Dressed head to toe in black and yellow and covered in fur, the Berkeley High School (BHS) mascot sticks out among the athletes and the cheer team during BHS sports games. Unlike yellow jackets of the smaller, six-legged variety, the BHS mascot has a friendly face, and it can talk. However, the identity of the individual who wears the costume is a secret, closely guarded by members of the cheer team.
Because of the secretive nature of the position, the person who wears the suit, a senior, will be referred to as Jac, which is the name of the BHS mascot.
The history of the suit — which is dry-clean only — is surprisingly recent. The suit was purchased five years ago, when cheer coach Tiffany Sutherland took over. “The other [suit] … it was a little scary. We wanted to get something that looked more like the mascot we were advertising,” said Sutherland.
Changing into the suit is a somewhat lengthy process, explained Jac; the process is around five to ten minutes. Each leg is put on separately, followed by a pair of boots. After that, the fuzzy body is secured, and finally, the oversized head is placed on top. According to Jac, the costume is surprisingly comfortable. “It’s light, it’s not that heavy … there’s a fan on top, I can turn it on. One time it didn’t have the batteries. That was the one time I was struggling and hot.”
To maintain the mystique that surrounds the mascot, Jac shows up to games infrequently. “I want [to] pop up every blue moon, and it’ll be a surprise, so it wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, the mascot’s gonna be here because it happens all the time.’”
Jac’s friends notice the mascot but have yet to realize that the two have never been seen at the same time. “They’ll say, ‘The mascot came to the basketball game, blah blah blah blah blah.’ And I’ll be like, ‘I wish I was there.’ Mind you, I’ll be standing right next to them [during the game],” Jac said.
The position for next year is still open, so anybody interested in becoming the mascot is encouraged to reach out to Sutherland. Aside from entertaining, the mascot also has to be able to keep a secret. After all, the identity needs to stay secret for the entire year.
Sutherland also emphasized the importance of classroom behavior. “How you act … on-campus and off-campus, it makes a difference. Because you are the face of Berkeley High,” she said.
Next fall, a spirited new recruit will strap on the boots, put on the head, and walk out to roaring crowds, representing the true spirit of BHS.