Sitting courtside — or floor side — at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cheering championships on Jan. 21 at the Augusta Civic Center, I got a text from my sister:

“Is it Crazyville in Augusta?” she asked. She has children in the Medomak Valley school system — and friends connected to the cheer program — and knew the event I’d been assigned to cover.

Rewinding a few years to 1997, I was a freshman at Rockland District High School. Then, the Tigers were annually league, regional and state championship contenders in cheering, and attending those competitions was a happening to be sure.

You would pack your cars with as many friends as you could fit in your vehicles, pack snacks and head north to the Bangor Auditorium in search of a little fun and a little independence, roughly 70 miles from our parents.

Every town had its own vaguely designated sections for its fans, and the heart of those sections, were always the school’s student bodies.

I loved these competitions. Not only because I was then a red-blooded teenage boy, but for the experience shared with dozens upon dozens of my high school classmates, all decked out in all the orange-and-black regalia we could get our hands on. Just the drive up there and back was part of the experience.

The goal, once we got there, was, to put it bluntly, to yell, scream and cheer until our voices were hoarse and our heads throbbed. We would yell the names of individual girls on our cheer squad until they looked up at us, and, they were then promptly rewarded in kind with our screams and adulation.

We would spell out the name of our town, ask people if they knew what it spelled, and then we’d tell them, And then other crowds would do their chanting, trying to one-up the other student section. You know, basic cheering fandom 101.

Back to 2019, I responded to my sister’s text: “No. It’s kind of … Subdued Town, actually.”

Now in my 11th year on the sports beat in the Midcoast, usually, covering cheering competitions is a bright spot on my coverage schedule.

I love basketball games, but every school has a team, and by the end of the season, I’ve seen more than my share. Cheering, you see it once or twice all year, so it’s a welcome change from the norm.

What I’ve long loved about the cheering competitions, is the roar of the crowd.

And the crowd roars for two reasons: One, the athletes. And two, the music.

And boy, does the music now leave a lot to be desired. A lot.

You can thank Sony and a litany of other greedy individuals for that.

In 2014, Sony Music Entertainment sued Extreme Traxx Productions and owner Thomas Locklayer, and against affiliated companies Cheer Music Store Inc., Cheer Music Machine LLC, Cheerleading Music Service LLC and owner Mark Bryan in New York federal court for allegedly selling unauthorized mixed albums for cheerleading competitions featuring tracks by Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and Adele.

The cheer companies allegedly were selling the mixed albums for anywhere between $75 and $249 for each mix, sold digitally and physically in CD form. These people did not relent, and Sony won the lawsuit.

This, in essence, means that instead of hearing prominent sections of seven or eight well-known songs throughout any school’s routine, you now hear … well …

Nowadays, frankly, I don’t know what the hell I’m hearing at these competitions.

All the music is overproduced, overmodulated and, honestly, to me, sounds like a mashup of noise with a strong baseline rather than music.

And I'd be lying if I said I didn't think the "music" permeating my eardrums and the eardrums of many in the crowd did not have something to do with what has often seemed to become a sterile fan environment at these competitions.

The music, in this reporter’s humble opinion, is paramount to the entire cheering experience.

Oftentimes, music is the soundtrack to our entire high school experiences. I can still remember how strong those RDHS competition routines were, and can even remember some of the songs that were played during those routines more than 20 years ago.

And the composition of that music was an integral part of those routines.

But now, instead of hearing music we are familiar with, or the hottest song or artist of the summer … now we’re left with … just loud, loud noise.

Now, I’m not pretending to be “the cheer guy.” I think it’d be fair to say I’m well out of my comfort zone writing this column. Maybe I'm speaking out of school.

But, if the dance party that breaks out on the mat at the end of competitions — where team members of all schools intermingle and have dance-offs of sorts to full songs being played over the loudspeaker while the judges make their decisions — is garnering more fanfare than the routines themselves?

I don’t know. Maybe something is wrong.

Crazville indeed.