Kathy Kish, a Lifestyles contributor to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, has spent this basketball season as the Big Blue mascot for the Bluefield State College basketball teams.

Having an intense fascination with disguising myself and taking on personas other than my own, I’ve always used the chance to wear different costumes for Halloween and opportunities to act on stage as my outlets.

But this year I received an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream along those same lines. This basketball season I became Big Blue, the large blue furry creature with the big smiling mouth that appears at the Bluefield State Basketball games.

I’d always wanted to be a team mascot, because over the years I’d seen various mascots hamming it up at basketball games and imagined what it would be like to be totally incognito, nobody being able to see who I was, and be able to dance around and do the most ridiculous of things without fear of embarrassment.

As with anything, it took awhile for me to become completely comfortable with my role of Big Blue and it did have its setbacks. The first night, for instance, I saw an adorable child being rolled into the auditorium in a stroller and decided to give her a warm welcome to the ballgame.

I looked down at her with my big old smiling head and waved my furry paws, thinking that all children are fascinated with things with fur, but the reaction wasn’t quite what I expected. The child began crying and covering her face to shield herself from my view.

How could she possibly be frightened of a creature as benign as Big Blue I thought to myself as I turned to walk outside for a bit of fresh air (it’s hot and stuffy inside that head). Then I saw it … or me.

Seeing my reflection in the glass doors of the auditorium was sort of like an out of body experience, like the incredible hulk looking down at his huge arms and legs and suddenly realizing he wasn’t the person he normally saw in the mirror. There looming out of the darkness of the window was the reflection of a large creature with a smile on its face, but really huge teeth!

It was at this point that I remembered a story my mother had told me about my first encounter with a mall Santa Claus. After she pushed me to the front of the line to sit on his lap, I looked at him, screamed and ran back to my mother repeating over and over, "That face! That face! That horrible face!"

Yes, this time I was that horrible face with teeth that were "better to eat you with my dear."

So then I decided that, just like The Incredible Hulk and Frankenstein’s monster, who both had hearts of gold but were greatly misunderstood because of their appearance, I would need to wait until children came to me rather than aggressively seeking their attention.

After that, I only reached out when they reached out to me. The results were much better. Soon toddlers were walking up and touching and holding my furry hand, giving me the high five, telling me their life stories (Big Blue the therapist) and more.

My next step was to gain the acceptance of the cheerleaders. Being aware of how seriously cheerleaders take their skills, what with entering cheerleading competitions and the like, I was a bit afraid to just jump in and begin cheering with them, especially during the half-time routines they did on the full court.

Finally I just decided that we would be able to split the attention, between those who like seeing pretty girls and cute guys doing amazing stunts, and those who prefer the humor of a large blue furry creature trying to jump around and dance without losing its head.

It seemed to go well, as some in the crowd watched with awe as a cheerleader was tossed high in the air and caught just before hitting the ground, and others giggled at the fool in the big blue suit.

I had a similar chance once a few years ago when Wolhfahrt Haus Dinner Theater incorporated the One-eyed-one-horned-flying-purple people eater into it’s 70s musical and allowed me to don the costume for one evening and dance with the rest of the cast.

Unfortunately, that head didn’t fit well, so whenever I turned during the dance routine, my head spun completely around, leaving me blind and giving the audience the impression that they were viewing a purple- people- eater exorcism.

But I’m proud to say that the big head of Big Blue fits me just fine. Hmm … I wonder what that says about me?

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