Apr. 24, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
THE ROAR OF THE CROWD
runs away from the field and Las Vegas Gladiators
"You can't just stand there like an ass!" screams Buddy,
the man usually found inside the suit of the Las Vegas Gladiators
I'm standing here like a lion, actually, but that's beside the
point. The Gladiators have just recovered a fumble from the
Nashville Kats, I'm told, and Thraxx neglected to sprint, scale the
wall or do cartwheels. He had no reaction whatsoever.
Before today's Arena Football League game at the Thomas &
Mack Center, Buddy showed me some of what Thraxx -- ancient Greek
for a resident of the Thracian kingdom -- is supposed to do. But
when and where he's supposed to do it on the field is ancient Greek
"Haven't you ever watched a football game?" Buddy demands to
You'll probably find this hard to believe, considering my
jocklike presence, but the answer is no -- not a whole one. I have
watched snippets of Super Bowls -- but only from the snack table at
the back of the party, in between flirting with all the women who
suddenly get ignored.
Sports mascots began appearing in the 1880s, when live animals
were introduced to represent team names. This practice prevailed up
until the "Brady Bunch" episode in which Greg hides Coolidge High's
mascot -- a goat named Raquel -- in his room.
The first professional sports mascot of the costumed variety was
the San Diego Chicken, who is so convinced of his stature that he
now refers to himself as The Famous Chicken. Hatched in 1974, he
also pioneered the use of popular recorded music, rather than live
organ, at sporting events. (Buddy uses mix tapes, which he records
himself, to accompany his Thomas & Mack entrances.)
By the way, Buddy isn't the real name of the 26-year-old
University of Nevada, Las Vegas student who earns $125 per game in
the $6,000 suit. The prime directive for mascots is to keep their
identities secret (especially for those who still attend college at
"The mascot wants to have his own aura," Buddy says. "If kids
open up the paper and read about the guy in the suit ..." He
finishes his thought by providing an example. Last year, the
2-year-old daughter of a friend saw Buddy step into the costume and
thought the lion was eating him.
"To this day, the kid bursts into tears when she sees me," he
Gladiators management knows Buddy and I switched places after
halftime. The arena football team's double-taking cheerleaders also
guessed as much when Thraxx emerged from his locker room 7 inches
shorter (excess leg fur shoved into my furry boots) and walking
alongside the man supposed to be playing him. Even Gladiators
lineman Chukie Nwokorie figured it out -- or at least thought he
"I thought you were the lady that comes out for promotions," he
says during a postgame interview, adding that he watched me shield
my fake head whenever a field goal sailed over it.
But the fans have no idea that Buddy's not in the suit. In fact,
they have no idea who Buddy is. This means that Thraxx himself is
taking the heat for my cowardly lion act. Buddy is justifiably
"The crowd should see you as, 'Let's do it! Let's get behind our
team and help them win the game!' " he coaches.
Truth is, even if I had a perfect sense of what Thraxx does, and
when and where he does it, I couldn't do it. I'm still
hyperventilating from my last mild jog out to the 20-yard line.
Colored dots dance across my visual field as I make like the Apollo
13 crew and breathe in my own hot carbon dioxide.
Only two pea-sized holes allow air to be sucked through my lion
snout. And I think it's fairly obvious from my human snout how much
bigger those holes need to be.
Readers frequently credit me with being brave. Here is a perfect
example of why I'm not. I know what will happen if I sprint like
Buddy wants me to. I will pass out. Then I will be dragged off the
field and into Thraxx's locker room before my head can be removed.
(That's how serious this secret-identity stuff is.)
Not only would this make a better article, but the incident would
probably receive national coverage. (The game is being broadcast by
Fox Sports Net.)
I belong in The Famous Chicken's costume, however, because all I
can focus on is how much less fun anoxia is in practice than theory.
Less than 15 minutes after I begin, my legs instinctively march me
off the field, then out of the arena to the parking lot, where I
desperately force a gap between my furry chin and chest with my
"You're dying and you haven't run once!" Buddy scolds me as I
gulp air like the swimmer at the beginning of "Jaws."
Incidentally, there could not be a worse possible game for this
experiment. The Gladiators need to win today to continue their
division lead. But they're down 20 points, a gap a mascot should be
able to help close by pumping the crowd.
Instead, I nearly widen that gap.
"Get off this field!" shouts a referee as I stand on the 10-yard
line just before the Kats snap the ball. The Gladiators could easily
receive a penalty for my ignorance. And I can just see the headline
after my confrontation with eight angry men, each of whom possesses
several times my strength and a small fraction of my sense of humor:
GLADIATORS EAT LION.
By the fourth quarter, my vision starts blurring from the hair
gel that's decided to drip down and sting my eyes. (Note to the Kats
player I almost mowed down on Thraxx's RV: Sorry about that!)
"Hey!" a team official yells at Buddy. "Are you trying to prove
that you need a raise?"
In the end, the Gladiators suffer almost as humiliating a defeat
as Thraxx's reputation (final score: 58-44). But there is some good
news. A couple of fans did notice a difference in mascots. Boy, did
"What was up with the midget Thraxx in the second half?" asked
one of three similar messages posted to lvgladiators.com.
"I hope that this is not going to be a permanent change," the fan
continued, "because, no offense, but the short Thraxx sucks."
No offense taken.
here to read more of Corey's adventures at his home page, FearandLoafing.com.