyone can come to fight for a spot on the team. It takes place over the course of a day at the Vikings practice facility, Winter Park. You come in full hair and makeup, and wear some sort of cheerleading ensemble in Vikings colors – if you’ve seen the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team show, you have an image of what I’m talking about. You are given a number, and you begin to learn a dance. After learning the dance and lining up in numerical order, you perform in groups of four in front of a panel of judges. After everyone has performed, you begin to learn the dance for the next round while the judges deliberate. Once the judges have made their decisions, you find out if you advance to the second round. If your number is not called, you must leave the premises. That pattern continues through several rounds until they have identified about 50 women they are asking to come to Training Camp.
Training Camp takes place over the course of about two weeks. During this time, you have a formal interview, you get headshots taken, get measured for uniforms, perfect four dances, and prepare for two more rounds of judged performances. The first performance is the pageant. The pageant consists of a black dress round with an interview question, a swimsuit round, and more dancing. At the end of the night, a top 10 is announced, and these are the women who will compete for a spot on the cover of the following year’s calendar. The second performance is finals. This is where we put on our cheerleading ensemble again and perform the dances we have been practicing in groups of four in front of an audience and panel of judges. This takes place at the rotunda at the Mall of America and is open to the public. The next day, the women who make the team receive phone calls from the coaches inviting them to their first celebratory practice at Winter Park.
This whole process takes place in the month of April. Practices for the MVC begin immediately following the selection of the team, and they continue until the end of the Vikings season.
You were a Packers fan auditioning to be a cheerleader for their arch-rival -- was this going to be a problem in landing the job? How much did you keep your fandom a secret from the organization?
I honestly wasn’t sure going in how this would affect me. So to be on the safe side, I didn’t say anything. I will never forget standing in line to perform with my small group at open auditions, and I was chatting with some of the women around me. I mentioned I came from Eau Claire to audition and that’s where I was living at the time. One of the ladies around me got really quiet and goes, “You’re not a Packers fan are you?” She was a veteran on the team, and she said it didn’t matter if I was or wasn’t, but it made me nervous so I said no. And she replied, “OK, whew!” After that, I went home and deleted all of the pictures of me in Packers garb from my Facebook account!
Did anyone find out that you were a Packers fan?
I tried not to mention that I was a diehard Packers fan to anyone. However, I remember at one of my practices, my best friend on the team, Christina, told me that she was actually a Packers fan, too. We instantly bonded over our secret love of the Packers. To this day, we will still text each other with plans of how to pitch a professional cheerleading team to the Packers organization and the cute parkas we would get for subzero game day performances (haha).
Describe the game day experience -- what are aspects of the job that the average fan would not know about NFL cheerleading?
I think the biggest thing people don’t know is how much work goes into a game day experience. The MVC begin practice in May, when the first pre-season game won’t even happen until August. I think the personal training aspect was the biggest shock to me. In my previous dance experience, practice consisted of dance. You gained endurance, strength, flexibility, etc., through dance. But with the MVC and Training Program, we had personal trainers come in to help with our fitness. There was a lot of running (which I hate), and various drills they would put us through. A lot of my team members would also go to additional personal training sessions outside of practice. The level of fitness these women have is amazing. And it’s understandable considering they are moving non-stop from before a game even starts until after it ends. You need to have good conditioning to be able to withstand that.
Presuming you were on the field during a Packers game, what was the experience of cheering on the Vikings while being a fan of the Packers in that same game?
I was never on the field during a Vikings/Packers game. The only game I actually performed on the field was against the Carolina Panthers in 2013. This was when the Vikings were still playing at the Metrodome. Although I would’ve loved to be on the field more, I will honestly admit that the thought of having to cheer for the Vikings during the Packers game was a hard concept to grasp. But while I was with the Vikings organization, I never really considered myself cheering for the Vikings (even though that is basically the summary of the job). Rather, I saw it is a dance opportunity and a way to expand my hobby to a professional level. The Packers don’t have professional cheerleaders, but the Vikings do. The ability to dance at a professional level was more important to me than cheering for the arch-rival. And I saw it more as a performance anyway, just as I would any dance I was a part of. Just because I was dancing and cheering on the sideline didn’t mean I was betraying my Pack – it was just the performance I was a part of for that day. Even though I wore purple and gold didn’t mean I wasn’t internally screaming for the Packers to annihilate the Vikings!
How long were you a cheerleader for the Vikings?
To clarify, I was actually a member of the MVC Training Program. This means I wasn’t officially a Vikings cheerleader, but I was – for lack of a better term – on their JV squad. I was on a team that practiced weekly to prepare us to hopefully make the team the following year. Now, the members of the Training Program have the opportunity to step in to game day performances if a member of the MVC can’t be there, but it was solely a practice squad when I was a member.
I tried out two years – in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, I made it through the second round (out of four) at open auditions, and was selected to be a member of the Training Program. After spending the year on TP, I tried out again in 2014 and made it to Training Camp, which was such an unforgettable experience. It was so fun to be a part of the pageant, and final show, and to get to try on the infamous “Helga” uniform. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be good enough to make it to Training Camp, so the whole experience was like a dream. I did not get “the call” after that experience, and opted not to try out again in 2015. However, it was so fun to see so many of my teammates go on to be on the MVC. (For the record, Christina and I were both on TP in 2013 after our first year auditioning, but she decided not to try out again in 2014. Therefore, my fellow Packers lover never had to hide her love for the rival team when Green Bay came to town either!)
Did you gain any new insight into the rivalry from that position in the Vikings organization and experiencing game day from your vantage point?
It often felt like the Vikings organization celebrated Packers losses almost as much as they did Vikings wins. A lot of Minnesota fans loathe the Packers.
Growing up in the Twin Cities, I got teased mercilessly for being a Packers fan. Starting in middle school, my dad and his friend would bring me every year to the Vikings/Packers game at the Metrodome. I remember the first year my dad brought me, he wouldn’t let me wear Packers colors because he was nervous about how the fans would treat me. Because of the teasing and bullying I experienced as a kid – and still do to this day – I do not openly cheer against any team. I think the teasing from my childhood is forever ingrained in me, and I try really hard to not let other people feel bad for liking a certain team. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. And at the end of the day, I’d rather be a good sport than a sore loser. I can appreciate a good game/play/athlete no matter what team they play for, but I obviously hope the Packers win the Super Bowl every year!