When the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers faced off at Super Bowl XLV, an estimated 11 million U.S. television viewers tuned into the 2011 game. Despite those numbers, something was missing – cheerleaders.
Of the 32 teams in the NFL, six don't have squads, and Super Bowl XLV happened to feature two of them. The 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants also doesn't have a cheerleading squad, but the team they beat, the New England Patriots, does, providing a morale boost from the sideline.
CNBC.com listed the best cheerleading squads in 2011 and 2012. The 2013 rankings have been provided by Michele Crawford-Carnegie, a seven-year veteran of the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders and the current owner of the Alumni Cheerleaders social networking site.
Read ahead to see the NFL's 10 best cheerleading squads for 2013, as chosen by Crawford-Carnegie.
1. Oakland Raiders
In a test of its fans' loyalty and patience, the Raiders football team moved from Oakland to Los Angeles and back to Oakland within a span of 13 years. But while the stadiums may have changed, the fans' love of the Raiderette cheerleaders never wavered, and they have remained "Football's Fabulous Females" through all the ups and downs.
"The Oakland Raiderettes' are the hottest NFL squad this season," Crawford-Carnegie said. "Their performances are exciting and thrilling to watch. Their hard work is obvious at every game, and that kind of commitment is very special." She also pointed out another vital attribute that makes the Raiderettes exceptional. "Their iconic uniform is a part of what makes them so appealing and sexy."
2. New England Patriots
Ellen Mahoney, chief human resources officer at Harvard Business School, is a former New England Patriots cheerleader in the 1980s. She has high praise for the organization. "The women on the squad are uniformly intelligent, charming, informed, and honored to be representing one of the best teams in the NFL," she said in an email.
The team's director of corporate communications, Jeff Cournoyer, cited their involvement with the community off the field. "They have continued to expand their community outreach initiatives, including a new 'Cheers for our Heroes' program to recognize deserving military members, a new partnership with P.A.W.S. Cat and Kitten Rescue," he said in an email.
3. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys' original cheerleading squad was a co-ed group founded in 1960. By the end of the decade, the males were kicked off the squad and the females that remained were clad in skimpy attire. The rest is history.
"Great marketing from the organization and TV shows have always kept these beautiful ladies in the public eye," Crawford-Carnegie said. Indeed, the squad has appeared on such television shows as "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and "The Love Boat," and they are currently the subject of the CMT reality show "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team."
4. Atlanta Falcons
Since Crawford-Carnegie is herself a former Atlanta Falcons cheerleader, it's not surprising to see her alma mater make the list. However, she insists that the squad earned its spot. "They've had great team spirit over the years, whether the team is doing bad or great," she said.
Chato Hendrix, coordinator of the Falcons Cheerleaders, said in an email that the squad has high standards. "As a requirement specified in their contract, our cheerleaders must have full-time jobs or be pursuing a college degree," she said. "The Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders are definitely some of the most cheermazing attorneys, chemists, psychologists, accountants and educators you will ever meet."
5. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles cheerleaders are widely viewed as exceptional. They were the only squad selected to perform at the amFAR Inspiration Gala in New York, where they hobnobbed with the likes of Marc Jacobs and Hugo Boss. This is fitting, since they're the only squad in the NFL to wear uniforms designed by Vera Wang.
"In 2012, the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders became the first squad in the NFL to produce a Cheerleader Calendar Mobile App," Eagles Director of Cheerleading Barbara Zaun said in an email. "It ranked on Android Market's Top 5 Paid Sports Apps." She also said that they take fan outreach to the next level. "During the NFL's 'Back to Football' week, Eagles Cheerleaders show up unannounced at fans' houses to surprise them with season tickets," she said.
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