Behind the beak

Deanna Stevens

Flash is really a human. Big bathroom stalls are easier for him to change, but watch out for the tail it may have been in the toilet once or twice. Photo courtesy of Lesley Katzenmeyer

Credit: DKS Editors

Kent State fans know Flash as the lovable, rambunctious mascot.

He poses for pictures around Dix Stadium during football games. He pretends to conduct the band at the M.A.C. Center during basketball games.

But, you may not know his mark in the mascot world.

Last year, Flash was named the No. 15 mascot in the nation by the Universal Cheerleaders Association mascot committee. He was judged on campus and community involvement, along with interaction with the cheerleaders and the band.

Last summer, at his first Universal Cheerleaders Association cheer camp, Flash placed No. 5 out of 22 in the mascot competition.

You should know that Flash is currently No. 4 in write-in votes for the 2007 Capital One Bowl: Mascot challenge. If he reaches No. 1, the Kent State athletic department will receive a $1000 scholarship for the mascot program and Flash will receive an automatic bid to next year’s top 12.

However, you will never know the man (or woman) that brings Flash to life.

Associate Athletic Director Pete Mahoney said it was important for Flash to keep his identity a secret in order to keep the mascot mystique alive.

“You’ll never see Flash take his costume head off during the course of an event,” Mahoney said.

OK, never is a bit dramatic.

But the athletic department is taking a page from the superhero handbook and calling for Flash to have an alter ego. Cheerleading coach Lenee Buchman said it was not just at Kent State. It is a common practice in the mascot world to keep the person behind the costume a secret.

But that’s not stopping you from figuring it out on your own.

(Since Flash does everything from performing at games to making appearances at charity functions, there is usually more than one person to carry the load. But there is one main person taking on the role, and that’s the person who is focused on in this story.)

An alter ego isn’t the only thing Flash and superheroes have in common.

Superman has a telephone booth to transform from the awkward Clark Kent. But Flash begins as just a 25-pound bird costume in a big black travel bag, and comes to life after an awkward trip into a bathroom stall.

“(I) have to use the handicapped ones,” Flash said. “And you’ve just got to be careful. Yeah you’re going to bang stuff around and you’re going to run into stuff.”

(Don’t touch the tail, unless you’re into toilet water.)

The Early Days

Before Flash took the role as the symbol of Kent State nearly three years ago, he (or she) was a drummer in the marching band, which put him (or her) in close proximity to the spirit squads.

The combination of expressing interest in the position, along with an opening due to graduation, led to a tryout at a non-conference basketball game.

Both Flash and the cheer coaches felt like it was a perfect fit.

“When he got on it, he just had this natural . he was Flash!” Buchman said. “Flash has a persona that he carries, and every year we try to keep the same persona. It was like he naturally stepped into the persona that was written for Flash.”

(Just in case you weren’t paying attention, Flash is a ‘he.’)

Now those who recommended him for the job are the same people helping him keep his secret.

“The cheerleaders know, (the) band knows,” Flash said. “So any kinds of close call or anything, those are the people who take care of (me),”

After earning the role, Flash honed his skills with the help of mascot trainer and former Kent State mascot, Steve Flowers. The training consisted of perfecting the walk, mannerisms and even his autograph. Flash said he also studied cartoons, “Looney Tunes” in particular, to enhance his performance.

“When you’re (this) big of a character every movement you have is 10 times bigger in reality,” Flash said. “.When you’re moving, the actual costume is so big, you actually have to make it seem like it’s even bigger. So when you’re waving to somebody, your arm movements are huge.”

Behind the beak

So who is Flash?

This spring the man behind Flash will be revealed during senior night of the men’s basketball.

The mascot has only been revealed once before, in 2004, when Flowers was recognized after three years of service.

A person has to be the mascot for at least three years before he or she is revealed. But since this person will be unveiled during senior night, one could assume.

Contact Deanna Stevens, senior journalism major, at [email protected].