Whatever happened to just cheering on the team?

Like so many other things in our lives, cheerleading has become complicated.

Not satisfied with merely jumping around and waving pom-poms on the sidelines at football games, today's cheerleading squads have become ultra-competitive (which translates to "no fun at all").

The squads travel thousands of miles (and spend the same in dollars) to compete in national championships.

They practice relentlessly for months, engaging in high-flying routines that are increasingly complex, not to mention dangerous.

From out of this new world of super-heated cheerleading comes "Cheerleader Nation," the new "reality" series from which Lifetime hopes to grow an audience of teen-age girls (and possibly their mothers) who flock to similar teen-centric shows on MTV.

This series - consisting of eight, one-hour episodes and premiering Sunday night - centers on the 22-member varsity cheerleading squad at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Ky.

Apparently, they have been national champions for two consecutive years and are going for a third.

These are high stakes indeed, the show would have you believe, as it depicts a tryout process in Episode 1 that will leave dozens of weeping, unchosen girls in its wake.

"Cheerleader Nation" has been designed to appeal to both teen-age girls and their mothers by representing both groups. Behind each girl stands a stage mom who dreams of cheerleading glory.