Lester: Wildcat mascot more than a guy in a bad suit

Kerry Lester

Last Sunday evening, Village People CD in hand, I headed over to the Pavilion for mascot tryouts. How hard could it be? My urges to do wacky dances and body slam the Saint Joseph’s Eagle were somehow justified via the aid of a 15-pound head and furry suit. I was convinced I was born for this job.What I learned when I arrived at the stadium knocked my would-be paws off. Feeling like a sore thumb immediately, I found myself in the midst of perfectly makeuped and coiffed cheerleaders-to-be, radiating perkiness.The coach explained that he had a vision: to merge the cheerleader and mascot programs into one. Both male and female mascot wannabes were strongly encouraged to try out for both positions as a way to make use of their tumbling and lifting skills. In fact, in preparation for football and basketball game performances, they even hit the gym together a few times a week.Those wallflower inhibitions I hadn’t felt since high school suddenly resurfaced again via the aid of eyeliner, grosgrain ribbon, and complete color coordination. What was I doing here?I thought things would get better when the current Villanova mascots started to talk about what we were getting ourselves into. Instead, I listened with awe yet growing fear as they explained that on average, 10 pounds of water weight is lost per game from wearing the catsuit! If you are not hydrated enough, passing out from heat exhaustion is a real possibility. The suit itself is put on in pieces. The head is fastened via a supportive hockey-like helmet underneath. One is able to see through a mesh mouth. The feet are roomy size 13 paws that fit over the tops of shoes. While many of the movements our Wildcat makes are spontaneous, interaction with another college’s mascot is usually planned to avoid knock-down, drag-out, spur of the moment fights that could occur. Imagine … what if you were surprisingly sacked by the Saint Joseph’s Eagle in front of 5,000 screaming Villanova fans? You’d have to defend your turf – each punch that is thrown must be met by an even harder one. Yet, at the same time, our loveable Wildcat is constantly aware that he cannot only be seen as a bully. What about the little kids who come to the game for the sole reason of receiving a furry high-five? He must be lifelike, but at the same time larger than life.The mascot travels with the team up to a hundred miles away from Villanova’s campus; during holidays, school breaks and tournaments. After an hour or so of general info, we were given a sheet detailing the next two days of tryouts. A skit, sets of possible scenarios, and interviews with the current mascot were all required in hopes of attaining one available mascot positon.As I left the Pavilion, I realized that in no way could or would the next mascot be me. The only catsuit I’ll ever be wearing will be leather. Until next time.Kerry Lester is a staff columnist for The Villanovan. Contact her at [email protected].