By Misty Knisely Pharos-Tribune
---- — I have long wanted to be a team mascot.
Imagine getting to run around and act like a fool, while being a bit of a menace and have everybody love you for it. What could be greater than that?
Well, sometimes dreams do come true.
Where better to live out this dream of mine than here in Logansport, where we have the most awesome mascot in the world? So, I made a phone call to Felix’s keeper: Matt Jones, principal of Logansport High School.
The conversation had to be a first for him. “Hey, can I be Felix?” isn’t something you hear every day. Shockingly, he was not only on board but was an enthusiastic partner in crime. A quick look at the calendar and it was decided Feb. 21 would be the greatest night of my life — and also the boys basketball team’s home matchup against Huntington.
IT’S NOT EASY BEING FELIX
I thought that I’d throw on the suit and hit the gym floor ready to live it up ... I was quickly proved wrong. I was so wrong, in fact, that I learned the sheer act of suiting up is a two-man job. It seems Felix is a complicated fella. First, I needed help zipping up the back of the body suit. The extra set of hands came in handy later when trying to tuck his head piece into the body suit. As for putting on the feet, I was on my own not to fall over and injure myself.
After finally suiting up and making a couple rounds in the hallway, trying to get a feel for the getup I was wearing, it was time to head to the gym floor. That’s when I learned there were stairs involved. Again, a two-man job.
But once I made it to the floor, I was left to my own devices. A dangerous allowance there, Mr. Jones.
I shimmied and shook my way through the JV and varsity games. I doubt Felix has ever had such a swing. My big moment of mascot greatness, though, came during the varsity pre-game festivities. Not only did I bask in the applause of Felix’s introduction to the crowd, I got to break out some sweet dance moves — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it — during the cheerleaders’ performance to an AC/DC classic.
IT’S GOOD TO BE LOVED
People came at me from all angles. To get the big cat’s attention, little ones didn’t hesitate to pull a tail or poke a leg. Many times, the injustice was rewarded with the biggest bear hug their little arms could muster. Most hugs were flooded with the flash of mom’s camera phone. The cheerleaders pulled me in several times for photos, and one guy wanted a selfie. I imagine most, if not all, would end up on Facebook or Instagram. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the yearbook.
But regardless of who was taking it or who was in it, one thing was the same in every picture: I was smiling, though no one could see. And that was probably a good thing because it was one of those insanely happy, goofy grins.
How could you not be happy when the sight of you makes people come running with excitement? Though I knew the love was for Felix and not me, I basked in it just the same. I would strut up and down the court, just waiting to encounter my ... er, I mean Felix's next adoring fan.
NOT EVERYONE IS A FAN
But, it turns out not everyone loves you when you’re a mascot. Not until I walked the court in Felix’s feet did I understand that mascots are not always greeted with a high five or a fist bump, or even better, a big ol' hug. As someone who normally opts for the latter when encountering a mascot, I was taken aback by this strange breed.
There were some small children who were not only not happy to see me, they were appalled by my sheer existence. For those who could, they’d cry and run for safer ground. For others too young to have authority over their legs, they’d seek the safety of their mom’s chest and cling for dear life.
And then there were the middle-schoolers. When you get to a certain age, you’re just too cool to show excitement over Felix’s ear-to-ear grin and massive, happy eyes staring back at you. Yes, Felix is for babies, if you ask them. Well, clearly not for all babies.
And then there are the adults who are just too serious to engage in the antics of a cat. But unlike the kids who thought they were too cool, I decided the adults were fair game. Among my victims was the completely innocent athletic director. The poor guy was just trying to watch the game. Too bad Felix stood nearby and mimicked his every move. Onlookers laughed, but the subject of Felix’s attention did not. Also not amused was the police officer who threatened — in jest? — to cuff the curious cat and haul him out of the gymnasium. But that’s another story.
BACK TO REALITY
As the third quarter of the varsity game wrapped up, I had reached my breaking point. It was just too hot in that suit to carry on for the final quarter. I rounded up my escort and headed back up to the locker room.
After a change of clothes and drinking enough water to drown a camel, I headed back down to the gym floor to meet some friends. I caught myself reaching up for a high-five as I passed some kids in the hallway. I thought about messing with that police officer again but decided his leniency for Felix’s antics likely wouldn’t extend to me.
And though I spent only a short time as Felix, I became accustomed to the unconditional love that he exudes and attracts. Without him walking by my side, so to speak, the final stroll down the hall wasn’t nearly as much fun as it had been just a few minutes earlier. With no one running in for a hug or shouting out a greeting, I already missed Felix.
When I reached the gym floor, though, I found my friends waiting in the stands. They cheered at the sight of me and met me with open arms.
Yeah, it’s good to be loved.
Misty Knisely, managing editor, can be reached at 574-732-5155 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her: @PharosMK