By Megan Rooney and Rebecca Brandel
Imagine you are standing in the audience at the MAAC championship watching your school’s basketball team play against their biggest rival. Your school’s mascot is busy hyping up the crowd, golden wings chugging, beak and claws fending off opposing teammates and fans alike, when all of a sudden his foot falls off. He is left with one foot, a crestfallen crowd, and certainly not the leg up on the competition our Petey needs.
Students at Canisius College do not have to imagine this; they experienced this last March in Albany. In the middle of a basketball game, the high-flying Petey was dealt a terrible blow as his very body began to crumble around him. Petey lost part of his leg and was forced to hobble on, doing his best to swing the crowd into a Griffs fervor.
Here at Canisius, our beloved mascot Petey is vital to our school spirit and pride. We spend countless hours clicking his name in the annual mascot competition, and seeking him out at sporting events. We rush to him with phones in hand, in selfie position, and snap them to our friends. We value him as a game-time icon and look to him when our school spirit may be shaken.
When cheering on our Golden Griffins, Petey is always right along side with us helping to hype up our fans and our players. Thus, it is only right that we know his true condition.
It is the same Petey costume that has been with us for almost 10 years, despite the gradual wear and tear of the costume. Petey’s current costume has fingers completely worn through, claws that are falling off, and holes in various locations. The bottom of one of Petey’s feet is completely gone, lost at the aforementioned basketball game, and the wings are sagging, hindering his mobility. Finally, the costume has become very discolored over the years and is nowhere near the shade it was intended to be.
In addition to all of this, Petey has extremely limited peripheral vision and consistently misses people trying to high-five him, leading to some disheartened fans. Petey loves all of his fans, and it is disheartening to think that he would miss a chance to amp one of them up by a physical wound.
The Canisius College Pep Band has taken a particular interest in Petey’s plight. “We end up spending a decent amount of time with Petey – obviously he’s at all the games we are, and we kind of both have the same job: excite the fans, get people pumped. In short, ‘pep,’” said Anna Gleason, a member of the Pep Band.
As such, the Pep Band has taken up arms to be Petey’s voice. “Petey not having an adequate costume is easily comparable to us not having working instruments,” said Gleason.
Although Petey has many jobs around campus, his main one is supporting our teams and fans. Although our teams are conditioned to ignore what’s going on outside of the game as much as they can, they are motivated by the fans, and the fans are motivated by Petey.
“Petey is a representation of the school. We want to appear strong to opponents, and to their fans. At more than one game I’ve been to chants have been based on mocking the mascots. We don’t want to give them ammo!“ said Gleason.
Students that have played Petey agree that the costume has some issues that could be improved upon. As Petey, students are expected to be able to perform tasks like ice skating in the Harborcenter and playing basketball on the court during halftime. However, some of the costume’s restraints makes it difficult to perform these tasks.
Jermaine Williams, a junior at Canisius College who played Petey previously, suffered from a few of these issues. “The helmet was unsanitary when it came to sweating, and getting the sweat out of my eyes, I would have to cry under the mask to get the sweat out of my eyes,” said Williams. “While trying to act like I was having a good time, I would be crying under the costume.”
He commented on how the costume is not in great shape, often showing the skin on his wrists, or the holes in the gloves making his fingers visible. The same was true of the feet.
The bag that Petey is transported in is also worn, so it is easy to see what is being stored inside the bag, taking away the mystery as to who is playing Petey. “It was hard walking into tournaments sometimes because if people saw me with the bag, they would I know I was the one inside the costume,” said Williams.
Williams said that if they were to get a new costume, he would recommend making smaller wings that weigh less, if possible. The large wings make it difficult for the person inside the costume to move through narrow areas and doors, as well as turning. They are heavy on the person’s back and make it difficult for Petey to jump around or participate in the activities that are expected of him. Williams would also recommend better ventilation.
Despite these problems, Williams says there is a lot of things about the Petey costume that he really likes. This includes the muscle definition of the costume and the details that the last costume did not have that add character to the mascot. “I loved being Petey, but after a while, it gets to you,” he said.
John Maddock, the Associate Athletic Director of Canisius College, said that although the Petey costume does need to be replaced, it won’t be happening right now. The process of designing a new mascot will take about 2-3 months and will not happen until next spring or summer. Furthermore, a new mascot is estimated to cost around $10,000, no small price for a new body for our beloved bird.
“We know the costume is starting to get tired,” said Maddock. “But we do send it in for repairs often, and it is actually going in for repairs next week.” With this cycle of repairs and gentle care, Maddock has faith that Petey will be able to push through this trying time. Petey is Canisius’ fearless sideline leader, a strong and proud creature leading the way for our teams. “We know he can last one more year,” said Maddock.
While looking at the Petey head that is used right now, an old Petey head lays nearby. It is very clear that there have been many modifications from the old head to the most recent one, so it is exciting to imagine what the new changes in the future could bring about. Hopefully soon, Petey will be sporting a fresh new grin, primped feathers, and a rejuvenated hype to lead our Griffins to victory.