Mascot Masquerading

It is 3:45pm on Maundy Thursday. I am in need of an Easter miracle. Standing in front of a panel of three people, I am about to sell myself for my dream job. I am dressed head to toe in an Easter Bunny suit. This is no ordinary job.

A few weeks beforehand, I read in the newspaper that the Essendon Football Club was looking for a new mascot; a dynamic individual to be the inspirational and heroic ‘Skeeta Reynolds’. Some further research revealed that this was a fair dinkum job – it was on seek.com.au so it was for real. Being a mascot has been a long-held dream of mine, even though it lay hidden from most people who know me, kind of like an embarrassing middle name. So I decided to apply. I analysed the selection criteria and carefully addressed them in my application letter.

I waited, not really sure what to expect. The possibility of becoming Skeeta would flit across my consciousness throughout each day, but I endeavoured to live my life as normally as possible. Occasionally my imagination would get the better of me. At those times I would lose myself in the thought of stepping onto the hallowed MCG, strutting around the grand colosseum like a genuine 19th man for the mighty Bombers. Such moments of furtive imagination were generally hijacked by the reality of not having any skills in the performing arts. My most recent form in such an arena was a non-speaking role as one of the Three Wise Men in my Kindergarten nativity play. This was over 25 years ago.

A week or so of internal anguish was ended when I received an email from the Bombers saying that I had made it through to the next round. Excitement turned to trepidation when I read what was involved in this second round: among other tasks I had to submit a 15-second audition video to showcase my acting skills. Panic ensued. But any mascot worth their weight in smelly, fluff-riddled cotton needed to rise to this occasion. So I did. I submitted my video and waited again.

This time, instead of waiting out my time by day dreaming, I spent most of my time watching my audition video on YouTube. At the time of writing, my video had 148 views. I am fairly confident that at least 127 of these views have been mine – each of them accompanied by infantile giggles. It hardly went viral, but those close to me began thinking I had an illness.

Again, I made it through to the next round. For this penultimate round, I was summoned to an outer suburban trampoline park. Here, I would be pitted against the crème de la crème of ‘mascotting’ talent in this country, or so they said. Like a made-for-TV talent quest, we would face a number of challenges, most of which would stretch the acting training provided in my previously mentioned Wise Man role.

The first challenge was a collection of group warm up and improvisation exercises. The basis of my attraction to being a mascot is the mask of anonymity. This first challenge was to be tackled without a mask. I sweated. The superior acting chops of my fellow applicants became clearly apparent. My lack of chops was equally clear. I stumbled through regardless, and emerged with dignity still intact. Just.

The second challenge involved wearing an Easter Bunny suit and walking around the trampoline park. The purpose of this frivolity was so the panel of judges could see how we interacted with the general public and ‘animated’ our costumes. We were taught the two rules in Mascot Club: never break character, and never break character. Essentially, this meant no talking and no removal of the mask in the view of the children. There was also a secret hand symbol that we could make so that our minders knew if we needed to be removed from the field of battle. I could tell you what the symbol is, but I would have to kill you.

At the start, my main move was the high five. The kids were surprisingly receptive to this. I dished out and received more high fives in that half hour than a whole generation of West Indian cricketers. In my braver moments, I even pulled out the old ‘too slow’ move by retracting my hand quickly. Emboldened by my early progress, I decided to enter the ‘Dodgeball’ arena. A little kid, jumping up and down on his trampoline yelled, “hey, can I throw the ball at you?” Not wanting to be a wowser, I nodded and gave him the thumbs up. I was barely on my second nod before the first ball cannoned into the side of my face. More balls followed. I hopped quickly out of the Dodgeball arena.

I ascended to the cafeteria where hoards of people flocked for multiple photo opportunities. I felt famous and, inexplicably, smiled for all the photos even though my face was well hidden by the bulbous pink nose and oversized buck teeth of my mask. Despite a few clumsy moments, I felt that I was doing well with this challenge. The kids loved me. And even if that was just because I let them throw balls at me, I decided to take it.

