Tuesday, October 21, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: My 15 Seconds of Fame as Rufus the Bobcat

Carlyn Lynch

Normally when I'm shooting a story I need to make sure I'm wearing something pretty nice. You know; a blazer, skirt, impractical shoes, the works. For my story on our school's mascot try-outs however, I was in an oversized fur jumpsuit and strap-on paws, which are almost as impractical as high heels when you're dancing to the fight song. It was probably the most fun I've ever had on any story.

I arrived at the Convocation Center expecting a pretty big turnout for the mascot tryouts. It seems like a job a lot of students would like to have. Being the symbol of Ohio University sports is nothing to sneeze at. I was the first to arrive for the big show. It was just me and the cheerleading squad. At first I thought they were all there to try their hand at bringing the bobcat to life but actually they didn't know anything about the try-out, which is a shame since Rufus is the most recognizable member of their squad. Soon after I arrived, some men from O.U.'s sports marketing team came with a boom box, only two contestants showed up with some school spirit, and then it was ON.

The first Rufus hopeful suited up and hit the Convocation Center lobby running. He came out with intensity and enthusiasm, which is difficult when everyone else is just sort of watching and waiting to see what you're going to do. The fight song started up and then it was a blur of fur. He was all over the place; sliding, chest bumping, milking it for the camera, the works. It was quite an impressive performance and proved to be a tough act to follow. The next guy wasn't quite as chipper. He seemed slightly uncomfortable in his animal form and gave a mediocre performance. In my opinion, the first contestant has Rufus's #1 jersey in the bag. I won't reveal his identity for fear of ruining the mystery behind the Bobcat tradition.

Throughout my time at the tryout I was talking and joking around with the judges. They were great guys and were nice enough to let me try on the Rufus costume after the try-out ended. I think partly because they were up for a good laugh at my expense. So, I suited up in the following:

-A vest with shoulder pads to make me appear more buff
-Brown fur jumpsuit
-Strap-on paws, similar to skis, that go over your tennis shoes
-The coveted #1 Jersey
-Ohio Universiy gym shorts
-last, but not least, the giant (slightly smelly) Rufus head complete with chin strap

Once I had the whole thing on, I slipped right into character. The guys fired up the fight song and I whipped out all my best moves. This included a few dance leaps and pirouettes from my pre-teen dance class days. About halfway through the song I ran out of steam.....and moves.

Being the bobcat is fun, but not easy. It's actually exhausting. The whole costume probably adds an extra ten pounds to your frame and the paw-skis are difficult to maneuver, especially if you're trying to c-walk. All of the marketing guys have had experience being the bobcat and say it's kind of a rite of passage in their department. All the interns and new guys have to suit up at some point for different public appearances. It's really important to stay hydrated and you constantly have to be on your game when you're in front of the fans.

I also did a little digging into the history of the Bobcat. It wasn't given the name Rufus until 2006, beating out other names such as Attack, Bob, and Slash. If you want to know any other bobcat trivia go to this Ohio site to know it all.

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