Saturday, July 25, 2015

How are you?

How are you?
What's going on?
What's up?

It's funny how many times you can be asked those questions, but yet, never really give an honest answer, besides the one that happens to be the most convenient to you and your desires at that moment . Or, the one you think other people want to hear or expect to hear from you.

So much of our own image tends to be carefully constructed sequences and conversations with others that portray who we "want to be" and what we want others to think we are. Why can't our conversations be more in-depth and these interactions be about our true self?  Meaningful, important and caring interactions are one of the true pleasures in life and I really fear that we are losing those.  

Why am I writing in-depth about my feelings about human interactions on this blog?  Well, it's simple.  I've always felt that writing your thoughts down really clarifies a busy-mind and more importantly, deep-down, I want people to connect.

Here's the impetus for this blog post:  

The past few months we've been tackling the sleep deprived, weary, no fun monster in our household called Post-Partum Depression.  Exhaustion and lack of sleep are the main culprits for my wife and I, and with our youngest child finally sleeping through the night, the light at the end of the tunnel has been reached.  But man, that tunnel sucked.

Being in a career where there is an expectation for you to be funny, witty, happy and excited most of the time, you create a persona partially molded by people's expectations of you.  I reached the point where I could no longer always be true to that persona that I'd created for other peoples pleasure.  I looked around for someone to talk to about the Post-Partum Depression my wife kept reminding me I was experiencing, she wanted me to talk to someone about it.  Why the hell was it so hard for me to admit I had it and just talk to someone?  First off, everywhere I looked and every person I thought about opening up to, I would make an excuse about why they couldn't help and how they wouldn't understand. Secondly, it's tough to open up that part of your life to other people not knowing how they'll judge you.  You can really work yourself into a corner.

A lot of my delay in reaching out for help stemmed from a place of telling myself, "things will slow down", "I'll work my way through this", "I don't need help, I'm self sufficient".  Boy, was I wrong.  I finally realized I needed professional help when I felt little to no emotion around my second daughter when she was a few months old, which hurts me to even write.  Even then, I still thought I could fix it myself.  I'm stubborn.  Finally, after a few days of being in "fogs" like I've never experienced and never want to again, I realized it was time to ask for real help.  

Opening up to a non-judgmental ear and trained professional in discussing my post-partum depression experience has done wonders.  I, too, had fallen into the stigma that seeing a therapist meant that I wasn't strong enough or that I just couldn't work through my responsibilities.  Let me tell you what, having two kids under the age of three, without a family member within a 12 hour drive is the absolute hardest thing that I've ever had to do.  Talking to a professional made me understand that these are remarkably difficult, yet rewarding times and that this is nothing out of the ordinary and nothing to be ashamed about.

I guess what I really want people to take from this story is that finding a listening ear and asking for help in these types of circumstances aren't signs of weakness.  They, in-fact, are actually signs of strength.  Strength comes from recognition and knowledge and knowing how to improve your situations.

So, the next time you feel like no one is listening or that most of the questions people ask of you are empty, understand that it just takes that one person to connect with that makes things so much better.

P.S.  I'm doing much better, the kids are great, we read and play as much as possible and I love them more and more everyday and I can't believe how happy they make me.

P.P.S Sharing this is no one's idea but my own.  I feel it's important for me to open up and connect more. To be honest about what's really happening in my life.  To try and find meaningful, connected and caring conversation and relationships.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

30 for 30

In honor of my 30th Birthday, I'm writing a quick recap of 30 of my most memorable mascot moments.  I 'm including a wide range of events, games and memories that really stand out.  I'm sure that some memorable ones will be left out, but there is no way to include them all.  They will also be done by character, not by most memorable for me.  It's impossible to count down from 30 to 1 for me, they've all been equally important in one way or another.


1.  My senior year in 2003, I had the honor of performing at the UCA Mascot Nationals in Orlando, FL.  This was my second trip to UCA Nationals and first year performing.  The previous year, our program placed 12th and everyone left pretty disappointed.  It was in 2003, in my opinion that the Sparty mascot program started living up to it's potential in the arena of comparison to other top collegiate mascot programs.   It was a true team effort and the "aha" moment of recognizing what it took to win at that level.  I placed 5th my senior year, but haven't been prouder of many things.

Here's the 2002/3 "Motown" Skit

Never been prouder of finishing 5th.
2.  I left/graduated from the Sparty Mascot program in 2003, Sparty won his first of his 3 National Championships in 2004.  Addition by subtraction right?  Just kidding.  I really felt a part of this championship because of the ground work laid the previous two years.  It helps when it was your close friend who won it as well.  Getting the phone call that Sparty had won was one I'll never forget.

