“Bring back the Jills:” Cheerleaders deserve their stage

“Bring back the Jills:” Cheerleaders deserve their stage

Maria on left, and Alyssa, two of five former Buffalo Jills who sued the Bills for not paying them the minimum wage for their appearances at Bills games and events, and for the degrading treatment they received at some events. [Photo: Buffalo News]

Recently (BELOW), we reported that Buffalo Jills alums were coming to Rochester to meet fans and lead the cheers to “Bring Back the Jills.” And last weekend Jean Zydel and Nancy Benzinger were at the Otter Lodge, kindly making the drive from Buffalo.635484944794080024-Still1009-00010

The crowd was fair. Unfortunately, with the Jills off the field now for two seasons, the squad has moved somewhat off the public radar.  At the same time, everyone there who went to games this year at the Ralph felt the Jills’ absence.


Jean Zydel (left) and Kathy Benzinger (right). Jack and myself in center 1/23/16 Otter Lodge

One man said it was positively un-American not to have cheerleaders at football games. The fans missed how the Jills, like stage directors, almost by themselves orchestrate the fan’s emotions.  One said maybe Rex Ryan’s underachieving squad missed the extra energy the Jills provided. Others bemoaned the unnatural “breakup” between the Bills and the Jills who seem so natural together. After all, they have been one of western New York’s favorite couples for 50 years.

I wish I had better news to report on the return of the squad. Jean and Nancy say all they hear is the Jills will not be back until a series of lawsuits make their way through the courts. At the same time — as seen in the January 27th article — the issue has become a legislative topic in Albany. So, there is something you can do. Contact your Assembly representative and tell them to bring back the Jills.


Democrat and Chronicle, 1/27/16


Democrat and Chronicle, 1/31/16

The hiatus of the Jills is particularly sad when we reflect upon how short-lived are most cheerleading careers.  On the one hand, the public is clearly recognizing that cheerleading is a sport. Division 1 schools now offer cheerleaders althletic scholarships. People are increasingly appreciating the athletic and artistic talents of cheerleaders, as well as the dedication it takes to hone their skills, practice after practice.

On the other hand — as explained by Jean and Nancy — after college there are few opportunities for cheerleaders, only in indoor lacrosse and football leagues. Probably only a handful of Division 1 coaches actually make their living from cheerleading.  Ultimately for Jills, cheerleading in the NFL is like making Broadway. Their moment to show to the world abilities worked on since high school.  Their deserved center stage.  And the Jills’ loss is our loss.

There is some good news. According to the ladies, Jack passed his first date. They think he’s cute! They even like him enough — now that’s he’s inflated and signed — to invite him to the August 30th Jill’s reunion in Buffalo.  They are even auditioning to find a female football escort, one herself inflated just the way Jack likes.  We’ll keep you posted on that trip.

There is another way you can support the Jills. The Jills are seeking sponsors from all over western New York.  Through sponsorship, the Jills will represent your bar, restaurant or any interested group. Sponsorship can include appearances by former Jills AND money raised goes directly to Rosewell Park Cancer Institute

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Jean with Jack 1/23/16 Otter Lodge

For more information please email Jean at [email protected]36694_1499493411551_5658015_n

The Original Story


Jean (left) and Kathy signing Jack

Still jilted by the Jills was the story of a forlorn, half inflated, misbegotten football named Jack.


The Buffalo Jills cheerleaders perform during the third quarter of an NFL preseason football game between the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills

Jack was once a happy ball. Every year Jack was taken to the Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher College or Zebb’s in Brighton where he was signed by the Buffalo Jills. With all that feminine attention, Jack was quite puffed up.


Signed by Kelly



Then something terrible happened. The Jills were disbanded by bad men called lawyers and accountants. Jack became depressed and deflated. His hand air pump just wasn’t doing the trick.

Then love found its way. First, just recently a court decision has given the Jills cause for cautious optimism.

Now, in a specially arranged event (Talker  has some cache), former Jills are coming to the Otter Lodge on Monroe Avenue in Brighton (where we’ve been before) for a meet and great on Saturday the 23rd from 6 to 9pm. And to re-inflate and sign Jack.

It will be as if wide right went straight down the middle.

Special thanks for setting up the event goes to Diane Ringer, Co-Director of the newly formed RED ZONE CHEERLEADERS.  Diane assisted me in contacting former Jills with whom she has been friends for years.

UPDATE: SEE No Jills; no playoffs for the Bills

No Jills; no playoffs for the Bills

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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