January 13, 2012

Behind the Mascot

I have done some interesting stuff in life.  I have been given the privilege to do things that others can not say.  I have walked out of the dugout before a Major League Baseball game and helped throw out the first pitch.  I have skated between periods of National Hockey games.  I have run onto the court at half-time, and during time-outs at NBA games.  I have done all of them...

while wearing a large cow suit.

You see, in a previous life, I was a mascot for Chick-fil-A.  Something every kid has dreamed about.  Right?  Stepping onto the baseball diamond wearing a seven foot cow suit.  Lacing up the skates and stepping out onto the ice in front of 20,000 screaming Flyers fans, showing off the utters.  This is what life is all about.  Yao Ming almost stepped on me as I wandered aimlessly around the court, trying to exit.  I was built for the thrill of looking like a big heifer.  MOO!

I wasn't your everyday, side of the road, wave the sign...asking you to Eat Mor Chikin.  I was a somebody.  I only played the big stage.  I lived for the sporting events.  Plus, it was a little extra cash, and after I was done, doing my thing, I could watch the game.  Sometimes, from the suite.  Oh yeah, baby.

But, being the mascot had it's downsides too.  I'm sure at sometime we will delve into this deeper, but this session we'll deal with a the darker side of mascots.  A behind the scenes look at the underbelly of the mascot world.

I grew up a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies.  I still am to this day.  I bleed red.  (Well, I guess, we all bleed red, but, mine have little white P's.  I don't know what I'm trying to say.)  I'm a Phillies fan.  Managers have come and gone.  Players have left.  The stadium has been replaced. But, every since I have been little there has been one constant.  His name: The Phillie Phanatic.

That lovable creature, that appears during every home game.  He has big white eyes, a long red tongue, and he is covered in green fur.  His long green snout is thrust in the faces of many children and women...and let's not forget his dancing.  He rides a quad and pokes fun at the umpires and the opposing teams.  He shakes his belly, moonwalks, and he poses for picture upon picture.  He is almost perfect in every way.

I was going to be the cow one night.  Down below, in the stadium's innards, I was placed in the dressing room directly next to the Phanatic's dressing room.  There was even a star on the door with his name on it.  "Would you like to meet the Phanatic?" I was asked.


I knocked and heard a voice say, "Come on in," through the door.  I opened the door and to my horror sat a man in green suit.  The Phanatic head lay in the corner.  The green fur came up waist high and the rest was a skinny white guy.  Like some psychedelic centaur.  But, my vision of the Phanatic was gone.  In three seconds, I now knew the truth.  My childhood memories would never be the same.  I could never look at him the same way again.  He was just a normal guy wearing a big, green suit.  I had always knew there was a man inside, but now I knew who that man was.  The curtain had been pulled back and there was Oz.  It's like finding out that Santa was your dad.  You knew it before - but now you know.    *side note: He was a great guy and super nice.

A few weeks later, I was introduced to Phlex.  Phlex was the Philadelphia Phantoms, the minor league hockey team, mascot.  Phlex and the cow "worked" together a few times and shared a locker room.  He would always run out, waving a flag, pumping his fists in the air - trying to rally the Phantom fans.

Phlex, the guy behind the mask, was a snarly, angry individual.  His face was shaped like a dinner plate, and he had a speckling of whiskers.  His voice had a thick Philly accent, and he sounded like he had just tried to smoke the tailpipe of a Zamboni.  Late into one game, we sat in the locker room watching the game on the TV.  The Phantom was down by one and two minutes were left on the clock.  We were both packing up and he was going on and on about wanting to go home.

Meanwhile, on the ice, the Phantom's player broke down the ice - took the shot and scored!  The alarm rang and the lights flashed!  The Phantoms had tied the game!  The crowd roared with excitement.  There was Phlex, standing across from me, mask in hand, inside the locker room.  He held the mask above his hand, swearing, and slammed the mask to the floor.  "Unbelievable!" he yelled.  Picking up the mask and his flag.  "Well, here we go.  I'm gonna be here all night."

He put the mask on, ran down the tunnel, waving the flag and I could hear him pumping up the crowd.  I walked down and peeked.  He was running through the audience.  High-fiving, waving and getting the crowd all into a frenzy.  They had no idea what he was thinking behind the mask.

Phlex made his way back to the locker room.  The mask got removed.  "Overtime!  This is unbelievable."
I smiled, knowing the truth.

This post is in honor of my son's 10th birthday.  One of the world's biggest Phillie's fans, and a huge Phanatic fan.