The next challenge required a two-minute performance with a backing track. The two-minute mash up I ended up producing was most likely the only time in the history of music that The Proclaimers 500 Miles had been bled into Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode, into Steps’s 5, 6, 7, 8, into Aretha Franklin’s Think. If music knows what is good for it, this will be the last time. To say that I was underprepared for my dance routine is to say that Dennis Denuto did not always make the full preparations for court appearances. I was still finalising my choreography just hours before the audition. And I use the term ‘choreography’ very loosely. Regardless, there I stood, dressed from head to toe in an Easter Bunny suit, in front of the panel. The opening strains of 500 Miles called me to attention and I danced my little heart out.

A few days later, when the adrenalin had left my body, I ‘treated’ my wife to an encore performance. When I finished, she was silent for a while, contemplating what she had just seen. After a short while she said, “I’m so proud of you for doing that in front of other people”. As much as it hurts to admit this, her response pretty accurately summed up my performance.

However, at the time, I was not privy to the kind of honest feedback generously provided by my wife. So, buoyed by the thrill of performance, I actually felt that I had danced the good dance. The final challenge for the day was a formal interview which proved to be the most comfortable of all the activities I completed on the day. When that was completed, I exited the trampoline park feeling pretty good and even allowed myself some light-headed dreaming that perhaps I was about to become the next Skeeta.

The call came two days later. My Easter miracle had not arrived. It seems my skills in the performing arts were not strong enough for the stringent demands of being an AFL Club mascot. Pragmatically, I accepted that deep down I already knew this to be the case. However, for at least a few weeks I dreamed the dream and had some fun. Now, every time I see Skeeta at the footy I will have a little chuckle and remember that uncoordinated bunny bootscooting to Steps. After all, if cliché-happy sports commentators have taught me anything in life, it is all about the journey.

About Ged McMahon

Ged McMahon has been a Bombers fan for as long as he can remember. With a Grandpa who grew up just a spiralling torpedo punt from Windy Hill he didn't have much choice. When his junior football career resulted in almost as many possessions as games he eventually had to bite the bullet and give up his dream of captaining the Bombers to a Premiership. So his weekly footy fix became confined to the stands. He yearns for the next Premiership.

Comments

  1. Stephanie Holt says

    Joy *and* merriment! Thanks for a great read :)

  2. Ged

    Funny funny read (unless you were serious of course and then my deepest sympathies for missing out on the gig)

    Having read the application letter and seen the video, all I can say is the new Skeeta must be very very good.

    Interesting to see the changed and detailed recruitment processes the Bombers go through now following the Dank appointment!

    As someone who has been inside the Yellow Pages Book Muncher suit a few times, it is hard work being the mascot, so I am sorry you didn’t get to live the dream.

    Are you at least the back up/emergency, in case the new guy does a fetlock, and have to come on, Mark Schwarzer style?

    Sean

  3. Sensational Ged. I always wondered how mascots get the gig. I would have been bowing out at step one. You should write a book about your experiences. It would out-sell Bob Carr’s.

  4. Brilliant read!

  5. David Zampatti says

    Of course the Eagles, always the innovators, solved all their mascot problems.

    They play him in the ruck.

  6. Great yarn Ged. Is he called ‘Skeeta’ Reynolds because of Dick’s double entendre potential with the kiddies?
    Harms has been auditioning for the Happy Hammond role at the Cats for the last 20 years.
    DZ – How is Andre the Giant doing these days? He hasn’t been the same since contracting turf toe in The Princess Bride.

  7. Rick Kane says

    Great stuff Ged and, please, stay strong. You know what follows?

    The refusal to accept the decision.

    Auditioning for other roles, dressed only in an animal suit.

    Getting a gig, working with The Flaming Lips.

    And then the fall: “Performing” at buck’s parties and hens nights, hitting the cartoon sized bottle, turning up at home games dressed identically to the Mascot but probably a little more liquored up, the fist fight before the first bounce, being dragged out by security and thrown into the street, just another Mascot contender.

    Stay strong my friend. I once was a Talking Xmas Tree. The giddy heights are no compensation for the lonely nights after the fame train departs without you.

    Cheers

  8. Haha, thanks for all of the comments! Don’t worry Rick, I have already been through the 7 stages of grief. Although they weren’t as colourful as the ones you’ve described!

    Sean, I’m sure the new Skeeta will be awesome, I’m looking forward to seeing him in action.

    If anyone from Essendon reads this, I will have my fluoro green vest on at all times in case I’m needed to fill in…

  9. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Every time I now see Skeeta at the footy, I will have a hearty giggle and remember this lovely piece.

  10. Love it.

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