Here's the Entry Video from 2004:

The "Precious"

3.  My first year at UCA Mascot Camp in Milwaukee.  This event opened my eyes to just how much fun being a collegiate mascot could possibly be.  Between the road-trip there and back from East Lansing and all the shenanigans in-between, I couldn't imagine a more fun time as a young college kid.  I won't post many of the traditions because that would take away from the novelty of them.  But it was a good time had by all.

Some Big Ten mascots doing the final field walk in 2001.
4.  The first game that came to mind for how cool it was to do, was the 2001 MSU vs. UM football game.  I did the first half and got to run out of the tunnel pre-game and then was on the field for this.  I was in the dogpile at somepoint.  Most exciting sports moment for me so far.

5.  The creation of Willy the Wolverine.  Talking to some former Spartys awhile back, we started laughing that after all we accomplished in our time, we live on the most in the "mascot" we made for the University of Michigan.  "Willy".  Michigan lives by the theory that they're too good for a "mascot" on the field.  Needless to say, that didn't sit well with a lot of other Big Ten mascots.  The Sparty's decided to take action.  Willy was created, tackled at a couple games versus UofM and promptly banned from the field.  The best reactions were the Michigan "fans" wondering why Sparty was beating up their mascot and not being smart enough to realize it was a stooge.  Fast forward a couple of years later and Willy made his appearance on HBO during a special on mascots that filmed at UCA Camp in Milwaukee.  Needless to say, Willy got banned from camp as well.

Go to the :30 second mark for elusive footage of Willy and the segment that got him banned.

Willy out for the count.
Willy 2.0

Here is the original "Fake" Willy, manned by Erik Stubenvoll.  This photo was in the Detroit Free Press and was taken about 5 minutes after I had laid him out flat in front of 75,000 people.

6.  My senior year I was fortunate to draw the first round tournament games for Men's Basketball.  I was even luckier that the first round was to be played in Tampa Bay.  It was even better after the team won the first round game and extended our stay in Florida by an extra 2 days.  This meant more free time.  As a college kid from cold Michigan, Tampa was warm sunny and fun.  Even better, the director of the Michigan State Band worked out a deal with George Steinbrenner to get the MSU band to play the anthem and 7th inning stretch at a Yankees spring training game.  The Yankees showed us great hospitality by letting us on the field, meeting a couple players and giving all of us $20 in Yankee bucks to spend at the game.  It was just a surreal sports weekend.

MSU Band doing the Anthem at Legends Field..

Off Day at the Beach in Tampa - Tough Life

7.  Michigan State vs. Wisconsin Football Game.  Halloween weekend in Madison.  If you've ever experienced a Halloween in Madison, you know what I'm talking about.  Combine that with two other Spartys, all your high school friends and you have a great combination.  I am overdue on thanking Johnny and Erik for driving all the way back to East Lansing on Sunday.  I slept the entire way back after demolishing two full dinner plates at Perkins.

Halloween Weekend in Madison.  Giddy up.

8.  Andy T's.  One of the events I remember most about college.  The Spartys decided to continue our process of reaching out to the cheerleaders and dancers and create a unified front of Spartan sideline entertainment.  This not only helped with skits and camraderie amongst the spirit squads, but it was a blast as well.  Andy T.'s is a pumpkin patch about 25 miles outside of East Lansing that you can rent out for parties, hay-rides, bonfires, etc...  We rented it out and had a blast.  I know that for at least the next 6 or 7 years this tradition has carried on as a way to unite the cheerleaders, dancers and mascots.  It's commonplace now, but in our days there was little tradition amongst the squads.  This was a way to bridge that gap.

Andy T. with members of the 2002 - 2003 Dance Team.

The crowning of the "Booty Shake" competition.  Note Andy T. and a certain sombrero.
9.  Graduation.  I was able to finally let classmates, friends, etc... know that I was Sparty.  I wrote Sparty on my cap when I graduated and it was priceless to see people's looks when they found out after knowing me for 4 years that I had been the one in the suit.  Plus, I was happy to be done with school.


10.  Being selected as a JJ Jumper was a huge thrill because this meant that my career as a professional mascot had begun and I had a job out of college.  It was my first professional audition and my first time "mascotting" for a paycheck.  It was at this moment that I started understanding the business side of being a mascot.

11.  After training in Indianapolis, I headed to the East Coast to attend a friends wedding.  It so happened that on the flight out to the East Coast, I had a seat next to Dave Raymond and got to sit down and get to know him for the first time.  It was just a funny coincidence that led to many opportunities down the road.

Dave Raymond wants you to tickle him.

