I could Never be a Mascot!
Iknow I have been a bit intense the last few posts, so I am going to venture into my light-hearted side today and see if I can bring some joy and smiles back into my blog today. I look forward to the next few days to write about some more positive adventures that hopefully will be a relief to the muck and mud we are experiencing right now.
You see them every game doing unusual things and even driving those crazy motorized vehicles allover the field and you wonder to yourself, just how hard a job could that be?, or that a trained monkey could do that job. And I admit it, I have wondered if I could do a better job, or might have a better dance routine or skit in me that I could perform in that furry costume.
Sure we all think, and some of us know we are funnier, more athletic, and certainly more friendly to kids than the people currently in those big, bulky suits. But little do we know that according to a recent poll, that being a team mascot is one of the ten worst jobs in sports. And in baseball, most of your time is spent in the stands and not on the sidelines like during a football game. If you have a phobia with people, or touching, this will not work out for you, no matter how funny or personable you are in real life.
And we have all collectively wondered why this would be considered a hard job? Come on entertaining kids and frolicking around in a suit incognito would be fun. You can insult the opponents fans in the name of game humor, you can spray silly string into the mugs of sarcastic and beer-induced adults, and you even get paid for it. But before you go all gung-ho looking in your local paper or team website for a want ad seeking a mascot, you might want to consider a few things.
First off, I think you have to be pretty secure with being “yourself” to know you are not going to do anything to ruin the illusion of your team’s character. That might include something as simple as not speaking at all while you are in a costume. Seriously, even if the guy in the third row gives you a perfect line and you have the perfect response, you have to grin and bear it, or in this case, non-verbally get him back maybe with that silly string. Ahhh, got to love props!
And that in its own rights might be an art form. I know that might be a really hard thing for me to digest at certain times. I see the Rays mascot Raymond doing head nods and hand gestures like he is chatting with the crowd, but in reality is is just motions and no sound. You also see Raymond doing weird and wild dance routines and crowd inducing skits to get the crowd into the game not thinkig of the time it takes to master those simple movements in that furry suit.
And just like you, I would think I could do a lot of things better, faster and with more personality than the current occupant of the furry wondersuit. But there are a some really big hazards to worry about before you hit the sunlight and cheers of the fans. If you have even the smallest hints of claustrophobia, you will be in really big trouble. You can be in that suit pretty much for most of the game, or maybe only 15 to 20 minutes at a time with people all around you calling your name and you have a tunnelvision view of the world. Voices seem to come from everywhere and you might not even hear the small voice of a child just underneath you at times.
Plus people forget that since you are enclosed in a huge furry suit, your body heat will accumulate and build up and you will end up with sweat on sweat before the night is over. So dehydration will be a constant enemy of yours, and you will have to fight it again and again even at nighttime. And those game days in Texas must be murder on your body considering it might be 100 degrees outside, but maybe approaching 150+ in that costume for just a few minutes jaunt in the stands.
Plus, if you are like me and not a huge “touchy feely” person, the constant barrage of fingers and hands pulling you and touching parts of your costume might freak you out a bit during your job. And kids do not know that you are getting tugged from both directions at the same time. And with your tunnel vision, sometimes you might turn away from a small child wanting a hug or a autograph from you. And you do not want to upset your littliest fans, for they go tell mom and dad, then you have bigger problems.
And all of this is just a small sliver of what is your job. You might think it is just a fun fest with fur, but with all the joy and the happiness you can bring to the crowd, you are always just a step away from maybe even getting hurt yourself. I remember Raymond, the Rays mascot a few years ago was in rightfield getting the crowd into the game and Raymond stepped onto the top rail to get above the crowd. Raymond slipped and fell 12 feet to the turf and hurt himself badly, but he never went out of character as Raymond sprinted towards the sidelines and his waiting handler.
And other people, including the baseball players do not always take into consideration that you are there for fun and games. Some take you taunts and mannerisms to heart and get offended. None really try to hurt you, but you do not need the odd baseball smacking you in the costume headpiece because you upset a team’s shortstop. It is a huge give and take job with everyone outside the costume. And some people get with the program, and others lose their sense of humor in a flash.
But it might be a reality of the job that on any given night no matter what you do, someone will be upset with you that night. You might not have seen the cute little girl tugging on your costume and barreled over her by accident. Or you might have someone wanting a picture, but you are in an area that any picture taking will block the field view of fans, and they do remind you that you are blocking their view of the pitch 250 feet away. Or something as simple as a popcorn prank could backfire and you get a fan complaint to the front office.
And all of this is done for what, the money? Only a small handful of mascots get paid really great money. Most do it more for the rush they get when the crowd follows their lead, or even shows some affection towards their costumed persona. And some mascots really have to change themselves and their “game time” personalities during their time in costume. And the costume can be its own drug, with a rush of adrenaline and a need for the attention even after you take the sweaty, musty costume off for the day/night.
But most of all, you have to remember that most people can not even know who you are, or what it is you do for the team. You might walk around the stadium with that “All Access” badge, and some will question why you have tht right and they do notno one will every know why you get such treasured rewards. You have to stay unknown to the fan base. You can not do interviews in costume because your character doesn’t speak in real life. It can be a hard adjustment to make, and few people can pull it off without a hitch. It is a busy and silent world within a hectic, frantic world that can not tolerate any slight deviation from the plan.
It is a job we all think we can do better, faster and with more excitement. But the reality is that we have no idea how we would even begin such a journey. I know it is a job I personally could not do because of some of the physical requirements now. I know the touching from behind by tons of kids and fans would drive me personally nuts, and tasting my own sweat while working is no longer in my job description.
So if you are a Major League mascot and I come up and I shake your hand, it is not for a photo op, but because you do a job I know I can not do in real life. You do your duties under circumstances and conditions that would totally freak me out. But most of all it is a simple handshake to tell you I understand a bit more now of what you do for a living, and the care and preparation you go through to do just a 5 minute bit in front of the crowd. So if you really think you can do it……..Go for it! Myself, I am happy in my corner front row seat watching the mascot do his magic and wondering what they are going to do next.