RENO, NV – Mascots have been entertaining collegiate sports fans for a long time. But who are the people inside those suits? Luiza Vieira has the story.
At a recent football game at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Luna, a female wolf mascot of the University of Nevada Wolf Pack, shakes her pink pompoms and dances with the crowd.
I wanted to know more about the day in the life of a mascot, so I followed Bean, a 20 year old sophomore, who shared some of the struggles mascots have to go through to represent their school.
“I already have a hair in my eye” – said Bean.
There is Luna #1, Bean, and Luna #2 in the dressing room before the Saturday game. They alternate who is the mascot and who helps the other.
Impersonating the Mascot
Luna#2 wants to only be identified by her first name Katrina. When you’re Luna, she says you always have to act like a wolf. You can’t talk, you can’t show any part of your skin and, if you have an itch, you can’t always scratch it.
“If you were able to stick your hand up inside your skull to like move something around, wouldn’t that be weird?” said Katrina. “It is essentially the same thing.”
Relationship between Mascots and Fans
No matter if the team is losing or winning, fans are always interacting with the mascots, even giving them tips to do their job better.
“You got a bow tie, you look good.” said Paul . “Just don’t slouch your back that’s the most unattractive thing a female can do. Good, keep your posture, Yes, yes, straight it out.”
Most fans are just excited to take pictures and selfies with the Wolfpack mascots.
“Can we take a picture with you?” – said Wolfpack fan 2.
Interactions are not always positive, especially when fans drink. For this reason, the helper, known as the handler, work as a guide to prevent mascots from tripping and also works as a body guard to protect the one in the mascot suit from drunk fans.
Bean has stories about this as well.
“Some drunk guy came up completely obliterated and was just like ‘I like the way your parted your hair today Luna blah blah blah,'” said Bean. “He start jokingly making out with her but I had to pull him away like, it is not okay.”
Switching Suits with Substitute Mascost
After two hours being inside the suit and running around, Luna#1, Bean, goes back to the dressing room to switch suits with Luna #2. Bean says it can get very hot inside the mascot suits when they start running around.
“I was easing for air after the half time show.” – said Bean.
When asked what is the first part Bean takes off after a day of work she replies without hesitating.
“The head, definitely the head.” – said Bean
The Wolfpack Mascot Suit
The wolf head is made of three layers. The first one is a helmet to protect mascots from getting injured. The second is a spongy material that goes around the helmet. And finally, the furry wolf head goes around the sponge. Alfie the male Nevada mascot, invited me to try out his suit.
“Look at that, rocking Alfie already.” – said Nevada Wolfpack mascot, Alfie Jr.
“I can’t see anything though. Really? You have to look out the nose? Why?” – I said.
“Doesn’t one of the old Wolfie’s suit has eyes that work?” – said Nevada Wolfpack mascot, Wolfie.
“This is kinda heavy.” – I said.
“A little bit. It is just hard to see kids sometimes you step on them. We try not to.” – said Alfie Jr.
“That’s why if a mascot misses you is not on purpose.” – said Katrina
“It’s choking me.” – I said while moving the mascot’s head around.
“Yep. Life as a mascot.” – said Alfie Jr.
The Perks of Being a Mascot
So far, being a mascot does not sound fun. They sweat a lot, they can’t talk and they can’t hear well. But there are some perks.
According to Bean, Katrina and the other four wolfpack mascots, being famous is one of the great things of being a mascot.
“It is fun being loved immediately.” – said Bean
Besides the fleeting fame, mascots also have the experience of getting to know mascots from all over the country. Lobo Louie was the visiting New Mexico mascot at a recent game. He talks about the experience of going to other schools.
“Whenever I have visiting mascots at my own school I make sure that we take care them really good, make sure we get them right off the bus and that they come in to locker facility and things like that.” said Louie. “They feel genuinely welcome which is obviously what Nevada has done here for me.”
Mascoting as a Career
Louie, who has been a mascot since freshman year of high school, also made his way to a semi-professional baseball team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. It’s a job that helps him pay for university.
“My checks are about the same as my friends who have fast food jobs and I only go to appearances for an hour to 30 minutes here and there throughout the week.”
Time Commitment and Extra Activities as a Mascot
As the game went on, I realized how much work it takes to be a mascot. According to Bean, being a mascot requires a lot of energy, patience, and a lot of time commitment that goes beyond sports events.
“We have events to do with middle schools and high schools.” said Bean. “I did a wedding in Tahoe for one of my first events. It is a lot of work, extra work putting into your time schedule.”
The Nevada mascots have no scholarships. All they get is clothing and gear from the cheer team and their books paid for. On game days, they even have to share their lunch because they don’t get any money to cover their expenses.
“How much did you pay for it?” – said Katrina.
“Thirty.” said Alfie Jr.” I’m paying for them anyways so I might just well use my food bucks. I’m gonna open another, let’s cut into thirds.”
Why be a Mascot?
Even with all the hoops they go through, Katrina, who’s Luna #2 on this day, says after a point, mascoting is not only about the money.
“I can do things in the suit I can’t do as myself.” said Katrina. “I don’t want to say I have privileges but I am able to interact with people on a different way, I can go to a random person and have a conversation.”
Some people might think it is silly, some people might think it is not worth it, but the truth is that mascots are often times the face of schools, especially at sports events. They embody the spirit of their school and, without them, collegiate sports would not be as entertaining. According to Bean, representing the University of Nevada, Reno has been an amazing experience.
“I definitely feel pride from that.” said Bean. “It is definitely a highlight of my college career being part of the pack. The wolf pack.”