12.  My performance highlight as JJ Jumper was definitely the 2004 Final Four in San Antonio.  Between working the fan-fest with the 4 schools, partying on the Riverwalk, having John Salley emcee a bull-riding contest, getting to attend the gala which honored Jud Heathcote and attending the Championship game, it was definitely a week to remember.
Celebrating JJ's Birthday with a fan.

JJ's not a frog, but here's a picture of him hopping.

John Salley, mascot, some college characters and JJ Jumper.


13.  I distinctly remember my in-costume interview for the Delmarva Shorebirds.  I was flown to Philadelphia and interviewed by Dave Raymond, Steve Yaros and Frank Miceli in the Spectrum.  It was my first experience in an REG suit and I was amazed at the movement of it and the view from the neck.  I had a sit-down interview and an in-costume interview and then offered the job a few days later.

14.  The Jason Fransz incident.  I don't have pictures big enough to post, but I do have a story.  Sherman would make his entrance onto the field on his ATV during Mid-1, drive around and toss a couple rubber chickens into the crowd and then make his way off.  During the first inning there were two outs and then a simple liner and a easy toss to first.  It was a definite out.  So I had my assistant open the gates and out I went on my ATV to toss rubber chickens.  It wasn't until I had gotten almost all the way around to 3rd base before I realized that Fransz had dropped the ball and the game was still being played.  I don't think I've ever been more embarrased.

Thanks for dropping the ball, Jason.

15.  Being Michael Phelps Boss.  One event I really regret not getting pictures of was when Michael Phelps came to Delmarva to "discuss" his mistake at a Shorebirds game.  Rewind a couple of months and Phelps had been busted with a DUI in Delmarva when he was down partying with some friends from Baltimore.  Now, as part of his community service, he had to do some public speaking engagements.  This was in 2005, so he was an Olympic athlete, but his was before he had set his record of 8 Gold Medals.  Seeing as how this was the minors, I was not only the mascot, but in charge of game entertainment and scripting everything out.  I was put in charge of handling Phelps.  He showed up and acted like someone who had to be there, he acted like what he was, a 19 or 20 year old doing community service.  On our way up to the radio booth, I cracked a joke to him, asked him what it was like having a Spartan telling him what to do.(He was enrolled at UofM at the time)  He just laughed and said "Oh, you're a Sparty"  I responded to him, "Damn straight, I'm a Spartan".  When the game started, I had Sherman present him with 8 gold medals during the pre-game ceremony and put them around his neck.  So, in a way, I was the first person to ever put 8 medals around the neck of Michael Phelps.

Hey SI, a Class A Mascot was way ahead of you on this shot.

 16.  Notre Dame Norbie.  I formed a great relationship with the old Director of Community Relations, Norb Sadilek.  Being such a young kid, it was always nice to talk to Norb, who was an older guy about life and especially talking trash to him about his beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  He always had time to listen and really helped me keep my wits about living paycheck to paycheck and working for peanuts at the Class A level.

This is me, dressed as Norb. I then proceeded to walk behind him the entire pre-game.


17.  Parker's Very First Intro.  All the work was done, the helicopter entrance was planned, skits had been practiced and everyone had been prepped.  It was a massive undertaking to get everything done correctly.  So what happens on Opening Day?  Torrential downpours.  The helicopter can't land on the field due to the rain & tarp.  So we improvise, I get a police escort to Grizzlies Stadium (now The Chuk), come out on an ATV and the rest is history.  Did you know that a documentary movie was made about Parker and myself?  It actually features footage from the rained out Opening Night and some of the planning that went into Parker.  There's some video on this link of the very first time I laid eyes on the Parker suit.

These are the three mascots and performers highlighted in the documentary.

18.  One of the years for Parker's intro we decided he should parachute into the stadium.  It was a blast getting that all set up.  Here is some amateur footage of it.

19.  One of the perks of being a mascot is getting to travel around and perform at other stadiums.  When I was Parker, I had the opportunity to go to Tampa Bay for Raymond's B-day party and spend a few days in Florida watching baseball and performing.  It was a great way to meet some other mascots and help build up the rep for Parker amongst other professionals.

20.  It was during December of 2007 that I was notified that Parker had been named Best Mascot in the Country for 2007.  We hadn't been aware of the nomination, so it had come as a pleasant surprise that all the hard work we'd done in establishing the character was starting to show.

21.  Mascot Wrestling.  We did this promo on the basis of knowing it's hilarious to see mascots wrestling, no matter what.  This promo was a culmination of the five years I'd spent developing relationships and character branding and really was an eye-opener as to what's possible when your main mission is fun.  The best part of this video is the take-out of Derek Franks at the 2:28 mark, who sold the stiff arm better than any professional wrestler could've.  Enjoy!

22.  Parker vs. The Phillie Phanatic.  One of my most memorable nights as a performer.  We used the notoriety of The Phillie Phanatic to leverage how good we knew Parker was.  It really developed Parker a rep amongst other teams and showed our fans that their own mascot stacked up against the best.  It was a great show, all the way from pre-game to the in-game competition between us.  We called it "The Best Mascot in Minor League Baseball vs. The Best Mascot in Major League Baseball".

What a night!
23.  Bobblehead Underwear Day.  Parker had become such an icon in five years, that we could get away with giving away a bobblehead of Parker in his undies, which is an image inspired by the Evolution of Dance Skit.  Check out the pic and video for further clarification.

24.  "I Hate the OffSeason, Seasons 1 & 2"  At the peak of creativity and teamwork for the Grizzlies, we had a weekly off-season show highlighting Parker and some of our off-season initiatives.  It was such a success that it was widely copied throughout professional sports.  Some of the videos were direct rip-offs, but it was still a compliment that other teams copied it.  Here are three of my favorite episodes.

25.  The 2010 Triple A All-Star Game in Lehigh Valley.  I was fortunate enough to get to work the All-Star Game as Parker and a Drag King.  It was exciting to get Parker on the MLB Network.  We did a great promotion with the grounds crew of Lehigh Valley.  This is the hype video we made for it.

26.  Dan Rohn.  The three most fun years I've had as a mascot are a direct result of Dan Rohn.  For those of you who don't know who Dan is, he has been a minor-league manager for years and years.  He's also from Michigan.  He is one of the nicest guys I've had the pleasure of getting to know in baseball.  He is a teller of tales and lover of fun.  From my standpoint, he was great to work with.  Always willing to chat after games and come out with the staff after them.  We forged a great friendship.  He would routinely steal my ATV key and make me push the ATV off the field before giving it back.  Our prank wars culminated at the end of every season.  One year he dumped buckets of water on me after having players tackle me.  The next year he and some players had me hog-tied and drug off the field by the Groundskeeper.  One of the years I had him thinking he was going to jail and the next year I pulled a legendary clubhouse prank.  Here are some of my favorite photos of "Rohny".

Celebrating Opening Day together.  He slapped me about 15 seconds later.

Here's Rohny stealing a base.

Here's Rohny mid-toss.

Here's the end result.  Note Parker on the dugout cheering wildly.

27.  Mascotting the perfect game.  It was July 4th, 2009.  I had a pre-game entrance, 4 skits, a Drag King Routine and post-game autographs.  They all went off perfectly.  Thus, the perfect game.

28.  Parker is named "Best Mascot of the Decade".  This past fall, named Parker one of 3 "Best Mascots of the Decade".  It was bittersweet because I had been restructured out of my job and I found it interesting that the Grizzlies never made it public.  Either way, it was a huge honor and nice to be considered among the best of the best. 

The Best of the Decade Honorees.

29.  Parker Highlight Videos.  Our old Director of Entertainment would put together an end of the year highlight videos that recapped all the Parker highlights of the season.  They were great fun and really showcased what an entire season of mascotting entailed.  Here's my favorite one.


30.  My MLB debut.  What a day and experience.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First MLB Homestand Recap

My last blog was February 21st.  A lot has happened since then.  Moving, New Job, Pregnant wife, etc...
But the focus here is going to be a recap of my first homestand as an MLB mascot and the comparisons that I can draw after seven years in Minor League Baseball.

I know it's cliche...but the trick really is to dance like no one's watching.

Since I started on March 16th and Opening Day was on March 31st, I had a whopping 15 days to learn a new staff, new PA person, new music guy, etc...  That's one of the first things that stood out to me at the MLB level is just how specific people's jobs are.  Gone are the days that the person running the music was a marketing intern that also did ticket sales and PR appearances on the side.  In MLB, the music guy is the music guy.  The mascot is the mascot.  The tickets sales department just sells tickets.  You get my drift. 

In my minor league days we would have our production "Channel 8" meeting approximately 3 or 4 hours before game time, due to the necessity of working gates, handing out promo material, handling parades, etc...also because our staff wanted to make sure that things were done the right way.  In MLB we have our production meeting 1.5 hours before first pitch.  Our MiLB meetings would have about 5 or 6 of us, my first MLB pre-game production meeting had 36.  There are so many different things I need to learn about production at this level.  Things such as High 1, High 3, Low 1, Low 3, intro graphics, timing and the sheer amount of production that goes into a show that highlights the world's largest outdoor HD Board.  Don't get me wrong, the mascot is important to the Royals, but picking your spots and getting maximum exposure at this level involves a lot more people and I quickly learned that means being a lot more efficient in communication.

During the games it was obvious to me just how family friendly the personality of the character was.  The past seven years I've been an edgy performer with a big belly and a carefree attitude.  Here, I am facing a crowd that for the past 15 years has seen a mascot that didn't take many risks.  It'll be a process of working in those risks at the appropriate times and begin to shift the mindset of what the fans and management can expect on a nightly basis from the character.  With that being said, I don't plan on abandoning all the hard work put in by my predecessors, I'd be a fool to do so.  The reception I've gotten at all the events around KC has really shown me that the character is a hit.  My challenge and goal is to make the character more well known outside of KC, while at the same time growing the base of fans in KC as well.

Another glaring difference is the way my timing/communication is done.  I wear an earpiece like a lot of newscasters and security people wear on the inside that allow the producer to talk to me during skits and crowd work and allows my assistant to help me navigate through crowds of fans and keep me abreast of where the game is at.  It took a couple of games to get used to, but I'm becoming a fan of the increased communication. 

Getting the crowd involved at this level is a completely different animal than at the minor league level.  First off, the stadium is just so big that you can only really get 4 or 5 sections paying attention to improv crowd work.  Secondly, there are a lot more baseball purists at this level who just want the mascot out of the way so they can watch the game.  I literally have to get out of the way of these fans during every play and work in-between plays.  It's proving to be difficult.  I come from the mindset where every fan is important to the survival of the franchise and I want to keep it this way.  I'll find ways to get around this, but it's going to take time.

I'm also finding I have more energy during the games, due in large part to being able to just focus on mascotting and the creative side of it and not worrying about 25 other things during a game.  It's really refreshing.  I truly believe that anyone who is successful in Minor League Baseball for 7+ years can do anything.  While I miss MiLB, this is a great challenge for me and I constantly remind myself of how lucky I am to still be doing what I love to do.  Getting that taken away from me at my last job was tough, but it has solidified my ideology in the power of fun and the process of chasing your goals.  I'm a passionate person when it comes to this type of work and I know that is one of the foundations for my sucesses.

As I look forward to the next homestand and the rest of the season, I'm constantly reminding myself to keep learning.  Just because I had great success at the Minor League level, I need to adapt to be successful at the MLB level.  I feel that as long as I'm learning and making daily progress towards my goals, those goals will be reached.  It's the only way I know how to do it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Next Step

Whenever I've faced a life-changing decision, I've always written about it.  I find that writing really helps focus on what you think are the most important aspects of any decision.  It's a great way to really spell out your thoughts and identify the positives and negatives of a decision.  Another added benefit to writing about big decisions is that you'll be able to look back in time at your notes, letter, etc... to really re-connect with your thought process.  It helps re-kindle the passion and reaffirm why you made the decision in the first place.  This is one of those letters.

After 7 full seasons in Minor League Baseball, I've accepted a job offer with the Kansas City Royals as their new Mascot Coordinator and Performer.  This isn't the first time I've dabbled with MLB and their mascot programs.  Straight out of college, 22 years old, I was offered the position of the new mascot for the Chicago White Sox.  That same week I was also offered a job with a Class-A team, the Delmarva Shorebirds.  At that time I wrote myself a letter and really weighed the options of working for an MLB team or a Class A MiLB team.  Believe it or not, I chose the Class A team.  After getting a lot of input from veteran performers and the opportunity to really learn the business side of things, the Delmarva Shorebirds was the right call.  I wasn't ready for an MLB job yet, I was too cocky and too young.  It was an agonizing decision and I recall going back and forth with both teams numerous times. 

After two years on the Eastern Shore of Maryland(great vacation place, BTW), I got a job offer with the Fresno Grizzlies, the San Francisco Giants Triple A affiliate.  I wrote myself another letter.  This was easier than the previous one to write.  New Character, California, Triple A, Family nearby, new staff.  All the signs pointed in the right direction.  I knew opportunities in the mascot business like this one were few and far between.  I jumped at it and in 5 years helped make Parker one of the most recognized faces in Central California and in Baseball.  I am extremely proud of everything that was accomplished during those five years.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to take that next step with the character and in Minor League Baseball. 

So, I found myself out of a job, being supported by the State of California and my beautiful wife.  (Not a bad gig if you can get it!)  A full-time job opportunity came along and I've gone through the whole process of emotions and weighing the positives and negatives of my decision.  A very important word to me is potential.  What is the potential to this job offer?  It represents a bigger stage.  It represents a challenge to duplicate some of my successes at the Minor League Level.  It represents a new chapter.  I'm fully aware of the challenges that many MLB mascots face when it comes to skits, character development, input, recognition, etc...  I'm not going into this position thinking I'm going to set the world on fire from Day 1.  Character programs take time to build up.  The challenge for me is going to be taking an established character and re-inventing him while still staying true to the fanbase of the Royals.  People don't like change, but if it's change for the better, then eventually you win them over.  It's going to take some time.

