Canisius students, faculty, and staff all know the yellow-billed, stubby-eared, wide-grinning mascot everyone has come to know and love. He attends all of our sporting events and can even be found flapping his wings from the roof of Palisano Pavilion during the annual bonfire. Do we, through, really know the bird who can’t fly? Who’s behind the beak?
Petey is actually two in one: Mitch Beiter and Justin Tynon, two Canisius undergrads passionate for promoting pep all around.
Hailing from Hamburg, N.Y., freshman Mitch Beiter first became interested in donning the feathery head after he stumbled upon a little-known work study position here at Canisius. He received an email that was provided to students that had all of the work study positions for the semester and discovered there was an open mascot position.
“I thought it would be a hell of a lot of fun,” Beiter said.
He loves being in the costume and entertaining fans, as well as dancing. Dancing one of his favorite things to do on the job. The majority of his favorite memories have to do with dancing. He loves to invent his own dances and pulls some inspiration from his favorite athletes and celebrities as well. Everyone from Kevin Garnett and Cam Newton to Michael Jackson, Beiter tries to integrate some of their moves into what Beiter does.
“No one has told me to do this, but I have looked up touchdown celebrations or Michael Jackson music videos and watch them before I get into the suit,” Beiter added.
On many occasions, however, most of the stuff he does is spur of the moment. Petey often finds himself running onto half-court to dance during TV timeouts of the basketball games. According to Beiter, he was never told to do it beforehand but now he seems to do it all the time. Sometimes he even grabs a cheerleader to dance with him.
Not only has he danced by himself, but he also did a routine with the Dance Griffs. That was one of his favorite things he has done in the suit so far and is willing to do more if asked.
Prior to getting in the suit, Beiter sometimes takes the time to look up YouTube videos on different dances. He also listens to music to get in the mindset he needs to be in the suit. Beiter says that the only mindset he has when in the suit is to “be goofy.”
Though, for Beiter, it runs in the family. His father also made his way around campus as a mascot, although he went to Michigan State University. While he wasn’t Sparty the Spartan, Michigan State’s main mascot, he was E-Z Cat. E-Z Cat was the lesser know mascot of the school, who was based off the saying that living in the dorms was ‘E-Z.’ However, this caused conflict when playing teams like the Northwestern Wildcats.
Being Petey isn’t easy, though. It can get really humid in the suit and Beiter compares this experience to hot yoga. Sometimes it gets so warm that he sneaks out at halftime to cool off. Although he loves being in the suit, Beiter says it is relieving to take the suit off at the end of the night, especially the head.
Although the job isn’t the easiest, Beiter never blinked an eye. Beiter explained that his first time he wasn’t exactly nervous.
“I really didn’t know what to expect. I have never done mascot or anything close to it before,” Beiter added.
During his first experience, he was put into the suit the night of the bonfire during orientation week in the quad. He said he was really just thrown into the position without any knowledge of what to do. This showed when he started talking to students.
“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to talk, so I think half way through I was saying ‘hi’ to a bunch of people and my [Graduate Assistant] kinda whispered to me that I couldn’t talk,” Beiter said.
However, it isn’t all fun and games as Petey; some opposing fans and kids can really irritate Beiter. The opposing fans that Beiter thinks are the most annoying are the Rochester Institute Technology fans who call him a chicken or a bird. Beyond the RIT Tigers, Beiter says, he’s found other fans a source of stress.
“[There is] always some 10U hockey team that would always play before Canisius would play. They would follow me around the whole game and try and dunk on me, and pretend to reach out and shake my hand but then dab on me instead,” Beiter opined. “It was really annoying and they tried to get me to dunk on them and I fell over and my mask came off in the process.”
Not only is Petey unable to talk, but it is also really hard to see in the suit as well. While in the suit, you can only see out of the beak. It is difficult to see what is going on around you. Beiter has said that he has bumped into many fans and kids.
Tynon also has remarked on similar issues with the suit.
“It’s tough to see, so one time on Petey’s birthday, I couldn’t see this little two-year-old girl who I hugged many times she just loved it, but I didn’t see that she came to give another hug. So I started walking away and she tried to hug my leg and I kicked her over. She started crying and I felt so bad but I didn’t see her,” Tynon said.
Just like Beiter, this is Tynon’s first year in the suit even though he is a sophomore. However, his job is a little different than Beiter’s. Not only is he Petey, but he also does ticket sales and scans tickets for some of the games.
His first day as Petey was slightly different than Beiter’s. He was assigned to a men’s soccer game and when he got there, he saw that there were only around 15 people.
“I was a little nervous, only because I didn’t think of it as this big deal, but my mom was like ‘So, it’s your first performance.’ She was saying that it was a performance and making a big deal out of it,” Tynon said.
Even though he was a little nervous, this wasn’t his first time being a mascot.
“I was Elmo once for my local news show, [with] just a whole bunch of kids running up to me,” Tynon added, “so I kinda knew what I was getting into.
One thing Tynon loves is when the fans engage with him, mostly when he is dancing with fans and kids join in on the fun.
Beiter and Tynon both have different approaches to how to play the character that is Petey. Unlike Beiter, Tynon usually thinks of all of his everything he does on the spot. Sometimes it depends on what the crowd or kids reactions are at the time.
“If you see kids running at you, you want to give them a hug. But others are really scared and you want to stay away,” Tynon said.
Tynon also has a completely different mindset in the suit. Beiter’s mindset while in the suit is to be goofy. For Tynon, it’s a little different.
“ [I] try to think someone is always watching; it kind of keeps me moving. It’s tough to get pumped up from a mascot if he is just standing there. The more I move, the more I try to be happy, even if I’m not in that good of a mood just trying to be happy,” Tynon said.
Having students play the part of Petey has been influential to Petey’s success. Petey is very popular on campus, shown by how well he has done on national polls for best mascot in the country. Last year, he came in second place in the Mascot Mayhem, losing to Missouri State’s Boomer. However, he can keep his beak held high, as he came in second out of 64 other mascots. Also he won the best Catholic mascot in 2013, beating out 31 other Catholic schools’ mascots. This includes Notre Dame’s Leprechaun and Boston College’s Baldwin the Eagle.
Petey was given his name in the 2002-2003 athletic season, and was named after the saint Canisius College is named for, St. Peter Canisius. Although the name is fairly new the ‘Golden Griffin’ name goes back to the 1930’s.
Although at the beginning he knew the job would be paid since it was a work study job, Beiter said now pay wouldn’t stop him from doing what he loves.
“At the time I probably wouldn’t have applied if it wasn’t paid, but seeing how much fun I have had with it now I would do it for free,” Beiter said.
Both students really love their job and both think they have the best work study on campus, especially Beiter.
“I can’t put into words how much fun it is. You can do whatever you want and people will still love you for it and there are not many employment opportunities that can offer that. Obviously, there are some drawbacks, like the heat, not being able to talk and see very well, but the more I do it the more I realize how perfect of a job it is,” Beiter said.