Before long, halftime is upon us and I am positioned near the 40-yard line, listening to the final notes of the band’s wimp-rock flourish. Then the announcer introduces us and “Thriller” kicks in. Then I dance. I don’t bump into anyone. I don’t fall.
When it’s over, the crowd goes bonkers. Apparently it isn’t every day that gamegoers are treated to 12 costumed cretins performing a meticulously choreographed dance routine to the strains of a flimsy disco nugget. I run off the field waving an I’m-No.-1 finger, Joe Montana–style, and feeling oddly accomplished. We nailed the sucker.
When the performance is done, so am I. The costume, the heightened energy/enthusiasm, the physical demands — these things start to weigh on me, to the extent that I begin to ignore small children proffering a raised palm for a high-five. I bid farewell to my classmates (as of this writing, I count two of them among my Facebook friends) and head slowly toward the parking lot, incurring a stern tsk-tsking from Sparkee when I remove my head 10 yards away from the awaiting car. Even in my final moments as a mascot, I can’t fully commit.
Upon arriving at home hours later, I relate my adventures in mascotland to my wife and offer to perform an abridged version of the “Thriller” dance. Her response: “You need to shower now.”
So what did I take away from my two days at mascot camp? First, that working as a mascot requires physical and comic dexterity of the sort we expect from our Olympic athletes and Saturday Night Live hosts. Second, that it’s possible to project negativity and mortification even while concealed under faux fur and balancing a spine-compressing landmass upon one’s shoulders. And third, that American Way editors who send a reporter on an assignment of this ilk should expect “full-body delousing” to pop up on said reporter’s expense report. In conclusion, while there are several activities at which I display some minimal level of competence, being a mascot is not one of them.
A postcamp evaluation from Blank confirms this self-assessment. I push her numerous times via email for a brutally honest critique of my performance; each time, she promises that one is forthcoming, but it never arrives. Nonetheless, I keep bugging her about it. Finally, her graciousness tested by my nudging, Blank responds thusly: “You hid well, even in such a tall head!”
No more tragic a mascot epitaph could ever be written. From here on out, I’m staying in my seat.