Author: Gregory Feiner
“What is Oswald the Tiger? Who the f**k is he?” Marshall Meyer (sophomore) said as he pondered the identity and significance of his school’s mascot.
Indeed, though all know Oswald as the face of Occidental College and the only die-hard Tiger sports fan, few really, truly know the mysterious feline.
“Oswald is an enigma,” Kylie Brakeman (sophomore) said. “He represents … so much. I’ve noticed that he’s a provocative dancer, more so than most college mascots.”
Few question who’s underneath that oversized Tiger head. Some, like Josh Harmon (junior), go so far as to actively avoid uncovering his identity.
“It’s sort of like Batman: you want to know, but you also don’t want to know,” he said. “If you know the face behind the mask, bad things happen. You just don’t speak about it. If you know, keep it on the DL.”
However, I spat in the face of Harmon’s warning. I wanted to get to the bottom of it all: Who is Oswald the Tiger? What does he do? What sacrifices does he make for our amusement and collective collegiate identity?
So, I set out to find the answers, and they’re more complicated than you might think.
First of all, there is no single Oswald the Tiger: They are many.
“There’s a team of Oswalds, and typically most like to remain a mystery,” Athletics Director of Operations — and Nick Fury to the Oswalds’ Avengers — Katie Grogan said.
Grogan is Oswald’s manager. She hires the team as needed and schedules all Oswald appearances. Though these appearances do include the expected sporting events, as well as Orientation and Alumni Weekend, some can get a little stranger. Grogan said that Oswald has also done photo shoots, delivered acceptance letters and even co-starred in a Northeast Los Angeles Police Department video modeled after the TV show “24.”
“Oswald’s a pretty popular guy,” Grogan said.
Through Grogan, I managed to track down three Oswalds. One asked how I uncovered his identity — I told him not to worry about it.
All three stressed that the most important part of the job is getting noticed.
“You make as many people as you can see you,” the first Oswald said.
A second echoed that sentiment.
“It’s basically doing whatever you can to be in people’s faces and pictures,” he said. “If there’s a camera, it’s an unspoken rule, you’ve gotta be there … There are a lot of people on campus I don’t know, but I’m in a bunch of their family photos as Oswald.”
However, it soon became clear that being a mascot is far from glamorous work.
The suit itself is something of a Tiger-shaped furnace, boiling the wearer in their own sweat whenever the sun is out. This has given it a potent stench, against which the only defense is a lone bottle of Febreeze buried deep in the depths of Oswald’s locker.
“It smells like the ghosts of Oswald’s past,” Oswald No. 2 said. “I try not to breath in the suit if I can.”
On top of that, the mask has no eyeholes to speak of, so seeing is quite the challenge. Oswald No. 1 commented that he was golf-carted up hills whenever he was in the suit.
“Otherwise you’d kill yourself,” he said.
It only gets weirder from there. Sometimes, some fans want more than a high five or simple camera pose from the mascot. On some occasions, Oswald No. 2 even had mothers force their babies into his arms for pictures.
“They have no idea,” he said. “I could be a psychopath.”
And that’s hardly the worst of it. They went on to say that sometimes the job could turn downright violent. Oswald No. 2 described how, at a basketball game, fans put him in a headlock, tackled him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly. Even though the suit provided some padding, it was still far from a pleasant experience.
“When you hear people say, ‘Oh man, I kicked Oswald in the chest so hard,’ I’m like, yeah, no s**t, I f**king remember you,” he said.
The third Oswald recalled an abusive encounter of his own at a water polo game.
“A grown-ass man tried to pull my head off,” he said. “I just thought, ‘Why would you do this, sir?’”
These stories showcase how terribly most treated Oswalds No. 2 and No. 3 whenever they donned the suit. To make matters worse, talking is absolutely forbidden while wearing the suit — so they both just had to sit there and take it. It was this kind of abuse that drove Oswald No. 3 to quit.
“People don’t realize there’s a human inside the suit,” he said. “It’s such a sh**ty job.”
However, it seemed the job wasn’t so fecal all the time. Oswald No. 1, who primarily worked alumni events rather than athletic events, said that the suit brought with it a certain liberating anonymity .
“When you go into the costume, you can just do whatever you want and people think it’s funny,” he said. “It’s like being ninety years old — anything you do is adorable.”
Oswald No. 2 also acknowledged the job’s ridiculous charm. He said that he loves how seriously mascots are taken despite how dumb they are. In addition to his tightly-guarded identity, Oswald has his own secret room and secret locker, both protected by coded locks.
Though many students are generally indifferent toward mascots, some seem to appreciate the inherent absurdity of Oswald the Tiger just as much as the Oswalds themselves.
“Some man, woman, person inside of a suit is always good,” Harmon said.
“If nothing else, at least he’s doing some slow-grinding at football games,” Brakeman said. “Oswald, I respect you. I admire you. Keep doing what you do.”
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