I stood at the pitching mound for what seemed like days.
In my mascot costume, as the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon, I had trudged down the field – feeling like everyone was laughing at my back, which they were (I was wobbling to and fro, as it was a heavy uniform.)
And there I was.
As an intern at the fair, I knew that this was one of my tasks, to throw out the opening pitch at an Iowa Cubs game. Here’s the problem: I can’t throw. Whatsoever. Oh, every once and awhile, I lobbed a giant softball at my dad – rainbow style – to the glee of my brother and sister. (It rarely touched his glove.) Instead, it would plop sadly somewhere in the middle of our throwing space. An athletic daughter in me he did not have.
I spent a great deal of time imagining this day. The crowd. The heat. The nerves. How would I succeed in throwing this small baseball with my cartoonish red foam hands, when I couldn’t coordinate a throw as a normal person?
Taking a deep breath, I slowly began to windmill my arm backward, pretending that I was going to throw. I stopped and moved forward a few feet. I repeated this step, like a clown, until I was able to place the ball in the bewildered catcher’s hand.
Some people, maybe a couple (okay my parents), clapped. I raised my hands in victory.
After shooting the wrapped hot dogs and T-shirts from the guns on the Cubs golf cart, I thought my mascot days were over, and I would look back fondly at such an event. I was wrong.
A couple years later, I found myself living in Des Moines again, at a different job. The Iowa State Fair needed me back in the mascot costume. The Des Moines Buccaneers were holding a mascot broomball game during its halftime entertainment. Carrie stepped back into her blue ribbon for one last time. All the Iowa greats were there – ISU’s Cy, the Hostess Twinkie and Herky the Hawk. I remembered my lack of coordination at the Cubs game but blew off my anxiety. This was a new day, a new game. Other mascots would be out there on the field, er, ice.
After donning my mask, giant feet and wobbly blue ribbon bans, I stepped out into the rink. I was ready.
At a slow pace, we stumbled out the door, like toddlers learning how to walk. We held our brooms and got into position. For some reason, I stepped out to head my team of foam-covered friends. Against Cy. I had been exercising lately and felt that I may have an advantage. A skinny little guy was underneath the other costume. It was not to be. He was a lot stronger and faster than I had thought. We took control of the hockey puck, pushing it between the two of us, maneuvering it back and forth.
After awhile, my bulky costume was full of sweat as it beaded down my back. I could feel the velcro connecting the rosette headpiece of the uniform disconnecting from the rest of the ribbon. And then it happened. Cy pushed me down. Yes, Cy did that, the jerk.
As I plummeted to the ice below, I heard the rip of velcro. The headpiece flew across the slick surface as I fell hard against the ground with a resounding thud.
It took me a second to realize that my face was unmasked. That is when I heard the gasps. The gasps of little children who had gathered in the front row of the arena to get a glimpse at some of the characters they knew. It was as if they found out that Santa was not real. I, or the ribbon, was not real.
Luckily, teammate Red Cross Bear came over with my headpiece and gently placed it back over my face (how ironic.)
A few minutes later, the siren sounded the end of the game (my team lost.) All the other mascots wondered if I was hurt.
I was. My ego was sorely bruised and children were scarred (sort of.) Although I can look back and laugh, I can almost promise that my mascot days are over. And whenever I pass a person with that foam costume on, I quietly pity them – not missing the exaggerated hand motions that they were making or the buckets of sweat lost in that thing. But that is what comes with the job of being a mascot.