By Tracey Tong
A petite, 30-something woman with short blonde hair rushes up three flights of stairs in Kerr Hall’s northwest end and into the athletics department.
It’s Friday afternoon, and while teachers, students and administrators are ducking out early or the weekend, this Recreation and Athletics Centre employee is late. It won’t be long until the women’s basketball team takes to the court, and the woman is going to need plenty of time to put her game face on.
Still, she takes a moment to sit down , talk about the team she loves, lack of fan support at the school, how tired she’ll likely be by the second half of tonight’s game and why she won’t reveal her name for this story. All the while that game face sits on a table beside her. It’s about two feet wide, 10 pounds in weight and has long beige horns above the ears.
After the talk she puts on a baggy, furry, beige body suit, a blue Rams basketball jersey, $300 custom-made shorts and the gigantic head. Then it’s off to the court.
Although this woman never shows her face in Kerr gym, she’s one of Ryerson’s biggest fans. She has attended roughly half of Ryerson’s home basketball games over the past three years dressed as Eggy, Ryerson’s mascot.
“I can’t remember exactly how I got started,” she says. “I think it was because the last mascot graduated and the people at the RAC asked me.”
She’s one of three people hired by the school to suit up for home basketball and volleyball games, as well as events such as frosh-week activities and convocation. None of them can reveal his or her identity.
“Eggy is a symbol, and we want to keep him that way,” the woman says. “It’s not important who’s on the inside of Eggy. What matters is the spirit he represents at Ryerson events.”
On this night Eggy is full of spirit. As she walks into the gym, midway through the first half of the women’s game, she starts dancing to the rap music that’s playing during a stop in the game. She shakes hands with a girl selling tickets by the door and spectators sitting in the end-zone bleachers. Later, she prompts some shy fans to move from their seats and dance on the floor with her. Throughout the game small kids flock to her to give hugs and high fives. Dealing with kids is the part of the job this Eggy likes best.
“Once I had a little boy come up to me, and he saw my real shoe inside Eggy’s much larger one,” the woman says. “He said, ‘Hey, you’re a real person in there, aren’t you.’ It was so cute.”
The real person in there doesn’t have an easy job though. People who play Eggy have difficulty seeing kids surrounding them, since they can only see out of the black mesh of the ram’s nose. Also, the mascot has to endure a lot of harassment. The woman says fans constantly pull Eggy’s tail and at last September’s parade and picnic a group of students attacked the ram and covered it with shaving cream.
When not being physically harassed, Eggy sometimes receives sexual harassment. The RTA grad says women sometimes go up to the ram and say, “Eggy, I want to ram you,” not knowing there’s a woman inside.
But the toughest part of playing the Ram is staying in good physical condition. The weight of the costume often gives the person inside back and neck pain. Fortunately the head has a battery-powered fan inside to circulate air. Even so, the woman guesses she’ll lose a couple of pounds in sweat after tonight’s doubleheader.
To remain in good shape she takes 10-minute breaks for every 15 minutes she’s in the gym. In the first half of the women’s game, when no one’s looking, she sneaks into the equipment room behind the bleachers on the gym’s north side. Inside she removes the mask and pours a bottle of water over her head, adding more moisture to her face, which is already covered in sweat.
But the cheers start again and the woman knows it’s time to get back on the floor. Within seconds she’s dancing with more fans, stealing potato chips from the scorekeeper’s booth and jumping for joy after each Ryerson basket.
When wearing the uniform, the woman says, “you can become someone different.
“Eggy can get away with doing crazy, wacky things that I can never get away with,” she says.
You can also experience joys that few people ever will. One time the woman recalled walking through an empty hallway wearing the costume. She bumped into an administrator and offered her a hug. The woman smiled and said, “I really needed that. Thank you.”
“The funny and great thing is, I think I really made her day a bit brighter,” the woman said. “When I get into Eggy, I can forget about all my own problems.”