This last Friday night I had a hard choice to make. I could go to a party with friends and just drink and watch the game, or I could run off to San Francisco to appear as Super Jayhawk in a rough-and-tumble looking Irish Tavern, where I didn't know anyone there, with no changing or heads-off space to speak of, and possibly no parking. Not to mention the fact that I generally avoid going to San Francisco like the plague since it's impossible to get around or through that city, much the less park.
So after carefully weighing my options, I decided to do the insane thing and go for it. In my quest to be Super Jayhawk, and after waiting two years for the new suit, there was no turning back. I sent my regrets to my friends hosting the party down near home and drove up on Friday night to scope things out to figure out parking, where I would change, how to get there, etc. I didn't get there till 9:30pm and it took me about an hour to get everything figured out and talk to the bar people, and I didn't get home till 11:30pm to even start packing up all the things I would need to pull this off. It took me till 4:30am to get packed, showered, and get to bed, and it was painful getting up only four and a half hours later.
I had to make sure everything was loaded-- I brought both the original Super Jayhawk and the new one, all the fursuit gig gear, cold packs, ice chests, fans, chairs, tarps, just like we were doing a fursuit gig.. since it was.
terraluna_bat came over about noon and we met up with ultragor in San Bruno, who had just dropped minnieme4rl off at SFO for her flight. We arrived at San Francisco's Lombard Street Garage, managed to back both vehicles into a somewhat secluded spot to change, had a bite at Mel's, and then went after our quest for Final Four Glory.
After spending a late night at work and an even later night scoping out San Francsico and then packing until the wee hours of the night, I was feeling pretty tired, and I could really feel it when we moved around some of the equipment and boxes back and forth between Ultra-Gor's "Ul-Truck" and the HawkMoible. We schlepped things back and forth for a bit to make room, and it was when I picked up Terraluna's bat box and felt how heavy it was, that I knew heavy lifting was out for Saturday. So I had to make the painful decision to just go with the new head with the old body (but new boots) for Saturday. No one had seen Super Jayhawk as of yet, so they probably wouldn't mind either way, and there were lots of people in my LJ entry that were warning me about getting the new suit messed up anyway.
So I suited up with the old body with the new head, and felt better already-- I was surprised how much lighter it was without the new body with the full wings. After scarfing lots of water, candy bars and a couple of Gatorades, we arrived at the bar much to the shock and surprise of the KU fans that were waiting for the game. There were already about 200 people packed in a place that could hold maybe 125, so it was already crowded. I get there and they immediately start playing the KU Fight Song, and I was going, "Oh crap, now what?". So I danced and faked it as best I could, as well as pulling off (hopefully) a halfway passable Rock Chalk Chant set of moves. It's been over 15 years since I've seen them performed in Allen Fieldhouse, and I wasn't really paying attention at the time to the particular moves, so hopefully I pulled it off. I managed to make it through the whole gamut of songs that they played and move deeper into the bar.
Terraluna and Ultra-Gor did a great job covering for me in an incredibly crowded place and taking video and pictures-- it was probably one of the hardest fursuit escorting gigs I could ask them to do, and we've done some pretty rough ones over the years. Lots of KU fans, all holding beer or wine glasses, and somehow I didn't manage to spill any of them since they were looking out for me. (I think I dipped one of my glove feathers into a beer once or twice though on accident). Everybody loved Super Jayhawk, and I was mobbed for pictures. It was tough getting photos in such crowded quarters, and to get through to the back of the place I had to put my winged hands together and make like I was swimming through the whole place. We made it to the back of the bar to the pool table for the start of the game.
The Jayhawk fans stopped looking at me and started concentrating on the game, our big re-match with Roy Williams, and the first time the Jayhawks had played North Carolina since that fateful meeting in 1993's Final Four where North Carolina won and went on to win it all. This was the highly anticipated rematch of the two storied teams that had so much history between them, and the media had been hyping thsi game up as a clash of the titans.
I did my best to pump my first and wave and pantomine the mascot moves during the game, but there wasn't really much room at all and the guy next to me pulled on one of my wings and asked me to stop hitting his girlfriend with my left wing. Oops! Sorry... The tough part was staying mascot-silent for the game when my default urge during a basketball game is to cheer and shout and get really into the game--- and here I end up having to stifle my every vocal reaction. Also, it was hard to see the game through the eye mesh, I could make out the players and the general action, but couldn't see much in the way of details or the score. Sometimes I couldn't tell whether the shot had actually dropped or not and had to wait for the reaction from the crowd before reacting myself.
KU played with a vengeance during the game, going up 40-12 on North Carolina, the #1 Team in the Nation with the much-ballyhooed 2008 Naismith Award Winner, Tyler Hansbrough. It was great to see the Jayhawks playing so well, and the crowd at the bar really got into it, cheering and rocking the house. I was starting to get tired, and it was way hot in the bar, so we made our goodbyes and announced Super Jayhawk was exiting the stadium, which brought lots more people that wanted pictures. We ran into some drunken sorority girls at the entrance that grabbed me and wanted to do things to Super Jayhawk I wasn't that crazy about, and fortunately Ultra-Gor and Terraluna were able to get things under control.
Most avians consider attempts to pull apart their beaks rather impolite.
We headed back to the HawkMobile as I was pretty much soaked with sweat at this point, especially since my cold packs weren't fully charged up when we started. Getting back to the HawkMobile, I de-suited and put the head on a fan and plugged into the portable power pack in the car. Switching to my "incognito" Blue Suitcoat and pants with red shirt and beaked KU hat, we went back to watch the second half. I told my two escorts that I was actually kind of worried about de-suiting, because KU was playing so well, that if I stopped being Super Jayhawk they might not play as well the second half.
We got back to the bar, and North Carolina was already staging a serious comeback, which was exactly what I was worried about. We decided to hang with it and keep watching, and the Jayhawks started playing good defense again and hitting their shots, and the game was out of North Carolina's hands by the last few minutes. The reaction from the KU Faithful at the bar was deafening. Cheering, screaming, yelling, and two girls behind me screaming in this harmonic that made audible warbles ensued as Bill Self and Roy Williams shook hands at midcourt and that was it, Kansas Won and defeated North Carolina, the team they weren't supposed to beat. The bar erupted into cheers as we hung out and celebrated the moment, before we left to save Terraluna and Ultra-Gor's eardrums. I had years of going to games in Allen Fieldhouse to get used to that sort of noise (and probably have lost half my hearing range) but to my escorts, it was a new experience.
The KU Alumni organizer of the event asked me, "So, are you going to be back for the next game on Monday?"... I said I wasn't sure, but that I'd try to be. We hightailed out of there and drove home to San Jose, to celebrate our win and taste of Final Four Glory, good Italian take-out and Italian wine, until way too late in the night (I think it was 4 AM or something before I went to bed)
Much thanks to Ultra-Gor and Terraluna for spotting for me and helping me get through the whole thing, I couldn't have done it without them, especially since we changed in the parking garage and went to a way-crowded bar!
Saturday was awesome, and an epic game against North Carolina, and a great appearance by the Bird in Spandex, but it was only the warmup for what was to come on Monday.....