An unexpected invitation from Germany left the Buccaneers Cheerleaders with very little time to prepare a halftime show and get packed for Europe
Not that she wasn't busy already, but an e-mail in her inbox on Wednesday really lit a fire under Carole Wood.
There was nothing remarkable about this particular two-paragraph missive, other than its overseas origin, its complete unexpectedness and the fact that it would launch Wood and about 20 others into six days of non-stop action.
Wood is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Cheerleading Coordinator, a member of the team's special events department. The e-mail was from a similar department of the Rhein Fire, one of the six teams in the increasingly popular NFL Europe League.
The message? We want you over here. One week from now.
Completely without warning, the game operations crew for the Fire contacted Wood last week to inquire about the possibility of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders performing at halftime of Rhein's June 16 home game against the Frankfurt Galaxy. When the Buccaneers chose to accept the invitation, Wood was left with no time to even get excited. In six days, she had to get her 20-person contingency on a plane to Germany.
Okay, maybe there was time for a little excitement.
"We're leaving Tuesday!" said Wood, with a frazzled enthusiasm. "We have 13 of our own cheerleaders that will be performing, with an additional 100 cheerleaders they're bringing in locally. So we have six days to get the music together for a seven-minute halftime show, ship it to Germany so (my counterpart) can get familiar with it, teach our girls the show, teach their girls the show when we get there, get passports for about nine of our girls, make plane arrangements…"
Wood trailed off at this point, but the point was taken. This is a lot of work for a group of women who are already balancing their spot on the cheerleading squad with their own professional lives. Still, it was an opportunity Wood didn't want them to miss.
"The Rhein Fire is doing a big halftime show for one of their biggest games of the year," she said. "They're expecting about 45,000 to 50,000 people, which is a huge turnout for NFL Europe. They wanted a spectacular halftime show, so they invited us to perform and bring a little of the NFL's flavor over."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders' performance in Rhein will come during the ninth week of the NFLEL's 10-week regular season. The Fire, at 3-4 before Sunday's game against Amsterdam, is battling with the Admirals, the Berlin Thunder and the Scottish Claymores for second place and a spot in the league's championship game, the World Bowl.
Each year, hundreds of young NFL players are allocated to the NFLEL for the spring season in order to gain some much-needed on-field experience. The Buccaneers will have four allocated players competing in that June 16 game, including the Fire's leading receiver, Eddie Hardaway. CB Terrence Parrish, P Andrew Bayes and G Wilbert Brown will suit up for the visiting Galaxy.
Just as Hardaway and the others hope to use the NFLEL platform to demonstrate their skills to team scouts, the Buccaneers Cheerleaders appreciate an opportunity to display their talents on an international stage. Wood considers the Fire's invitation and indication of the strength of the Bucs' cheerleaders among NFL squads, and thought it too good to pass up.
"I think it will be a blast," said Wood. "We haven't had an opportunity like this before, so it should be a great experience."
This may only be the beginning of the Buccaneers Cheerleaders' criss-crossing of the globe. The Bucs have also been invited to send one of their cheerleaders on an NFL tour of Asia, an opportunity that veteran Christine Ewald will take advantage of in July. The Bucs are also represented each February in Hawaii by one cheerleader who attends the Pro Bowl.
Those endeavors are weeks or months away, though. Right now, the focus is on Germany, and the dwindling hours available to prepare. Good thing to flight to Europe will be a long one. There will be time to sleep on the plane.