This was a mutual decision for my wife and I.  I needed to know she was willing to take a risk and move to the Heartland with me.  She was.  None of this is possible without her.  That's another thing I've picked up along the way is a work/life balance.  If you talk to any veteran performer, the smart ones tell you to get a life outside your work.  While yes, I will be throwing myself into the character initially, I will find a life outside baseball and mascots.  It took me a while to understand that mascotting is what I do, not who I am. 

I had to make the judgment calls for this opportunity on my own.  In the past I consulted many people about every job offer that I've considered.  For this position, I did a little bit of that, but I also trusted my instinct and went into the interview process with eyes wide open and I've broken this down from many angles.  At the end of the day, with my wife's support, it was time to take my chance at the highest level.  I don't know what the future will hold, but I've had success at every step along the way.  I'm hoping to continue that streak.

Hardest part of the new gig?  Being skinny again.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Letter to My 19 Year Old Self...

Yesterday I spoke with someone from the Michigan State Alumni Association.  They had called me looking for a donation and to check up on their files, I'm assuming.  Whether or not he was being completely honest or trying to butter me up for money, the kid who called me mentioned he was thinking about trying out to be Sparty and wondered if I thought it was worth it.  I simply told him, there is nothing better you can do with your time.   This got me thinking of a better way to express to the younger generation of mascot performers, the importance of following your dreams and desires and what to expect in the trials and tribulations of being a professional mascot.  So, I decided to write a letter to myself when I was 19 to preview some lessons I've picked up along the way.  Obviously I can't change my history, but if any younger performers out there heed any of my advice, hopefully it will be beneficial to them in one way or another.  Here we go!

Dear 19 Year Old Brad,

You are about to embark on the path less traveled.  It's not going to be easy, or glamorous.  You're going to work harder than you ever had in your entire life, physically and emotionally.  You're going to make friends for a lifetime in just a few short years.  You're going to learn that building bridges is more important than burning them and you'll learn that even petty politics can trump talent every now and then.  But there is one thing about your current endeavor that no one will ever be able to take away from you. The Laughter.  You're not going to make as much money as your friends the first few years, but you'll be doing what you love.   You're going to get burnt out.  You're going to perform in front of millions of people and bring them happiness, through the simple act of becoming a character.  You're going to have to explain your profession to anyone who finds out about your job.  You'll do this seemingly every day of your life when you meet new people.  You'll come to understand that being a successful mascot is harder than being a successful actor, there are less jobs.  Don't let this stop you.  Understand there aren't perfect situations and perfect jobs.  Every one has red flags, every one will also have an upside.  Focus on the potential of a character, not the past.  Remember to have a life outside of your character work.  Don't confuse your character with who you truly are.  Take care of your body, it will make your life easier and your performance better.  Try to be as original as possible.  Understand that the right path takes time, be grateful for opportunities and seize the right ones.  Even though you think it's possible to do this on your own, listen to the ones who have been successful before you, their advice will change your life for the better.  Accept the fact that you should never stop learning.  Finally, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to live your next 10 years with no regrets.  At the end of the day, be glad you took your chance at following your passion, it's one of the things in life that truly counts.

29 Year Old Brad
The only picture of me when I was 19 I could find on my laptop.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Top 5 Mascots in the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, MiLB and NCAA

This is the first time I've ever gone on record to announce my feelings about many other mascots in the sporting universe.  I'm doing a Top 5 of the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, MiLB and the NCAA.  Now I'm sure I'll leave some people who I know and like off the list.  That's the tough part here, I know many performers and I'm biased to some of their characters and programs.  I tried to put bias aside and use my knowledge of all characters programs, skits, videos, history and community integration.

Over the past 11 years or so, I've read almost every single mascot article that has come out, it's my profession, I can't help myself.  But over the years, there have been so many lists based on looks, not substance.  This is a substance list.  I'm also willing to test my theory that this will be the most viewed post on my blog so far.  A list creates controversy, because it leaves people out and recognizes that some are better than others.  Almost all major websites, papers and other media outlets all have done a Top Mascots list, there is a reason they do this.  It creates controversy and controversy drives traffic, which in turn, drives revenue.  I'm not driving revenue with this site or my opinions, I'm here to simply break down the top mascots and programs.  Remember, this is an opinion, like every other list ever created.

