That Time I Tried…Being a Pro Mascot.

Let’s talk about Bucky Badger, The Philly Phanatic, and The San Diego Chicken. All three are mascots, that also happen to sound like painful sexual positions. Most boys grow up seeing them at sporting events and on television all the time (mascots, not painful sexual positions.) In our youth, we can usually name the most popular mascots, and at least place most of the other ones with their correct team. This was my personal experience as a kid, so when I got the opportunity as an adult to throw on a professional sports mascot costume, I jumped at the chance.

Allow me to preface by saying that this was over a decade ago, so when you picture the story in your head, imagine me with a lot more hair on my head, and a lot less grey in my beard. Come to think of it, imagine me two inches taller and with a British accent, just because I always wanted to be James Bond. I was working as an intern for a now-defunct Major League Soccer team (…and the award for Most Depressing Sentence in a Blog Post goes to…)

The team was called the Miami Fusion. Why were they called “The Fusion?” Because who wouldn’t want their sports team named after a scientific concept? As a kid, I know my favorite team was always the Ft. Worth Theories of Relativity.

As an intern, it was always my job to do whatever other people didn’t want to be their job. Needless to say, I scrubbed my fair share of burrito juice (jugo del diablo) out of the microwave. One day, the ticket-sales team got the bright idea to head to a local elementary school to build some excitement for the team in the community. The Director of Sales rounded up a couple of the team’s star players, the mascot costume, and a tall, handsome, flowing-haired British intern by the name of me. We all piled into his Toyota Tercel, and headed to the nearest elementary school (…and now the award for Creepiest Sentence in a Blog Post…)

When we got to the school, the Director of Sales opened his trunk, pointed at the costume, and said “Go ahead, intern. Get changed.” I was actually the one that had lugged the big green lizard costume out to his car, and not once had it occurred to me that he might want me to be the one to put it on. I looked at him, then back at the costume. Then I leaned into the trunk and sniffed in the direction of the costume. I didn’t get even the slightest whiff of burrito juice, so I figured it couldn’t be that much worse than what I dealt with most days in the office. “OK. I guess.” I told him. The rest of the team headed inside the school’s auditorium while I slipped into something a little less comfortable.

Once I had put the costume on, I waddled through the parking lot and into the auditorium. I couldn’t see much, but I could hear the raucous roar of 300 elementary schoolers in the throws of assemblydom. It was absolute anarchy. As I made my way down the aisle toward the elevated stage, I could see my compatriots pointing and laughing at me. I thought to myself “what a bunch of douchebags.” Once I made it up the steps onto the stage, I told them “you’re a bunch of douchebags.” They agreed, and continued to laugh at my expense.

Then it was time for the assembly to begin. I don’t remember much about the program, other than we had planned out a little skit where the players would kick the ball back and forth with me, then I would pick up the ball and pretend to eat it. We executed the plan flawlessly, and it got us what I thought was to be our biggest laugh of the day. The ticket guy had the mic, and was giving the kids a spiel about “working as a team” with their classmates and teachers.

My tiny lizard mind started to wander as I thought back to the pointless assemblies of my youth. I wondered if I had really gained a single valuable lesson from any of them. Then I heard a loud wave of laughter that seemed to start in the front row and work its way to the back of the auditorium. The sales director was definitely not that funny, so I knew they must have beeen laughing at something else; they were.

Through the mesh eye cover I could see the kids cracking up and pointing up on stage. Even the teachers were joining in. What could possibly be this funny? Then I noticed that they seemed to be pointing at my feet. I knew the plush shoes on the costume were goofy, but surely they didn’t warrant this exuberant a reaction. I looked down at my feet. “Oh no!”

Down around my ankles were the shorts that had been covering my smooth lizard-bits just a moment earlier. Right in the middle of the sales director’s valuable lesson on “team work” A giant green lizard had flashed 300 elementary school children simultaneously. Who could have guessed that a tiny strip of velcro on a poorly-made mascot costume would have given way at the most inappropriate moment known to man? Anyone but me. Luckily, the bottom half of the costume was just a pair of green felt pants under the shorts, so there would be no permanent emotional scarring of the children.

In a panic, I reached down to pull the shorts back up. This was not as easy as it sounds, since I had giant stubby lizard fingers and a huge paper-mache head that made me top-heavy. I just new the next indignity that I might suffer would be falling face-first into the stage floor with those same shorts still around my ankles. Luckily I was able to pull up the shorts rather quickly. There was no way I could reattach the velcro with the lizard hands still on, so I stood through the remaining 15 minute presentation awkwardly holding up the shorts.

Most of those 15 minutes were spent trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. As you can imagine, nothing could be less conspicuous than a giant, bright green, exhibitionist lizard on stage in front of 300 elementary school children. Nevertheless, I tried to play 2nd fiddle for the rest of the presentation. I knew as soon as I got that costume off, my “friends” were going to let me have it. I went backstage after the program ended and changed out of the costume.

By the time I came out, they had all piled into the car and pulled around the side door where they knew I would come out. I walked out the door and got into the car with the conviction of a man headed to his execution. As soon as I sat down, they all broke out into applause. What the hell? “How on earth did you time that? It was amazing!” the sales director said. I was confused. “I looked like an idiot.” I said. “You sure did!” he responded. “Those kids are gonna be talking about this for rest of the school year! They’ll be begging their parents to take them to a game!”

“Yeah.” I said. “That was my plan. I figured we needed to liven things up a little.” They didn’t buy it. They knew that it was a complete fluke, and I had been totally mortified. But it didn’t matter. For those few moments, they let me feel like a hero. Looking back on my time as an intern, this was by far my best memory. It didn’t matter that at the moment I was completely embarrassed and terrified. In that single accidental act, I had created more laughter in one room than I had ever heard in my life. I’ve been trying to make that many people laugh all at once ever since, and I won’t stop trying until I make it happen again.

For an even funnier post of public humiliation, check out Dave Ramsey Is A Jerk!

RELATED RESOURCES:

National Mascot Hall Of Fame

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