Now Terrance Briscoe, 6 feet 2 inches tall, was stepping onto the court to stretch, gripping the toe of his size-15 sneaker. The shrill whine of Guns N’ Roses’ ubiquitous “Welcome to the Jungle” blasted over a crowd still finding their seats. As if hit with an electric bolt, Briscoe’s knees collapsed, and his arms began to flail to the chainsawlike grind of the guitars. As his hips swung from side to side, he had the look of a scarecrow trying to get out of the path of a hurricane. And then just as quickly, his body snapped back into place, and he sprinted up the closest aisle and waved his hands, which are as big as cutting boards, to see if he could get a few fist pumps in the air. And he did: a few.
The Wizards reject the term male cheerleader, and they don’t like male dancer, either. They describe Briscoe as a Hype Guy. But he does dance, and he does cheer, and his smile, which he flashes all night long, is as wide as the backboard he frequently dances behind. And as a man doing these things for thousands of fans every home game, he occupies an exceptionally rare position in all of professional sports.
Can we all be okay with that?
The yell captain
“It’s like staring into the unknown,” Briscoe says of when he’s in front of the often agonized fans at the Verizon Center. “I’m out here running around, having a good time. What I’m trying to do is defeat the apathy that encompasses this whole city.” As it turns out, Briscoe has filled a void no one else in the Wizards camp was aware of. No team official ever thought to ask him whether he’d go out there and dance and cheer for the crowd. They already had the Wizard Girls cheerleaders, and for comic effect there was the furry blue mascot G-Wiz, who morphs into the muscular and high-bounding G-Man in the fourth quarter. Then there’s DJ Big Tigger and Autria Godfrey, a kind of roving reporter whose adrenalized interviews with fans (So what do you think of these upgraded seats?!) get splashed on the Jumbotron.
Officially, Briscoe is one of about a dozen members of what’s called the Capital Crew; they help out with promotion activities during the game and are no more visible than when they run out on the court to offer up free Chipotle burritos to a suddenly burrito-ravenous crowd. This is Briscoe’s first year, and in the first game of the season, back in October, in the first quarter, he didn’t like the mood that was already settling over the crowd as the Orlando Magic were already crushing the Wizards. “It just felt like years in the past, where people are just sitting in the crowd, just waiting for the team to lose, and I was like, ‘Un-uh,’ ” he says. “I just ran out here and said, ‘Forget it. I’m going to do something different.’ ” Briscoe didn’t just offer the clap, clap, clap-clap-clap style of boosting. When the music pulsed, Briscoe got down. He did the robot thing — like an automaton in a museum exhibit on funk. His body quaked, then flowed like waves. Immediately, he realized that he had gotten the fans’ attention. But attention on himself wasn’t the point. He wanted the fans to get revved up, to cheer on the home team. “I wanted to do whatever it took for us to win the game,” he says. “Sometimes it’s dancing, sometimes it’s just walking around and just making sure everyone’s having a good time.”