We'll start with the "premier" league for mascots, the NBA.  In the NBA, you have the highest concentration of full-time performers and good character programs, so it will be tough to break down.

#1 - The Gorilla.  One of the original NBA mascots.  The first mascot to do a number of common-place stunts like trampoline dunks, flaming hoops, etc...  A big part of the Phoenix Suns game entertainment and a pioneer in the field.  It seems like there is great buy-in for the Gorilla, which starts with the ownership group.
The Gorilla

#2 - Clutch.  A ground-breaking mascot in the realm of bringing a business model into the creation of a character program.  A leader in school shows, skits, video and marketing.  Also, broke the NBA mold of the skinny, athletic, gymnastic character.
A hero for fat mascots everywhere.

#3 - Rocky.  One of the most consistent characters in the NBA, famous to the  masses for his feud with Charles Barkley to most of America.  Well known to those in the business for always being on top of the next promotion, video, etc...  A good combo of athleticism and hilarity.

#4 - Benny.  The Chicago Bulls are known for putting on a good-show, and without MJ, it's a testament that their game-entertainment carried them through less successful seasons.  Benny is a big part of that.  A performer who mixes in athletic ability with astounding dancing and a little bit of a reckless attitude.(supposedly, running over a cop on a mini-bike and high-fiving someone too hard, I believe)

#5 - Tie Between Rumble/Squatch(same performer) and MoonDog.  Rumble was the first mascot to do the tall ladder backflip dunk that was popularized last spring when Bango blew up on YouTube.  MoonDog is a veteran performer who has been bringing it for many years now and has always had a consistent program.

Honorable Mention - Hooper.  I've known the last two Hoopers personally, so I had to throw them in!

Next up is the league that I know the least when it comes to their mascots and their respective programs, the NHL.  I like hockey, but I like hockey for the fights and beer.  It's such a fast paced game that the mascot usually gets lost for me.

#1 - Sharkie.  Sharkie, to me is the most recognizable NHL mascot.  Maybe it's because I'm currently located in Central California, but he always seems to have good skits, videos and is constantly in the community.  Sharkie travels very well for an NHL mascot program.
Sharkie, being lazy.

#2 - Stanley.  The Florida Panthers mascot is running a good program and is always coming up with new online content.  He's also a very knowledgeable ex-college performer and is on top of the trends.
Don King approves of Stanley being #2

#3 - ThunderBug.  Another performer I personally know.  However, that's not why she's #3.  ThunderBug has a great reputation over the years as an innovator and the current performer is no different.
ThunderBug, hard at work. (Sitting down and watching the game.:)

#4 - Gnash.  The Nashville Predators mascot was my UCA instructor when I was in college, the first "pro" mascot I had met at the time. 
I give this jump a "teeeeeen"

#5 - Louie.  The youngest character on the NHL list for me is Louie from the St. Louis Blues.  He seems to have successfully integrated a mascot into a hockey rich team.  Not the easiest task.

(I know I said I would try to keep bias to a minimum, I didn't for the NHL, I simply don't know too many of the performers)

The next league I'm going to take a look at, is the NFL (No Fun League).  Mascotting in the NFL is very interesting to me.  You only have 10 home games to prepare for, but at the same time, the NFL is notorious for cracking down on mascot performance.  It's a tough league to figure.

#1 - Jaxson De Ville.  This was one of the easier #1's to determine.  Jaxson has created a monster program in Jacksonville, based around a large number of community appearances, great stunts and a poke fun of attitude to some of the stiffer "suits" who are running the NFL.
Take that NFL.

#2 - Swoop.  The Philadelphia Eagles mascot is a constant during Eagles games and is usually good for some stunts throughout the course of the year.  He's always been good at being part of the show that the Eagles put on.
There were better photos of Swoop, but the ugliness of this jersey still blows my mind.

#3 - KC Wolf.  A long-time veteran of the NFL mascot scene, KC Wolf may be best known outside of Kansas City for his tackle of the streaker, but in Kansas City, fans have supported this character who is constantly seen around town.
KC Wolf jumping on the pile.

#4 - Toro.  The Houston Texans mascot has always impressed me with some of the pics and video that come out of his performances.  I'm not terribly familiar with many of his stunts, but he comes to mind to me more than many other mascots in the NFL.
Toro. (Not the lawnmower)

#5 - Pat the Patriot.  Not a big fan of his performances and the fact that most of his popularity is working for a winning team, however, he was caught doing some naughty things in the off-season, which raised his profile, good or bad.
Pat "Coattails" Patriot

Next up is the second most mascot friendly "major" league, MLB.  Baseball and mascots are synonymous with each other. 

