That isn't such a farfetched scenario, as Laurie McFarlin can attest. In costume as the Northeastern (Mass.) Ms. Husky, she is gray-furred, doe-eyed, eminently embraceable. Maybe too much so. At a Husky hockey game three years ago, McFarlin was embraced by hooligans, carried from Boston University's arena and stuffed into a car trunk. She has also been suspended by her paws from the Matthews Arena balcony, 25 feet in the air, and once, at another hockey game, "some cad" punched her in the snout.
"All the crowd saw was a life-size stuffed animal getting knocked on its [haunches]," recalls McFarlin. "They loved it." Inside the costume, though, her nose was broken and gushed blood.
"Sometimes people forget there's a person in there. I've found it's a good idea to talk to security guards before games just to let them know I do break."
?Never appear in partial costume. "It ruins the magic spell," says Davis. "Without the audience participating in the make-believe, you're just a gal or a guy in a suit"—no better than those shopping-mall Santas who take their beards off in full view of children. At Blacksburg, it was announced grimly, mascots caught in half costume would suffer an automatic one-ribbon deduction at daily evaluations. This was a superb deterrent.
?Don't store your suit in a damp environment. By the third day, to enter the room where costumes were stored was to know how a Sioux tepee smelled just before spring thaw. "You get used to it," say the mascots.
The preeminent Mascot Do: Always stay in character. And how better to grasp and live this than by observing the masters and emulating them? So one afternoon the mascots studied Looney Tunes cartoons.
" Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat—they live in that make-believe world that we're trying to create," said coach Davis. "Watch Sylvester on the ledge here...see how he's sneaking up on Tweety? Try that on the sidelines."
But it was a sultry afternoon in Virginia. Cartoons failed to hold everyone's attention. Some mascots gazed out the windows to where a dance team drilled. Others napped. Davis continued his commentary. "Look at Wile E. Coyote's head here, the side-to-side motion. Make a note of that. Oh, watch this, this is a good one...."
Suddenly spying the slumberers, Davis spoke curtly. "It looks like a few of us should try sleeping at night."
One of the few, Virginia Tech's own Hokie Bird, piped up. "I disagree, Jeff. We live in a make-believe world. We don't need sleep."