Dressed head-to-toe in black and yellow and covered in fur, the Berkeley High School (BHS) mascot stands out among the athletes and cheer squad at BHS sports games. Unlike the yellow jackets of the smaller, six-legged variety, the BHS mascot has a friendly face and can talk. However, the identity of the individual wearing the costume is a secret, closely guarded by members of the cheer squad.
Due to the secretive nature of the position, the person wearing the costume, a senior, will be referred to as Jac, which is the name of the BHS mascot.
The history of the suit – which is only dry cleaned – is surprisingly recent. The suit was purchased five years ago when cheering coach Tiffany Sutherland took over. “The other [suit] … It was a bit scary. We wanted to get something more like the mascot we were advertising,” Sutherland said.
Putting on the costume is quite a long process, Jac explained; the process takes about 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 suit is surprisingly comfortable. “It’s light, it’s not that heavy…there’s a fan upstairs, I can turn it on. Once there were no batteries. It was the only time I struggled and felt hot.
To maintain the mystique that surrounds the mascot, Jac rarely shows up at games. “I want [to] pop up every blue moon, and it’ll be a surprise, so it wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, the mascot is going to be there 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. And I’ll be like, ‘I wish I was there.’ Notice I’ll be standing right next to them [during the game]”Jac said.
The position for next year is still open, so anyone interested in becoming the mascot is encouraged to contact Sutherland. In addition to entertaining, the mascot must also be able to keep a secret. After all, the identity must remain secret all year round.
Sutherland also emphasized the importance of behavior in the classroom. “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 feisty new recruit will don the boots, put their heads up and step out in front of roaring crowds, representing the true spirit of BHS.