Some people look back on their high school years as ones of insecurity and hesitation. If they had the chance for a do-over, they say they would be more self assured and worry less what others think. Easier said than done, but perhaps a bit of anonymity helps.
By staying behind the mask, high school mascots get to do just that.
Bellaire High School graduate Lauren Lusby tried out to be Carly the Cardinal on a dare. Lauren describes herself as good natured and willing to take that dare, so she put on the red and black cardinal costume, complete with large yellow beak, and auditioned with a dance to Soulja Boy’s Booty Got Swag. Evidently the judges agreed about the presence of swag, because she aced the audition.
This fall, a new senior will take over as Carly the Cardinal. The incoming mascot hopes to remain anonymous because she says keeping it a secret is part of the fun. “I become another person when I’m wearing the costume,” she said. “I’ll be more silly and wild than I really am.”
Episcopal High School mascots Lance the Knight and Excalibur the Horse were both played by Chance Siller for the last three years. While getting fans pumped up is the most important task, Chance found time to poke fun at people too.
“My job is to push the limits,” he said. Some antics included making fun of a referee, who didn’t find it amusing. He also antagonized rival St. John’s by holding up a sign that read, “Do Your Homework,” aimed at their studious stereotype.
Chance feels less inhibited while wearing the costume. “You’ll do things you normally wouldn’t when you don’t have to look someone directly in the face,” he said.
Strake Jesuit’s unofficial mascot, The Green Man, takes mascot anonymity to a new level. Though not sanctioned by the school, the Green Man is a favorite among spectators. Each year a mystery senior dresses in head-to-toe green spandex. Picture the Blue Man Group, but in green. He makes surprise appearances at games and draws huge applause. During a football game against St. Thomas, the Green Man was chased down by rival mascot Tom Eagle. To the delight of Jesuit fans, the Green Man narrowly escaped.
Stratford High School’s Lela Crump is ready to take over as Spartacus this year. Lela tried on Spartacus’ warrior skirt and helmet costume at a game last spring where she quickly learned that sweating is part of the job. “It was about 95 degrees in the suit,” said Lela. “The first thing I’ll do before football season is buy cool packs to wear inside the costume.”
Last year’s Stratford mascot, Keely O’Donnell, gave Lela advice. “Stay hydrated,” she advised. “And don’t use up all your energy in the first quarter. Football games are longer than you think!”
Keely also warned Lela about things that can go wrong. “I got taken out during the Memorial-Stratford game,” Keely said.
“I collided with the tumblers and ended up on the ground. My head fell off,” she said, laughing. Thanks to excessive costume padding she wasn’t hurt. Someone captured the moment on video, and it circulated on Facebook.
Mascot mishaps aren’t reserved for high school sports. Even professional sports mascots have their share of mid-game disaster. Robert Boudwin (aka “Clutch”) has been the Houston Rockets mascot since 1996. During one Rockets game, a miscommunication sent Clutch onto the court in the middle of play. “I ran out to do the t-shirt toss and was staring directly into the face of the Spurs point guard,” said Robert.
Learning how to deal with problems is one of the things Robert plans to teach in his mascot-training session this month at Toyota Center. Mascots from high schools, colleges and corporations will learn character development, improvisation and how to tell a story without using words. “Being a mascot is acting,” said Robert. “Only it’s more challenging because you can’t talk or use facial expressions.”
Memorial High School’s Mustang Sally and Mustang Max plan to bring their acting experience to the playing fields this fall. Seniors Colleen Morgan (“Sally”) and Elaine Thomas (“Max”) are both accomplished actresses. Colleen has performed in numerous Memorial plays and musicals, and Elaine competed in a national pantomime competition. “Being a mascot is pantomime, when you think about it,” says Elaine.
High school mascots endure a lot: on-field mishaps, sweltering heat and unruly fans. Getting to show their true colors behind a mask is the payoff. And, they say, it’s worth it.