Inside Marti's Head

I wore the Mule suit so you don't have to.

By: Meghan Kita  Wednesday, April 8, 2020 08:00 AM

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The author with Associate Athletic Director Megan Patruno. Photos by Kristi Morris/Littlewing Studio.

It smells like a towel you left in the washing machine just a little bit too long before you remembered to transfer it to the dryer. It feels like the cage the technician lowers over your face before you’re rolled, claustrophobic and trying not to panic, into an MRI machine. Its weight is almost bearable—until you want to see what’s in front of you. As you tilt your head backward to peer out Marti’s mouth hole, a vision appears in your mind of Tomorrow You, couch-ridden, wearing a microwavable neck wrap and moaning about how sore you are.

At the moment Marti’s head envelops yours, your respect for professional mascots skyrockets and your inexplicable confidence in your own mascotting ability falls even faster than you would if you attempted to traverse the bleachers of Scotty Wood Stadium while in costume.

I volunteered to be Marti for the home football playoff game on November 30 because I thought it would be fun. I like watching mascots. I like being the center of attention. And I like dancing. What more could an aspiring mascot possibly need?

Michael Colasurdo ’23, who plays Marti when it’s not Thanksgiving break, recommended I watch some instructional YouTube videos before the big day. I learned that it’s crucial to always be moving and to never take off any part of the costume in public. “Seeing a mascot without a head can be very traumatic for kids,” one video said. Seeing a mascot collapse from heat exhaustion in the middle of a sporting event can also be very traumatic for kids. The videos don’t mention that possibility, even though it lies right at the intersection of “always be moving” and “never take off any part of the costume in public.”

I am a fit person who can tolerate discomfort. I once ran a marathon (26.2 miles) in a hot dog costume (really). But when Associate Athletic Director Megan Patruno jammed Marti’s head over my giant noggin to complete my pregame meta-Mule-phosis, my first thought was, I don’t know if I can do this. I could see the floor of the locker room through the screen inside Marti’s mouth, but most of my field of vision was consumed by the dark interior of the head. It was closing in on my face, threatening to smother me. “I need to go outside,” I said. “Now.”

Patruno guided me out the Liberty Street doors and over to the track. The cool air flowing into Marti’s grinning hay-hole helped some. The distraction of having to perform helped more. I strutted back and forth in front of the bleachers, clapping and raising the roof. Touchdowns required extra enthusiasm, and unfortunately for me, Muhlenberg scored a lot of them—the Mules ended up winning 42-0.

I could occasionally hear some cheering just for Marti, but nothing delighted me more than my very first heckler. “Hey, Marti! You know what they say about big shoes?...Big socks!” (How original!) While I posed for a few photos and doled out a few high-fives, I mostly interacted with fans from a distance. I feared that I would not be able to see small admirers before I crushed their feet with one of Marti’s aforementioned enormous red sneakers. Ending up in the emergency room because of a clumsy mascot can be very traumatic for kids.

By halftime, my eyes burned from sweat and my heavy breathing echoed inside Marti’s skull. I desperately needed a break. I staggered back to the locker room and shed the costume. The shorts and T-shirt I wore underneath were soaked through with sweat. It was only 40 degrees out, but faux fur isn’t terribly breathable.

I contemplated quitting—I had enough material for this story—but mules are stubborn. After a banana, some water and some rest, I pulled on the cold and clammy legs, arms and gloves. I wedged my head back into The Dark Place, which weighed at least three times more than it had in the first half. Fully attired, I felt along the wall, opened the locker room door and strutted out into the world, full of confidence—confidence that I’d never volunteer to be Marti again.