Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mascots Don’t Die, Do They?

Ramses the Ram is dead.

It was announced on CBS’ telecast of the USC-North Carolina game Friday, March 23, 2007 that Jason Kendall Ray, a 21-year-old University of North Carolina senior who played the part of Ramses the Ram, had been struck by an SUV while walking back to his hotel. The driver of the SUV stopped, called authorities and tried to help him, and he was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He passed away of his injuries on Monday, March 26, just months from graduating. He was 21 years old.

Jason Ray’s death makes Ramses a little more real to me. How sad that a guy whose job it was to be anonymously famous and spent the better part of three years in a ridiculously hot costume would have to have this happen to him for the world to get to know him. I would hazard to guess that he gave a lot of himself to the part of Ramses over his career and should be commended.

The mascot is one of the institutions of college sports. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re ubiquitous in sports, but are especially endearing to me at the college level. Since I’ve been around college sports, I’ve gotten a better idea about who the people inside the costume are, and they’re usually just some crazy kid with too much energy who wants to dance around and be a part of the entertainment. It’s really a thankless job, since they have to project their personality into what amounts to basically a sauna covered in fur. To see the outpouring of support from fans and other mascots was great. It’s too bad Jason Ray didn’t get to see it when he was alive.

I guess the uplifting part of this is that another student will come from the crowd to don Ramses’ horned head again, and UNC fans will be treated to the antics of another anonymously famous and sweaty uber-fan. But it’s still shocking to me to see the face behind the mask…

Read a tribute on the University of North Carolina Athletics website.

FYI, I started this on Tuesday, March 27, 2007. I got distracted… what can I say?

No comments: