2009 Flight Crew Final Audition Photos
When I was first asked to be a judge for the Jets Flight Crew finals, I thanked my lucky stars for the opportunity. What red-blooded American guy wouldn't love a day like that? But it turned out to be a very difficult day ... OK, who am I kidding. It was AWESOME!
This was the first time I'd visited Pacha on 46th and 12th during the day. Walking in to the six-level club by The Intrepid, I was greeted by a room full of beautiful dancers doing pirouettes and practicing their routines. I knew immediately this was going to be a tougher competition than last season. Last year I chronicled the entire Flight Crew selection process from day one, with 400 ladies at the tryout, all the way to the end. Even though we knew this year's team was expanding, I could tell the challengers in the room were going to give the incumbent crew a run for their money.
Flight Crew director Denise Garvey gathered all the judges around to explain the process and what the girls would be judged on. They had this decision-making process worked out to a science with boxes for notes on all categories. I believe this is exactly how Rex Ryan and his coaches start their evaluations on the players, though I'd imagine dance technique is not a high requirement for the Jets. (In case you were wondering, Leon Washington would be the best dancer on the Jets judging by his showmanship doing the "Crank Dat" dance in practice.)
I chose this time to tell Kerry Rhodes that we'll put a mic on him for the competition so we can do a story on his judging method. "No, you will not!" was his response. OK, that's the last quote I'll use from Kerry in this report. (You're welcome, Kerry.)
The competition was fierce. The first group came up and one of the girls winked in my general direction. After conferring with Kerry and CBS sportscaster Sam Ryan, we were sure that was not a wink and had to be just a bit of dust in her eye. She still got my vote.
The competitors came up in groups of five and did the same routine twice each. Everyone knew the steps, which made it incredibly difficult distinguishing between the good and great dancers. What should I look for? Balance? Leg kick? Smile? And boom, the song is over. Do you know how tough it is to watch five beautiful girls at the same time and only have 30 seconds? Honestly, it was nearly a system overload.
I sat between Kerry and Sam and while Sam's notes were precise and well thought out, Kerry's were a simple yes or no. We only knew the girls by number, but I won't be able to look at the numbers 27 or 43 without my heart skipping a beat from this day forth.
In the judges' chambers we gathered for the comments. I was impressed by the practicality of Lilian Garcia. The singer and ring announcer for WWE gave a qualified voice to the celebrity judging panel. She was easy with the praise and matter of fact in her opinions. She and Sam agreed on nearly every girl in the competition. Great minds.
Ben Lyons from E! was hilarious. I think entertainer Donnie Klang voted yes on 90% of the ladies! I think 99% of them would vote yes on him. You should've seen how they swarmed him after the competition. Good on ya, Donnie!
Denise brought shrills of joy from the group of competitors when she said they'd be taking 30 girls to Flight Crew training camp. Name after name, she announced the group, accompanied by screams and tears. I was watching one girl crying so much that when her name was announced she could barely get out of her seat.
Compare that to the shock and dismay of the returning Flight Crew who didn't make it this season. In the end, 15 of last year's crew and 15 new faces were added to the Flight Crew. This year's team is full of incredible dancers and they're all absolutely stunning.
When I did an informal poll around the Jets locker room to ask what they wanted from the Flight Crew, I got one word ... distracting. One player told me about how the Redskins cheerleaders were lined up as the Jets walked on the field in the 2006 preseason and they actually distracted the Jets. If you can get a Flight Crew that distracts the other team, they're helping the Jets win.
This year's group will be more than distracting. They'll command your attention for every timeout and will add a great deal to the fan experience. I expect a louder Jets crowd because of them this year ... I also expect an autographed copy of the Flight Crew calendar.