The Mascot

mas·cot
ˈmasˌkät,ˈmasˌkət/
noun
  1. a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or that is used to symbolize a particular event or organization.

There were rumblings, Jerry always eventually heard the rumblings. “There’s this new kid, best damn mascot I ever seen.” Jerry had heard it before, but no one had ever lived up to the hype. Since he dawned the horns, there wasn’t one mascot that deserved to hold his jock, let alone carry on the tradition that he had helped forge. But this time the talk was a little more consistent. People were going to the games to see the show, not just the game. The people around Scarborough were saying this kid could be the best. The best since me, Jerry thought, but would never say aloud.

He made it to the hometown games most of the time, but it was basketball season and work was holding him up more often than usual. Work or no work, he decided, I have to see what this kid is all about. He looked at his calendar, there was a home game on Friday. And nothing too big with work. He would make that game.

By Friday afternoon everyone around the office was beginning to ease into the weekend, asking about plans, bragging about plans, deciding on the bar to go to after work. He could just drift off, say a few goodbyes, decline the invite to the bar and be home in time to change before heading to the game.

The gym still smelled the same, even after all these years, Jerry remembered every time he made his way to his seat. It was the only time the thought ever crossed his mind. He still bought season tickets to everything, wanting to support the home town team and his alma mater, but this was his first game of the year. A few familiar faces said hey to him, even his old high school buddy Zeke gave him a high five on his way by. It still felt like home. It probably always would. The best of days, Jerry thought, settling into his seat. His glory days danced through his head, moments set in infamy, before the scene went dark and the crowd grew quiet in anticipation.

Great, introductions, Jerry thought. Saying names loud didn’t make things any more poignant, he continued thinking. And then the music began. Duh-duh duh-duh. It wasn’t a familiar song to Jerry, probably something the football kids worked out to, but it was catchy. The spotlight shined down to center court where his old suit hung on a kid, maybe a little too small to wear it, but the crowd exploded. He’d never seen a crowd go crazy like that for a mascot before, not even when he was doing the worm the entire way across the court. He could feel the hair stand up on the back of his neck. He hadn’t realized it before, but he was nervous. Clammy hands, goosebumps, unsure of how to fold his arms.

The kid let the anticipation reach the pinnacle before beginning, not a moment too soon or too late. That was a good start. And then, he put on a show. The choreography was succinct, the moves in rhythm to the music, the dance had begun. He toyed with the crowd, flirting for a moment before a turn away. Jerry found himself leaning forward, edging to the end of the bleacher seat, pushing his Longhorn seat pad to the ground. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. This kid. This kid was as good as he was. Jerry, the greatest mascot Scarborough High had ever seen. People in the town even referred to him that way. This kid was stealing his title and he was helpless. Here he was, watching this new kid take it to a level he never could and he couldn’t turn away. The kid was better. He never thought he’d think that, never thought he’d see what he was seeing in front of him. It wasn’t old school versus new school, the kid was better. The best ever.

The crowd held its collective breath for a moment as the music stopped, the mascot sprawled on the logo with a spotlight holding tight on him. Before he knew what he was doing Jerry was on his feet, screaming “Yeah!”, leading the charge as the lights came up to normal and the sound of basketballs dribbling took over the gym. Jerry watched the mascot head off to the sidelines, high-fiving a couple players on his way off the court. His cheers settled into a smile, a tear streaked his cheek. He sat back down, more than happy that he got to see that at least once in his life. That kid, Jerry thought, that kid, my god, he has no idea. These are the best days of his life. It never really gets better than this. And Jerry really believed that.

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