Who is that Panther?
Did I ever tell you guys how I always wanted to be Pete when I was at YSU? You know, Pete – the cute, dumpy, Penguin mascot? I never got my chance because you need to be six feet tall to wear the costume, and at 5'3", I don't even come close.
The year after I graduated from high school, I took a year off before I went to college, and I had job at Chuck E. Cheese. One of my responsibilites was to be Chuck E. for birthday parties. So I feel like I have adequate experience to be a mascot.
Fast forward to last weekend. My niece and nephew love to go to the Phantoms games. I have to say, they are a lot of fun - great for families. We always go with another couple who have two kids the same ages as James and Jackie and they're all great friends. All the kids love the Phantoms mascot, who is a giant Panther, even Jackie, who just turned six. This is odd because normally, she's deathly afraid of anyone dressed in costume. At Christmastime, when she hears Santa is going to be visiting the school, she refuses to go to school on the day he's there. So the fact that she loves Panther is pretty odd, but she loves him nonetheless.
The last few games we've attended, however, have been curiously "Panther-free". Jackie always asks about Panther, and hopes each time that he'll be back. It was no different Saturday at the game. "Is Panther going to be here this time?" she asks me. Well, he wasn't. Of course, she wanted to know where he was and if he would be making an appearance. She convinced me that I needed to go find out for her. (the things we do for the little ones, eh?) During the course of my investigation, I found out that Panther was fired - not for being a bad Panther, but because he never showed up for his shift at the Ice Zone unless he was being Panther.
So, I went back into the rink to tell Jackie the bad news, and whispered to my sister the sad news about Panther's working demise. She suggested "Maybe you could be Panther." That got my mascot-loving mind juices flowing! I went back out to the lobby, I found the guy who manages the gameday operations and asked him "Can I be Panther?" And guess what?!
Yes! Yes! Yes! I got to be Panther. And you know what I realized? EVERYONE LOVES PANTHER! Not just Jackie and her friend Natalie - EVERYONE! People kept yelling at me with such joy in their voices, "Panther, Panther! Where have you been Panther?" "Are you going to come out more, Panther?" "Panther, can I get my picture with you?" "Panther, can I get a hug?" "High five, Panther!" It was great fun, though it was extremely hot in there. I didn't dress for "mascotting", so I was quite miserable after about only 10 minutes. I stayed in the costume for about 30 minutes, then I had to take it off.
After coming back to the game as myself, I was approached and asked if I wanted to be Panther for the game the following day.
My Panther debut was a huge success! And I found out what I suspected to be true all along; being a mascot ROCKS!