‘Cheer’ is the Real March Madness

The second season of the groundbreaking show about the most competitive (and disturbing) college sport

After a two-year hiatus, Cheer, the very popular Netflix docuseries, which dives deep into the world of competitive college cheerleading, is back. It’s every bit as riveting as Season 1, and it even surpasses its counterpart, Last Chance U, which Cheer director-producer Greg Whiteley also created.

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In Season 2, Cheer once again returns to Corsicana, Texas to chronicle perennial junior college championship contender Navarro College and its head coach, Monica Aldama, the Nick Saban of college cheerleading. (Or maybe Saban is the Aldama of college football.) Aldama has won 14 national championships, but she’s not satisfied. In addition to Aldama, a few of the first season favorites are back, including the volatile La’Darius Marshall, who sees himself as a coach on the floor, and YouTube superstar Gabi Butler. The show features Jerry Harris is featured as well–at least until his much-publicized arrest for production of child pornography. In one interview, La’Darius essentially says that he’s ready to kick Jerry’s ass.

Harris’s arrest casts a dark shadow over this season, and Whitley doesn’t shy away.

Whiteley keeps things fresh by finding new subjects to focus on. As he does with LCU, Whiteley features subjects with complicated pasts, often from fractured homes. Competitive cheer is their salvation.  It provides structure, discipline – and family. And for those not in the know, cheer is an athletic performance, which involves a combination of dance and an assortment of gravity-defying, very dangerous acrobatic maneuvers.

Competitive cheer is anything but soft.

But ultimately, Cheer, the documentary series, kills it because its about more than incredible athletes striving for perfection. Cheer connects because it’s about imperfect individuals lifting each other up. And Whiteley masterfully delivers their stories.

Cheer Season 2 also focuses on Navarro’s main challenger, Trinity Valley Community College, just down the road in Athens, Texas. Vontae Johnson, Trinity’s head coach, is less restrained than Aldama. A former football player, Johnson would fit right in with the LCU hard asses. (While LCU’s cast is almost entirely male, Cheer is coed.) His assistant, Khris Franklin, Trinity’s former head coach, is more low key and a bit somber. An odd couple, their brotherhood is a good watch.

Just as we’re ready for these two rivals to throw it down at the nationals in Daytona Beach, all hell breaks loose.

Covid.

They cancel Daytona. Harris gets arrested. Amidst all this, the show reveals Nicole’s weakness, kind of: Dancing with The Stars, which she’s a huge fan of. When she agrees to participate on the show, she leaves Navarro for a substantial period, and La’Darius goes Antonio Brown, exiting the Navarro program. In true La’Darius fashion, he does not go quietly.

Meanwhile, Trinity can smell blood, and they’ve brought in studs, including Navarro’s former choreographer and three formidable male tumblers affectionately known as “The Wienies.” The Wienies seem to eat, sleep and tumble–and, well, that’s it. Perhaps the best Wienie is DeVonte Joseph, undersized but built like a superhero. Initially, DeVonte wanted to be a basketball player, but his size pushed him to tumbling. DeVonte’s only weakness appears to be that he performs with a pronounced scowl. Johnson and Franklin want him to smile, so he can win over judges, but DeVonte feels that that’s gay.

Will DeVonte smile in Daytona?

There are no shortage of conflicts and twists and turns in Cheer Season 2, and it’s compelling right until the climactic final episode in Daytona, which is both triumphant and heartbreaking. Tears are shed all around but expect to be wanting more Cheer.

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Jon Hart

Jon Hart is the author of Man versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures. He holds the Citi Field record for hawking the most pretzels during a single game.

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