There isn’t a more beloved figure on campus than RIT’s mascot, Ritchie the Tiger.
But, as I interviewed the men behind Ritchie’s mask for a feature story in the upcoming issue of News & Events (which hits the racks Sept. 7), I learned that it isn’t easy being Ritchie.
People tend to show their affection in different ways. Many, especially young children, like to hug. Others get a bit more physical—much to the dismay of Mike Klein and Robbie Horgan, the students who have attended countless events in the tiger suit over the past year.
Harsh treatment from crowds rarely concerns them, however. There are more pressing matters on their minds while they’re in the suit—like seeingâ€¦and walkingâ€¦and sweating.
Entering the interview, I thought about asking the guys if they’d let me take the suit out for a spin. But I wanted to learn a little more about it, first.
I’m glad I waited.
“You have no vision in front of youâ€¦or peripheral vision,” says Horgan. “You can only see diagonally.”
Which, according to Klein’s experiences, can be troublesome.
“I was walking down the stairs at a hockey game once, and I thought I was at the bottom step. I ended up twisting my ankle, sliding down the next two steps and falling into the boards,” he recalls.
To help avoid such occurrences, and minimize unpleasant run-ins with rambunctious crowds, the two instituted a buddy system of sorts. While one of them is in the costume, the other serves as what they call the ‘tiger handler’—who is essentially half bodyguard-half navigator.
It also gets pretty hot in there.
It was about 80 degrees during last year’s student picnic. After about 30 minutes, Horgan says he was drenched in sweat. The two have a signal that they use to let the ‘handler’ know that they can no longer take the heat.
Sounds like fun, huh?
Klein and Horgan swear it is. Both feel that being the mascot is one of the most fun things they’ve done while in college.
I’ll just have to take their word for it. No costume for me.
I sweat enough as it is. Plus, as much as Vienna would probably like company racing up and down the halls on crutches here in Building 86, I think I’ll pass.
Besides, she’d win.