Written By: Landon Watford
I am the mascot you probably didn’t know you had. I walk amongst you all as a lazy student by day, but then transform into the ferocious Mako Shark by night. Kind of like Batman, but lamer. Although I mostly cheer at basketball games, you may have seen me leading the senior charge at the pep rally, or getting kicked out of a soccer game or two for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” My performance is loud, stupid, and obnoxious. I scream at opposing players, I roast the referees, and shout chants until it feels like my lungs are about to burst. My golden rule is: If my voice is not hoarse the next day, then I have not done my job. Despite this, I try my best to bring heart to the games and genuinely cheer on our players. I do it for the team, the school, and in a strange way, for me.
Being a mascot is about as humiliating as it sounds. I am loud when everyone is quiet. I am running when everyone is sitting. I am slipping and falling in front of a gymnasium full of people when everyone… isn’t. Nonetheless, I try my best to own it. I try to be self aware, and let the audience know I realize how ridiculous I look and act. For the most part, people respond positively to me, though I find that the people who don’t like me, hate me. I have learned that calling a player who thinks that he will be the next LeBron James “twinkle toes” isn’t necessarily something he will appreciate. That goes about as well as accusing the referees of accepting bribes. But for every shouting match I get into with an angry parent or athletic director, there are twice the amount of beautiful moments I have with the audience and team.
A lot of people ask me why I do it, mostly out of concern for my mental health, but I can assure you I have my reasons. Firstly, I do it for the team. I have always been an unathletic, video game-obsessed, cave dweller, but I have always envied the comradery the team has shared with each other. I never pretended for a second that I could try out for the team, so being the mascot was my way of becoming closer to them.
In a similar vein, I do it for the school as well. We all talk about how little school spirit we have, which is a problem that will not fix itself overnight, but I think having a semi-official mascot representing the school is certainly a start.
And in a weird way, I do it for myself. I have always been a performer and an attention-seeker, which is a perfect fit for mascotting. These experiences have undoubtedly increased my confidence on stage. No stage experience will be as embarrassing as wearing a shark suit while screaming so loud your voice cracks back to adolescence for the entire gymnasium to hear, so there really is not anywhere to go but up. All the heckling that I have received certainly has increased my improvisational skills, as well as given me a thick skin. Both being skills that I will need for when I inevitably flunk out of college and have to start filling five minute stand up spots at open mics to pay rent.
Despite how ridiculous this all sounds, I am deeply proud of what I have done as the mascot. I have undoubtedly improved as a person through all of this and have gained enough skills to continue performing into my adulthood. Someday, when I have children, I will be proud to tell them that mascotting was the best part of my high school years. Hopefully they too, will realize how insanely cool it was to wear a sweaty costume and scream at kids non-stop for two hours straight.