While UNC and Miami squared off in the first half of their New York Life ACC Tournament quarterfinal on Thursday, I found myself sequestered behind a temporary partition inside a conference room in a Manhattan office building. There, along with John Cassillo of our sister Syracuse site, I listened as 11 unmasked ACC mascots laughed and shared stories over burritos. And I confirmed what I often suspected: the kids behind the costumes are absolutely hilarious.
After lunch, we boarded two double-decker buses for a tour of Manhattan, where the mascots plied their antics on tourists and locals alike. The Pitt Panther “dunked” on unsuspecting bystanders under a makeshift basketball hoop. The Yellow Jacket picked an inter-conference “fight” with a couple of Seton Hall fans outside of MSG. The Cavalier swash-buckled all around. Good times were had by all.
Here are a few tidbits I picked up:
- It takes folks a while to realize that they don’t actually have smile when taking pictures with fans. You know...because they wear costume heads with permanent smiles.
- In addition to team-related events, these students get called on for gigs at weddings, birthday parties, and more. The guy dressed as Otto (from Syracuse) said he once got asked to do a funeral, but I couldn’t tell if he was being serious. Another team’s mascot said he once did a gig at a gender reveal party for a soon-to-be born baby.
- Notre Dame’s tryout is totally public. Syracuse’s tryout is almost wholly private.
- UVA’s mascot is a fourth-year and a great guy. I know his major and his hometown. But I won’t tell you any of that.
- Most schools have multiple people work as mascots. They described it much like you’d describe a quarterback pecking order - 1st string, 2nd string, 3rd string, etc.
- Each mascot confessed to stepping on people constantly. You know...because they wear massive costume shoes.
- If you ever get a chance to ride an elevator with the GT Yellow Jacket, the VT Hokie, or the BC Eagle, politely decline and wait for the next one. Their respective backsides are logistically problematic.
The mascot tour was part of New York Life’s “Be Good At Life” promotion. And in the game of life, these kids are definitely winning.