#1 - The Phillie Phanatic.  Easiest #1 pick out of any of the leagues.  If you're reading this blog, I shouldn't have to explain to you why the Phanatic is #1.
Dear Brad, Thanks for voting me #1 in MLB.  Love, The Phanatic.  P.S. Love the Blog

#2 - The Pirate Parrot.  The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pirate have a good thing going.  I really believe that it's the goofy nature of the character, down to his look and antics, that make the Pirate a success.  Even though he's working for a terrible team, his marketing efforts and antics are top notch.
What are all these fans doing here?

#3 - Oriole Bird.  I'm usually not a fan of teams that don't have full-time performers, but the Orioles are an exception for me.  The Oriole Bird is one of the oldest MLB characters and all the performers leave the program better than when they came into it.  A history of solid performers have made the Oriole Bird a great success throughout the state of Maryland.
Hey Oriole Bird, Just Remember what I said about the Champagne Room.

#4 - LouSeal.  The SF Giants fanbase has an interesting reaction to mascots, this dates back to the creation of Crazy Crab, the anti-mascot.  LouSeal has done a good job of not completely shunning the anti-mascot past of the SF Giants, but embracing it and making the character program the winner.  For that reason, he lands on my list of top mascots in MLB.
Lou Seal.

#5 - Tie between Raymond and Billy.  The two sunshine state MLB mascots come in 5th in my opinion.  I love the way both suits look and both of the attitudes of the characters.  What is it about Florida mascots and quirky behavior?
Goats = Mascot Gold. his prime.

Now that I've broken down the 4 "big" leagues, I'm going to analyze Minor League Baseball and NCAA characters.  First up will be what's near and dear to my heart, Minor League Baseball.

#1 - Thunder.  The Lake Elsinore Storm have an attitude and great marketing plan that revolves around fun and especially around Thunder.  They have taken their time to carefully select the right performers and then given them all the necessary tools to succeed.  There seems to be great ownership and management that truly understand what it takes to be successful.
Thunder has fallen and can't get up.

#2 - Wool E Bull.  The Durham Bulls character had a ball thrown at his head in Bull Durham.  Not only that, last check, they had a full-time performer and had really bought into the power of harnessing Wool E. for all he's worth.
Who Does #2 work for?  The Durham Bulls, that's who.

#3 - Parker.  My past character of the Grizzlies, falls in at #3.  We'll see what happens in the future, but the past 5 years were outstanding, it's just a lack of history that prevents me from putting him higher on this list.
That's where I used to work.

#4 - Phinley.  The character of the Clearwater Threshers has done a good job of becoming an important piece of the teams marketing effort.  They've done a great job establishing an identity in a baseball and sports rich area.

#5 - Orbit.  The Albuquerque Isotopes mascot program really bought into the fun attitude and getting a great costume and full-time performer before many other MiLB teams did.  For that, they deserve some credit.

Finally, I'll give my Top 5 Mascots in the NCAA.  This is usually the most debated list anytime some publication releases one.  I don't think this one will be however, because it's based on program strength, not a popularity contest.

#1 - YouDee - University of Delaware.  This Fighting Blue Hen has produced more mascot performers than any other college program I can think of.  Despite a smaller enrollment than many schools, YouDee is always near the top of UCA and always being innovative.  There are a number of reason I believe YouDee has great success.  There are a number of pro-teams in close proximity to the U of D campus.  Raymond Entertainment Group and Dave Raymond (original Phanatic) are headquartered next to campus.  Good alumni who still have contact with the program.
That's right YouDee, you're #1.

#2 - Aubie - University of Auburn.  Aubie has consistently put their performers into the pro's.  They have a high profile character who always performs well and an alumni base who support the program.  A lot of their success comes from the consistency the get from the Aubies.  Aubie is always a smooth, good dancing, flirtatious mascot.
#1 in Football, #2 in NCAA Mascots.

#3 - Sparty - Michigan State University.  Sparty is probably the most recognizable mascot in America.  A great program with a very well connected alumni-base that help this program stay near the top of competitions and idea-generation.  Also, a great strength of this program is the quantity of mascots and how quick they are building an alumni base.  There are 4 - 6 performers per year now in order to keep up with appearance demand.
Hmmmmm, #3 you say?

#4 - Goldy - University of Minnesota.  Goldy spins his head and is always one of the funnier mascots when it comes down to it.  Also, the 2011 UCA National Champion.
Attention Gopher.

#5 - Monte - University of Montana.  A lesser known school, but a great training ground for future "athletic" mascots.  I really like their program because it's established it's uniqueness by keeping the "gymanstic and athletic" vibe of Monte.
Monte.  (If you couldn't read his headband)

There you have it, go ahead and argue why I'm wrong.