Getting To Know Who Is Behind The Mask

Sure it’s a clever title that plays off the name of the Hulu show, but really have you stopped and asked yourself about the person who plays your favorite mascot?  Chances are you’ve probably never given them a second thought.  

Before I saw Hulu’s two-part series I knew who Wilkes-Barre Scranton’s Tux was, but I didn’t know much about the man behind the penguin.  I wrote my last blog about how much I appreciated his work. Quite frankly I’m impressed by the men and woman who were on the show.  Chad is the only one featured in both seasons of the show and I may be a bit partial (sorry guys but go Pens!) however his story is one of trying to find your way to make it to the top and live your dream.  The thing is Chad started doing this years ago in Canada, he’s from Medicine Hat, Alberta (Medicine Hat is such a badass name).  He found his calling there and he’s wanted to take it from the very lower rungs of hockey all the way up to the pros and even if he has to switch sports, he just wants to do professional mascotting.  In season one you also see why he cares so much, his son Cody is back in Alberta and he doesn’t get to see him as much.  Sad face.  

Michael Hostetter plays high school mascot Rooty, a giant tree.  He loves the job and enjoys going to every event he can find to wear the costume to.  It’s amazing how much dedication he puts into it, in fact he gets noticed by Chad, and called for a couple of episodes in Season Two.

There’s this guy who plays a University of Las Vegas Nevada mascot, they call him Jersey, well, I think he might have had more fun in that mascot outfit than anyone ever will.  Hey Reb! was one of the coolest mascots with Jersey leading him and it was pretty sad when he graduated, you could see that he wanted to do this for the rest of his life because he just enjoyed it so much.  

Bango was this crazy deer who would come in from the top of the arena to Milwaukee Bucks games.  I’ve since learned that Kevin Vanderkolk has retired as Bango, and the show documented his last season as the wild character but he put himself through hell.  The pounding on his body was intense, his knees and ankles and back paid the price for the stunts that Bango would put on for the crowd but you could tell the crowd loved it.  His family however feared for his safety so I’m sure that his retirement has made them happier.

Not only does Tux’s Chad Spencer go through hard times but so too does Gilbert High School’s Navey Baker who struggles with being a mascot in competitions.  Navey wants to see her dream of being Boise State’s Buster the Bronco come true and lead the football team out onto the “Smurf Turf” when she goes off to college.  But Navey also enjoys good times too, she can dance in her Tiger costume and she knows how to make the crowd loud with her trash can (ha).

There’s the struggles of San Fransisco’s own Lou Seal and the Giants on the way to the World Series.  Joel Zimei is the man behind the crazy seal and the story of his daughter’s birth is documented in the second season.  

Season two also features Chris Hall who has autism and anxiety but he uses his mascot gigs as a way to connect with people and make them smile.  Chris loves to be around people in his mascot costumes, although sadly you don’t see him in the dragon one too much, that one is really cool.  Chris wears all kinds from pirate to ice cup (you’ll know what I mean when you see it) to be to eagle.  He is really an amazing young man.  He even gets to meet his mascot idol!

The thing is we see with this show that these men and young lady are doing something that they love and also they are doing something for us.  They are putting their bodies on the line, ignoring pain, mentally and physically and emotionally to make us smile because they know that’s what we want.  The joy of us smiling keeps them going even when things in their lives aren’t always what they want or aren’t as perfect as they would like.  We never know about the person behind the costume when we see them dancing on the sidelines and many of us never thought about that person until we saw this show, but now that I’ve seen it, every time I see Tux I can’t help but think about Chad and his son.  I wonder if this will be the last time he’s in that penguin costume before he gets that pro gig, I wonder if he’s happy still and I wonder when that pro team will call.  I know it will be upsetting to go to a W-BS Pens game and not see Chad but I’ll be happy he achieved his dream.  I hope all the others Behind The Mask live their dreams too, now that I know who really is behind the mask.

Feathers – My Appreciation of a Bird Named Tux

So in case you don’t live in the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pennsylvania area, have never seen Hulu’s Behind The Mask series or don’t pay attention to minor league hockey you’ve probably never heard of Tux.  Tux is a giant penguin who represents the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, or better yet I should say he is their mascot.  What a fine mascot he is!

I have seen Tux before the series began, so I know that Tux and his friend Chad Spencer are very good at entertaining people.  Tux makes people happy to be at W-BS Pens games, no matter what the score is.  

When you first get to know Tux you learn he has this “voice.”  It’s hard to describe, but at the same time it’s perfect for what you’d think a giant penguin would sound like.  Chad invented a device that makes Tux talk and it is amazing.  I am really impressed with his huge knack for finding ways to innovate.  He comes up with skits, in fact in one episode if you look really hard and kind of stretch the screen you can see me, when he is working on some pie.  He always comes up with ways to get the kids to smile, like a battery-powered paint roller with toilet paper on the end that he can cover you in tp with.  He finds the kids in their seats and they smile.  They hear his voice, see him waive and think of him as the love able penguin he is.

But what’s amazing to me is that not everyone in the area knows Chad and Tux are on Hulu.  The arena doesn’t promote the show like one would imagine, you’d think they’d have big banners or ads inside saying “catch Tux on Behind The Mask.”  I would think the Pens would be proud to announce it, hell if I ran the team I’d be proud to have a guy like Chad.  Speaking of which there’s the talk of him leaving to go to the pros, whether it’s the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB.  If I ran a team I’d lock him up in a contract and tell him he was next in line for my pro job then find a way to get him to the pros.  He’s too good of an entertainer and a person.  The area much less the team is lucky to have him.  I do hope he gets his shot at the pros but I hate it, I don’t want him to leave.  

Tux is such a great mascot with Chad I don’t think he can be replaced with anyone else.  I think they may have to get a new mascot after Chad goes, if he does.  Hopefully the Pens take care of Chad and do right by him, he deserves it.