What would you give for a chance to be Sandy the Seagull for a day?
For me, the answer is about half a gallon of sweat.
That’s what I learned on Wednesday during Brooklyn Cyclones Mascot Tryouts at Keyspan Park.
I feel as though I lost about five pounds after an hour inside the costume/sauna that transformed me into Brooklyn’s favorite mascot.
And I was the lucky one. I think the Daily News’ Bill Farrell — who was in a hot dog getup — might have broke his hip.
Farrell and I took part in a challenge to see who would be picked as best mascot by a group of pre-Kindergarten children from Public School 236 on Avenue U in Mill Basin.
It was promised to be a contest between a number of members of the New York media to see who had what it takes to silently make a crowd come to life while dressed as a 7-foot-tall stuffed animal. Unfortunately, most didn’t show, probably scared off by my boast to Cyclones media rep Elizabeth Warshaw that I would not only win the contest, but I’d write the best story.
That left just the two of us and a bunch of photographers to be briefed by Cyclones promotions and entertainment manager Howie Wolpoff, who explained the ins-and-outs of professional mascoting.
“It’s is all about entertainment and interaction with the fans. You’re a visual representation of the team,” he said. “You’re the team’s non-speaking spokesperson.”
With that, we were asked to take a Cyclones Mascot Aptitude Test, the C-MAT of on-field clownery given to every perspective mascot. The seven-question, multiple-choice quiz checks your knowledge of mascots past, as well as your ability to handle the job. I passed with flying colors, knowing that the “godfather of all mascots” is the San Diego Chicken, and that, despite the temptation, one should never use the tarpaulin as a giant “slip and slide” during a rain delay, because it could ruin your costume.
The test behind us, it was time to suit up. I offered Farrell the opportunity to pick his costume first and, for some reason (maybe he was hungry?) he chose a hot dog. That allowed me to suit up in Sandy’s garb — which features white feathered gloves, boots, overalls, and a large, un-vented head — and insure my victory. I mean, what kid is going to pick a cheap sausage with eyes and a cape over a giant, fluffy seagull that likes to dance.
Once fully suited, I immediately passed my first real-time test. When asked if I was ready to go, I gave two thumbs (well, feathers) up — insuring I didn’t break the coveted “no talking” rule.
Then, something happened. As I walked through the tunnels of the stadium toward the field, something came over me. I don’t know if it was caused by the sounds of the kids cheerfully awaiting my appearance, or the fact that my head was already about 125 degrees. But while I made that walk, I became — in mind and body — Sandy the Seagull.
And as a seagull, my first inclination was to eat that giant hot dog walking in front of me. So I pecked away at Farrell’s bun. Mmmmmmm.
Once on the field, the sun on my beak, the kids cheered my arrival. I greeted them with high-feathers before the real competition began. We were asked to show some emotions — fear, anger and sleep — before we had to pull out all the stops with a dance. At first, the kids weren’t responding. Not even my famous “worm” could get them going.
That’s when I pulled my trump card, inviting a little girl to dance along with me. She played along and I received the biggest cheer.
But then came the obstacle course, where we had to run around the bases while weaving around cones and picking up hula-hoops. It looked difficult, especially with my head now reaching about 150 degrees.
And when Farrell crash landed into third base and was slow to get up, I got a little scared.
“Don’t lose your head,” said “Party” Marty Haber, the Cyclones’ human mascot cum emcee, meaning it quite literally. “I did once. The kids get really upset.”
But I didn’t. I rounded the bases with the showmanship of a a a true showman. I danced around the cones and did somersaults while picking up the hula-hoops. And when the dust settled, while dazed and out of breath, I was crowned best mascot.
“How does it feel?” Cyclones media relations head Dave Campanaro asked while we made our way off the field.
“Sandy’s having heart failure,” I huffed.
Inside, I undressed, covered in sweat and ready for a shower after just an hour in the suit, which was now filthy from my antics.
“I’m going to have a tough time cleaning that,” Wolpoff said, a bit upset with its condition.
“Huh. Promotions and entertainment managers. They don’t know what it takes to put on a show,” I thought to myself.
“But I do.”
May 8, 2004 issue